THE 3 PARTS OF ANXIETY: A PLANO ANXIETY THERAPIST EXPLAINS

Feeling trapped in anxiety is miserable. You just wish you could STOP the relentless spiral, but you don't know where to start. And given that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in America, it's important to know how to cope better. As a Plano anxiety therapist, I want to educate you about how to manage your anxiety better, and that starts with understanding how anxiety works in the brain and body.

Did you know anxiety has three parts? Let's learn about them! First, there's the cognitive aspect, which is all about the thoughts in your head. Then, there's the physical part of anxiety, which involves sensations in your body. Last is the behavioral aspect, which involves what you DO when you feel anxious, or things you do that could trigger feeling anxious. It can be different for everyone. One person's anxiety might start with anxious thoughts, which then trigger physical sensations in the body and anxious behavior. For someone else, the anxiety loop might begin with a cough, which then triggers anxious thoughts and behaviors. Typically the ultimate behavior of an anxious person looks like AVOIDANCE, and this is what starts to negatively impact their life. Understanding these 3 parts is the first step in managing your anxiety better.

PLANO ANXIETY THERAPIST DESCRIBES COGNITIVE ASPECTS OF ANXIETY

The worry in anxiety often involves a constant stream of intrusive and distressing thoughts. People with anxiety find it difficult to stop or control these thoughts, leading to a cycle of more worry and increased anxiety. Below I explain some of the most common thoughts for a person with anxiety.

CATASTROPHIC THINKING

Catastrophic thinking is one common thinking error a person with anxiety engages in. Your thoughts might revolve around potential threats, negative outcomes, or catastrophic scenarios, even when there is little or no evidence to support them. You anticipate the worst possible outcomes. You tend to overestimate the likelihood of negative events and underestimate your ability to cope with challenges. The worry is often future-oriented, like potential events or situations that might occur in the future. This might be financial problems, health issues, social interactions, or work-related challenges.

Some folks worry about past events, too, but this usually triggers a worry about how this will impact them in the future. For example, in my Plano anxiety therapy practice, I often have clients who worry about a past work mistake, and this leads to worry about how this mistake might happen again, or cause coworkers to judge their future work harshly, ending in the worst-case scenario of being banned from the whole industry.

RUMINATION

Excessive rumination is a common behavior for a person with anxiety. This is a repetitive and obsessive analysis of the perceived threat. This process keeps your mind preoccupied, leading to mental exhaustion and reduced ability to focus on other tasks. The biggest challenge of all with my clients is challenging the belief that this ruminating is helpful! But the opposite is actually true.

ATTENTIONAL BIAS

Attentional bias is another cognitive error for a person with anxiety. This is when you focus most of your attention on negative information, selectively focusing on threatening cues in the environment. This behavior strengthens your sense of vulnerability and keeps the worry cycle going.

It's important to note that while worry is a common aspect of anxiety, not all worry is pathological. Worry can be a normal and adaptive response in certain situations. However, when worry becomes excessive, uncontrollable, and interferes with daily functioning, it may be a symptom of an anxiety disorder that requires professional evaluation and treatment.

PLANO ANXIETY THERAPIST DISCUSSES PHYSICAL ASPECTS OF ANXIETY

Anxiety doesn't just play with your mind—it can also make your body feel weird! Your heart might race and feel fluttery. It can be hard to catch your breath. For some folks, it's so bad they believe they're having a heart attack, and rush to the emergency room to be told it's "just anxiety." You might also experience your muscles shaking or trembling, or even twitching and cramping. Others experience headaches and stomach problems, from indigestion to diarrhea. For many anxiety sufferers, sleep is disrupted, which makes the anxiety problems worse. It's as if your body is sending secret messages that something is off! And it is.

For digestive issues, I often refer my clients to their primary care doctor or a gastroenterologist to rule out a true physical problem as the root of physical symptoms. But for my anxiety therapy clients, often the answer they get is that anxiety plays a big part. I often refer clients to Registered Dietitians that understand anxiety well, so that they can help guide a client nutritionally to address their physical issues.

Sometimes, my Plano anxiety therapy clients have such difficulty eating regularly due to anxiety that they are diagnosed with an eating disorder. In addition to specializing in anxiety counseling in Plano, I also specialize in eating disorder therapy in Plano and can treat the full spectrum of eating disorders, such as binge eating disorder, bulimia and anorexia, and overeating. I collaborate with a skilled group of eating disorder professionals including primary care doctors, psychiatrists, gastroenterologists, and dietitians.

PLANO ANXIETY THERAPIST SHARES BEHAVIORAL ASPECTS OF ANXIETY

With my Plano counseling clients, I often help them identify two kinds of behaviors they might engage in; avoidance and safety behaviors.

AVOIDANCE BEHAVIORS

If you suffer from anxiety, you often experience a strong desire to escape or avoid situations, places, or activities that trigger feelings of anxiety. Avoidance behaviors are strategies you might use to minimize exposure to these perceived threats or triggers. For example, someone with social anxiety might avoid social gatherings, public speaking events, or situations where they might be the center of attention.

Avoidance provides temporary relief by reducing the immediate distress associated with anxiety-inducing situations. However, it comes at a cost. By avoiding anxiety triggers, you miss out on opportunities for personal growth, skill development, and meaningful experiences. Avoidance can also lead to feelings of isolation and a sense of being limited in life choices, which can worsen anxiety.

SAFETY BEHAVIORS

If you deal with anxiety, you likely take part in safety behaviors. These help you prevent or minimize the occurrence of a feared outcome or to cope with anxiety when faced with the trigger. Examples of safety behaviors include constantly sharing your concerns with others and seeking their reassurance, carrying items as a safety net, checking and rechecking things, or over-preparing for a task.

Initially, safety behaviors may provide some comfort and a sense of control over your anxiety. However, they actually keep the anxiety going by making you believe the situation is genuinely dangerous. Moreover, reliance on safety behaviors can keep you from learning that you CAN cope with anxiety-provoking situations without these crutches.

HOW A PLANO ANXIETY THERAPIST CAN HELP YOU

As I said, the first step in the management of anxiety is understanding it. When you can identify the cognitive, physical, and behavioral symptoms, you can begin addressing them. I utilize cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is one of the most effective treatments for anxiety disorders. CBT helps you identify and challenge negative thought patterns and gradually face your fears through exposure therapy. This process helps to rewire your brain's response to anxiety triggers and promotes coping strategies.

If anything in this blog post sounds familiar, I would be honored to help you break the vicious cycle of anxiety and empower you with skills to manage it better. My name is Danesa, and I am a Plano anxiety counselor who helps people manage anxiety, stress, and perfectionism. I offer online therapy in Texas, which is often more comfortable for a person with anxiety. Contact me here, call me at 469-850-2420, or email me at danesa@danesadaniel.com for a free 15-min phone consultation to see if we’re a good match! If we aren’t, I know other great therapists who can help. At my Plano counseling office, I also specialize in eating issues like binge eatinganorexia or bulimiaovereating and compulsive eating. My physical office is in Plano, Texas, but I also serve Frisco, Allen, McKinney, and other Collin County cities.