Anxiety Disorders

Chicago Generalized Anxiety Disorder Counseling

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things.

People with the disorder, which is also referred to as GAD, experience exaggerated worry and tension, often expecting the worst, even when there is no apparent reason for concern. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about a variety of everyday problems for at least 6 months. Learn more symptoms.

Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety. They don’t know how to stop the worry cycle and feel it is beyond their control, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants.

GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, in any given year. Women are twice as likely to be affected.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder comes on gradually and can begin across the life cycle, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age. Although the exact cause of GAD is unknown, there is evidence that biological factors, family background, and life experiences, particularly stressful ones, play a role.

When their anxiety level is mild, people with GAD can function socially and be gainfully employed. Although they may avoid some situations because they have the disorder, some people can have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities when their anxiety is severe.

People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) experience constant, chronic, and unsubstantiated worry, often about health, family, money, or work. This worrying goes on every day, possibly all day. It disrupts social activities and interferes with work, school, or family.

Physical symptoms of GAD include the following:

  • muscle tension
  • fatigue
  • restlessness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • irritability
  • edginess
  • gastrointestinal discomfort or diarrhea

Like other anxiety disorders, GAD is treatable. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is effective for many people, helping them to identify, understand, and modify faulty thinking and behavior patterns. This enables people with GAD learn to control their worry. Some people with GAD also take medication.

  • Relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, exercise, and other alternative treatments may also become part of a treatment plan.
  • Other anxiety disorders, depression, or substance abuse often accompany GAD, which rarely occurs alone; co-occurring conditions must also be treated with appropriate therapies.
  • People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) suffer from unwanted and intrusive thoughts that they can’t seem to get out of their heads (obsessions), often compelling them to repeatedly perform ritualistic behaviors and routines (compulsions) to try and ease their anxiety.
  • Most people who have OCD are aware that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational, yet they feel powerless to stop them.
  • Some spend hours at a time performing complicated rituals involving hand-washing, counting, or checking to ward off persistent, unwelcome thoughts, feelings, or images. Learn more symptoms.

These can interfere with a person’s normal routine, schoolwork, job, family, or social activities. Several hours every day may be spent focusing on obsessive thoughts and performing seemingly senseless rituals. Trying to concentrate on daily activities may be difficult.

Obsessions Counseling for unwanted intrusive thoughts

  • Constant, irrational worry about dirt, germs, or contamination.
  • Excessive concern with order, arrangement, or symmetry.
  • Fear that negative or aggressive thoughts or impulses will cause personal harm or harm to a loved one.
  • Preoccupation with losing or throwing away objects with little or no value.
  • Excessive concern about accidentally or purposefully injuring another person.
  • Feeling overly responsible for the safety of others.
  • Distasteful religious and sexual thoughts or images.
  • Doubting that is irrational or excessive.

Compulsions Counseling helps treat ritualistic behaviors and routines to ease anxiety or distress

  • Cleaning - Repeatedly washing one’s hands, bathing, or cleaning household items, often for hours at a time.
  • Checking - Checking and re-checking several to hundreds of times a day that the doors are locked, the stove is turned off, the hairdryer is unplugged, etc.
  • Repeating - Inability to stop repeating a name, phrase, or simple activity (such as going through a doorway over and over).
  • Hoarding - Difficulty throwing away useless items such as old newspapers or magazines, bottle caps, or rubber bands.
  • Touching and arranging
  • Mental rituals - Endless reviewing of conversations, counting; repetitively calling up “good” thoughts to neutralize "bad" thoughts or obsessions; or excessive praying and using special words or phrases to neutralize obsessions.

Left untreated, OCD can interfere with all aspects of life.

OCD is a serious, yet treatable anxiety disorder that often occurs with depression and other anxiety disorders. If not treated properly, it may become disabling.

Most people who seek treatment experience significant improvement and enjoy an improved quality of life. It is important to work closely with a health care professional to determine the best option.

If you’re concerned about symptoms of OCD, make an appointment with a therapist or your doctor. Your responses will help your therapist or doctor make a proper diagnosis and determine an effective treatment plan.

Getting Help

Be prepared to make the most of each office visit. Follow the tips below to make sure your concerns are addressed and your questions are answered.

  • Write your questions ahead of time and bring them with you.
  • Take notes during the appointment to make sure you understand what you are hearing.
  • Ask for clarification whenever necessary.
  • Ask questions and learn where you can find more information. You have a right to know.
  • Be forthcoming and persistent about issues that concern you. Trust your instincts in your search to find a compatible doctor or therapist.

Posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a serious potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, violent personal assault such as rape, or other life-threatening events.

Most people who experience such events recover from them, but people with PTSD continue to be severely depressed and anxious for months or even years following the event. Learn about PTSD symptoms.

Women are twice as likely to develop posttraumatic stress disorder as men, and children can also develop it. PTSD often occurs with depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders.

PTSD Counseling

Fast Facts About PTSD

  • 7.7 million Americans age 18 and older have PTSD.
  • 67 percent of people exposed to mass violence have been shown to develop PTSD, a higher rate than those exposed to natural disasters or other types of traumatic events.

People who have experienced previous traumatic events run a higher risk of developing Posttraumatic stress disorder is characterized by three main types of symptoms:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares.
  • Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.
  • Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered.

PTSD Treatments and Counseling

The main treatments for people with PTSD are psychotherapy (often called talk therapy), medications, or both. Everyone is different, so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another.

It’s the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations: Social anxiety disorder can wreak havoc on the lives of those who suffer from it.

Symptoms may be so extreme that they disrupt daily life. People with this disorder, also called social phobia, may have few or no social or romantic relationships, making them feel powerless, alone, or even ashamed.

  • About 15 million American adults have social anxiety disorder
  • Typical age of onset: 13 years old
  • 36 percent of people with social anxiety disorder report symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help

Although they recognize that the fear is excessive and unreasonable, people with social anxiety disorder feel powerless against their anxiety. They are terrified they will humiliate or embarrass themselves.

The anxiety can interfere significantly with daily routines, occupational performance, or social life, making it difficult to complete school, interview and get a job, and have friendships and romantic relationships.

Social anxiety disorder usually begins in childhood or adolescence, and children are prone to clinging behavior, tantrums, and even mutism.

Physical symptoms of social anxiety disorder may include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea or other abdominal distress, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness or lightheadedness, headaches, and feelings of detachment and loss of self-control.

Everyone can relate to feeling anxious before giving a presentation or asking someone out on a date.

But those with social anxiety disorder experience an intense fear of being scrutinized and negatively evaluated by others in social or performance situations. Some literally feel sick from fear in seemingly nonthreatening situations.

The disorder is often selective. Some people may have an intense fear of talking to a salesperson or giving a speech, but they may be comfortable in other similar settings.
Other people may become anxious during routine activities such as starting a conversation with a stranger or a person in authority, participating in meetings or classes, or dating and attending parties.

Like other anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorder can be treated.

Most people find significant improvement with professional care. Treatment success varies among people. Some may respond to treatment after a few months, while other people may need more than a year.

Treatment can be complicated if a person has more than one anxiety disorder or suffers from depression or substance abuse, which is why it must be tailored to the individual. Although treatment is individualized, several standard approaches have proved effective. Therapists will use one or a combination of these therapies. Find out more about treatment.

Everyone experiences stress and anxiety at one time or another. The difference between them is that stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress. Whether in good times or bad, most people say that stress interferes at least moderately with their lives. Chronic stress can affect your health, causing symptoms from headaches, high blood pressure, and chest pain to heart palpitations, skin rashes, and loss of sleep.

But you can learn how to reduce the impact of stress and manage your symptoms.

Physical activity is a proven way to reduce stress. Regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, and improve sleep and self-esteem. Other effective methods include mind-body practices of breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation.