Fear, Anxiety, Worry, Shyness, & Panic

If you have found this article then you probably are interested in knowing more about anxiety, social anxiety or shyness, stress, worry, and related problems or disorders, what they are & how to get over them. You are in the right place! I am a Santa Rosa based psychologist and psychotherapist who was formally the head of the Anxiety Disorder Best Practices for all of Northern California Kaiser-Permanente Psychiatry. I have some very important information to share with you about anxiety disorders!

panic attacksFact: Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental health problem in the US!

Over the course of a lifetime, Anxiety Disorders will affect 25 to 30% of the entire US population! There are 6 primary anxiety disorders: Simple phobia, Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder & Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). There are also Adjustment Disorders with Anxious Features (also very common).

Anxiety is an out of control fear response

Anxiety is related to fear, a basic emotion which we all share. If humans had no fear, humankind would not survive! In this sense, fear is adaptive and has many forms: panic, worry, apprehension, nervousness, and even feeling stressed out. Fear is supposed to serve a useful purpose and is nature’s way of getting your mind and body prepared to face some type of actual or genuine threat. A common fear response causes your attention to narrow onto what you are afraid of and also causes your body to become charged with adrenaline to “flee or fight”. Anxiety, on the other hand, is maladaptive and causes a reaction similar or identical to a fear response but… there is little or nothing to really be afraid of! Anxiety causes you to overreact to situations, people, sensations, and even memories! Anxiety is an easily triggered and misplaced reaction.

What causes anxiety? Can anxiety lead to depression?

Anxiety is primarily caused by a combination of predisposing factors that interact with your environment. Predisposing factors include past histories of trauma or abuse, problems in your early emotional connection with caregivers, modeling of anxious behaviors by caregivers, domestic violence, being bullied or picked on, ongoing work related stress, history of accidents or medical illnesses, genes and temperament, and other factors. With these predispositions in place you are more vulnerable to developing problematic anxiety or even anxiety disorders in reaction to your environment like during periods of stress or adversity, life transitions (both negative and positive), losses, major life events, etc. Once anxiety has started you may experience a very strong urge to avoid situations, people, sensations, and/or memories associated with the anxiety (see Anxiety & Avoidance). Unfortunately avoidance only works in the short term—you may feel relief when you avoid, but you keep the whole cycle going by not learning to confront the sources of the fear directly. Every time you avoid due to anxiety, your world shrinks a little. Over time this avoidance can lead to other problems including social isolation and depression (see Depression Facts)!

How do I get over anxiety?

The best way to overcome anxiety is to learn to confront your fears and examine the factors that lead up to the anxiety. If you have had abuse or trauma this needs to be addressed as well. Anxiety recovery means learning to face things and to stop avoiding. The most powerful lasting changes occur with certain forms of psychotherapy. Medication can sometimes be used temporarily, but long term use can cause side effects and reinforce the tendency to avoid, thereby never really addressing the true causes of your anxiety. If you need help, you should feel free to contact me directly! I have developed an effective, innovative approach that integrates the most powerful approaches to help you overcome your anxiety.

Dr. Eric Ryan
Dr. Eric Ryan is a psychologist in private practice in Santa Rosa California. He is currently the Training Director for the Post Doctoral Residency Program at Kaiser Psychiatry in Santa Rosa and was previously the Chair for the Anxiety Disorder Best Practices for all of Northern California Kaiser Psychiatry.

 

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