Anxiety & Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Therapy in Toronto

Anxiety is a natural part of the human experience, but for some of us, it becomes overwhelming, lasting weeks or months and significantly disrupting our daily life. It can escalate beyond standard worry and nervousness, affecting us intensely – often in our bodies – and making it challenging to do what we want. 

Fortunately, anxiety is one of the most treatable mental health challenges. Reach out for more information on how we can help with managing your anxiety effectively.

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Table of Contents

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a common experience we face because it is part of being human. It’s our body’s natural response to stress or a stressful situation – a fear or apprehension about what comes next. 

Anxiety can be both helpful and unhelpful to us. It can prepare us for tasks like studying, presenting, or interviewing. However, when unhelpful, it can cause us to blank out, experience out-of-control thoughts, brain fog, and intense feelings of dread. If our anxiety becomes too much, it could prevent us from going to the interview, writing the exam or avoiding the presentation.

Unhelpful anxious feelings typically include persistent, irrational worries or fears, such as the fear of judgment, losing control, financial loss, loneliness, or illness. If anxiety symptoms are severe, long-lasting, causing distress and continue despite our best efforts to calm down, it could suggest we are experiencing an anxiety disorder.

What is an Anxiety Disorder ?

Anxiety disorders are a group of disorders characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worry, fear and dread with symptoms that gradually build over time, impacting both your physical body and behaviour. There are several different types of anxiety disorders. Some common types of anxiety disorders are:

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder is the intense fear of social settings where you feel someone might judge you harshly, such as meeting new people, eating or drinking in public, or when you will be performing in front of an audience. You may worry about being embarrassed, rejected or offending others. While it is normal to feel some anxiety in new social situations, people struggling with social anxiety disorder have a chronic and persistent fear of being negatively judged by others that significantly interferes with their quality of life.

While a person with social anxiety disorder may not always avoid social situations, avoidance is a common feature, especially in severe cases. Typically, social situations are endured with a lot of discomfort and stress.

What are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder?

Some common symptoms of social anxiety disorder are:

  • Fear of interacting with or talking with others.
  • Fear people will notice you are anxious.
  • Anxiety just thinking about a social situation or event you have to attend.
  • Spending a lot of time analyzing perceived mistakes in front of others. 
  • Physical symptoms like shaking, excessive sweating, dizziness/feeling lightheaded, difficulty speaking, increased heart rate, blushing or upset stomach.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is the uncontrollable and excessive worry about a range of events and activities across various aspects of our lives (including work, school and family).

What are the Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Some common signs and symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder include:

  • Experiencing constant and out-of-proportion worry about events.
  • Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes.
  • Difficulty with uncertainty, indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision.
  • Difficulty with concentration.
  • Difficulty with relaxing, feelings of restlessness or feeling on edge.
  • Physical symptoms such as trouble sleeping, muscle tension, easily startled, nausea, diarrhea and irritable bowel symptoms.

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Specific Phobia

Specific phobia involves an intense and irrational fear of objects or situations that exceeds the actual risk they pose. This fear can focus on certain animals, natural environments, the sight of blood, or a specific circumstance. We may actively avoid the feared object or situation. These phobias are enduring, causing significant and disruptive fear that can impact our daily activities such as work, school, or spending time with others.

What Types of Specific Phobia are There?

Some common specific phobias include:

  • Situations such as airplanes, elevators and other enclosed spaces (claustrophobia).
  • Nature, including thunderstorms or heights (acrophobia and astraphobia).
  • Animals or insects, such as dogs or spiders (arachnophobia).
  • Blood, needles, and medical procedures or falling ill (hypochondria).
  • Choking, vomiting, loud noises or clowns.

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by a fear of and avoidance of places or situations that might cause us to feel trapped, helpless, or embarrassed. Anxiety arises from the fear of being unable to escape or seek help during a panic attack or other distressing symptoms. We may also experience panic attacks or panic disorder with agoraphobia, particularly fearing having an attack in a place difficult to leave quickly.

What are the Symptoms of Agoraphobia?

Some common symptoms of agoraphobia include:

  • Fear of leaving home alone, crowds or waiting in line.
  • Fear of enclosed spaces such as elevators or movie theatres.
  • Fear of using public transportation such as bus, plane or train.
  • Fear of large open spaces like a parking lot or mall.

What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is a sudden surge of intense fear or discomfort that peaks within minutes. The physical and cognitive symptoms that accompany it may include:

  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or a feeling of choking along with chest pain or pressure.
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy.” 
  • Feelings of impending doom.
  • Fear of having a heart attack or dying.
  • Feeling unreal or detached from oneself.
  • Physical symptoms such as rapid or pounding heart rate (heart palpitations), lightheadedness or dizziness, feeling shaky, numb or tingling.

What is the Difference Between a Panic Attack and a Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is when we experience recurring and unexpected panic attacks, accompanied by a constant fear of experiencing these attacks. This fear may lead us to change our lifestyle in an attempt to control what we think are triggers, causing additional distress. Panic attacks can occur without a specific trigger, which can make us feel even more out of control.

You can be diagnosed with panic attacks, but not a panic disorder. Panic attacks can be symptoms of various mental health challenges beyond panic disorder. This includes depression, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder or substance use disorder or physical health conditions such as heart, breathing or digestive issues. You do not need to know what triggers your panic attacks or have a specific diagnosis like panic disorder to seek help for panic attacks. Untreated, these attacks can potentially lead to a panic disorder or other mental health challenges. A trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychotherapist, can assess and provide treatment for panic attacks. Feel free to reach out to learn more.

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What is the Main Cause of Anxiety?

The causes of anxiety are complex, with various factors and triggers likely contributing to its occurrence in our lives. Our biology, environment, and individual experiences all play a role. Factors such as chronic health disorders, a family history of anxiety, chronic stress, substance/alcohol abuse, simultaneous experience of a depressive disorder, and even caffeine consumption can contribute to the onset of unhelpful and draining anxiety.

Specific triggers can also bring about an anxiety disorder or intensify it. Our childhood experiences (trauma, neglect and abuse) or other significant life experiences all add to the story.


What Does Anxiety Feel Like? Signs and symptoms

We can experience the effects of anxiety in many different ways, influenced by the specific type of anxiety disorder and our individual characteristics. Even without meeting diagnostic criteria, we can experience symptoms that impact our daily lives.

Unhelpful anxiety and excessive worry can consume much of our mental energy and time, making us feel very tired. It may be hard to stop worrying even though we know worrying is not good. 

We could struggle with:

  • Concentration.
  • Getting a proper sleep.
  • Becoming fatigued easily.
  • Being irritable.
  • Restless and feeling like we cannot sit still.
  • Feeling scared.
  • Feeling numb.

Anxiety can even impact our short-term memory, cause us to be forgetful and procrastinate or avoid people.

We can also feel anxiety in our bodies in the form of:

  • Muscle tension.
  • Clenched jaw.
  • Headaches.
  • Different skin sensations (burning, itching or tingling sensation) or rashes.
  • Indigestion, or a nervous feeling in the stomach.
  • Feeling like we cannot get enough air for our lungs.

At times, anxiety can make us feel uneasy, even prompting a sudden urge to escape.

You do not need to meet the diagnostic criteria to require and benefit from treatment. Many who seek help for unhelpful anxiety experience just a few symptoms. Those benefiting from treatment report improved rest, concentration, and a happier, more productive life.

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Who is Affected by Anxiety?

Since we are all human, anyone could develop anxiety or an anxiety disorder. Certain circumstances may increase our chances of unhelpful anxiety entering our lives:

  • Rigid thinking patterns (like believing everything needs to be perfect).
  • Specific personality traits, like childhood shyness.
  • Exposure to stress or trauma.
  • Parenting by an anxious parent.
  • Having a close relative who was diagnosed with anxiety.
  • Certain physical health conditions (thyroid issues).

Often there are multiple reasons. Exploring symptoms with a trained and registered psychologist, psychotherapist or social worker often results in insights to the reason for problems managing anxiety.

If I feel Anxious, Do I Have An Anxiety Disorder?

Not always. Occasional anxiety is normal and adaptive. However, if our anxiety seems disproportionate to the circumstances at hand, seeking an assessment from a qualified mental health professional like a psychologist or psychologist associate is crucial to determine if an anxiety disorder is present.

At Toronto Psychology Clinic, our certified and experienced social workers, psychologists, and psychotherapists specialize in a variety of anxiety-related concerns. Start your journey to better manage the anxiety in your life by finding a qualified therapist that is right for you.

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How Do I Cope With Anxiety and Anxious Feelings?

Anxiety is a normal and healthy emotion, but if we experience excessive anxiety, we may require consultation with a mental health professional. We might need a screening or assessment for anxiety. Finding a professional you are comfortable with to provide effective treatment is imperative for managing anxiety.

The good news is that evidence-based psychological treatments for anxiety and anxiety disorders exist. At Toronto Psychology Clinic, our therapists are proficient in proven anxiety treatments. Our qualified psychologists, psychotherapists, and social workers can effectively guide you through your feelings and enhance your overall well-being.

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Finding Help for Anxiety in Toronto

Anxiety disorders and heightened anxiety can be very distressing and hard on us, impacting our daily lives, consuming our time and causing feelings of hopelessness and depression. Even without meeting all criteria for a diagnosis, higher than typical anxiety levels can significantly affect our mental and physical well-being. Fortunately, anxiety and anxiety disorders are very treatable.

What to Expect: Anxiety Treatment Options

Anxiety Assessment

If you feel you are dealing with unhelpful anxiety or worry that is excessive or negatively impacting one or more areas of your life, seek out an assessment. A psychological assessment for anxiety includes a series of appointments and testing for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. Thoroughness by your healthcare professional when understanding your symptoms, mental health history, and relevant information is crucial. The psychologists and psychological associates at the Toronto Psychological Clinic can help with assessments and create tailored treatment plans to help you manage and reduce anxiety.

Medication for Anxiety

Combining therapy and medication can be beneficial for managing anxiety, as they often complement each other. If you’re currently using anxiety medication and seeking further relief from symptoms, therapy could be the necessary element you’re looking for.

While therapists at the Toronto Psychology Clinic do not prescribe or manage medication, they can complete a psychological assessment and collaborate with your family doctor or psychiatrist to assist in developing a medication treatment plan.

What Therapy is Effective for Anxiety Disorder?

Therapy for anxiety comes in various forms. Once your therapist understands your goals, they can tailor their approach to meet your needs. 

Common and effective therapeutic approaches for treating anxiety include:

We all respond to treatments differently, and what works for you may not work for another. Research and experience suggest that integrating the most effective ingredients of various therapy approaches is often the most effective strategy for treating anxiety.

Meeting a therapist who takes the time to understand you and create a tailored treatment plan is essential. Therapists at the Toronto Psychology Clinic are well-trained and recognize that each client is unique. Contact us, and our therapists will collaboratively ensure that the chosen therapeutic approaches best fit your needs.

Anxiety Therapy at the Toronto Psychology Clinic

Our dedicated therapists at the Toronto Psychology Clinic are committed to your recovery, working collaboratively to find an approach that suits your unique experience and offering proven therapy options. With experience in anxiety treatment, our therapists will guide you through your next steps. We can help. To find a therapist that suits you, Meet Our Team.

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More Resources

CAMH website – Anxiety Info
Anxiety Canada Website
CMHA website – Anxiety Disorders
NIMH website – Anxiety Disorders

FAQs

What books can help me with feelings of anxiety?

Everyone recovers differently and getting more information about your specific challenge is helpful. The following books may offer you additional forms of support.

-The Worry Cure
-Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind
-When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life

What is separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety in children is a normal part of development, and parents can help by keeping transitions short, establishing consistent good-bye routines, building trust by returning on time, and practicing time apart. However, separation anxiety disorder, a more intense fear affecting both children and adults, becomes a concern when it interferes with age-appropriate behavior. It may be influenced by genetics or environmental factors like family changes. Treatment typically involves therapy and, in some cases, medication.

How do you comfort someone with anxiety?

Supporting a loved one with anxiety can have a positive impact on their well-being. Encourage them to seek treatment, and ask how you can assist – whether it is helping with difficult situations, engaging in calming conversations, or practicing breathing exercises together. Show respect, offer consistent emotional support, provide practical help, share information, and give hope for recovery. Simply being there for them and knowing someone understands what to do during anxious moments can contribute to their sense of safety and calmness.

What are some techniques I can learn to help manage anxiety?

Some skills and strategies you could learn to help you manage anxiety include:

  • Exposure techniques.
  • Relaxation and breathing techniques (progressive muscle relaxation). 
  • Social skills training.
  • Mindfulness.
  • Cognitive restructuring. 
  • Behaviour interventions.
  • Processing emotions.