Anxiety is the “ramping up” of the autonomic nervous system. When we experience a perceived threat such as a snarling dog or loud, angry person, we experience “state anxiety,” and our body reacts with the release of certain hormones and changes in body functions in preparation for “flight or fight.” When the threat has ceased, our body returns to homeostasis, and our physical symptoms subside.
The anxiety that is produced by factors that may not be an immediate threat is called “trait” anxiety. The threats are due to any number of things, including loss, marital strife, relationship challenges, financial difficulties, etc. Trait anxiety manifests itself in the same physical and psychological ways as state anxiety and left unaddressed; the chronic effects can be devastating to our health.
That underlying anxiety may manifest through several factors. Those factors include the inability to sleep, pacing, nervous body movements (like constantly moving feet or legs), nail-biting, excessive and unreasonable worry, inability to sit still, and other nervous manifestations. It is not unreasonable for trait anxious people to have vague or even real somatic complaints, especially fears of grave illness. Stress and worry are very often associated with trait anxiety. Trait anxious individuals may prognosticate future catastrophes that rarely, if ever, come true.
Medication can provide rapid relief of the symptoms of anxiety, but addressing the underlying cause is the best way to overcome anxiety. Our approach is to administer quantifiable testing, discuss the results with the client, identify the contributing factors, develop a treatment plan, and reevaluate the success of our efforts throughout the counseling process.