A: We are not always sure exactly what causes many psychological disorders, but it doesn’t make them any less real. It’s generally thought to be a combination of family history (genetic predisposition) and life experiences. Anxiety disorders are quite common but are also very treatable. Sometimes the triggers can be identified and sometimes the anxiety attacks can truly come “out of the blue.” I’ve had many clients who wake up from a deep sleep experiencing an anxiety attack. In that situation, one would be hard pressed to identify a trigger. So yes, free floating anxiety is real and panic attacks can come without obvious triggers.
It sounds like you are doing all the right things by seeking treatment, both with therapy and medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a very effective treatment for anxiety and depression. Generally speaking, our thoughts always precede emotion and behavior, so if we intervene at the earliest possible point in the cycle, we have a much better chance of getting symptom relief. The other thing to keep in mind is that we have thousands of automatic thoughts going through our minds all day long. So many that we aren’t always aware of what we are actually thinking about. Increasing this awareness, slowing the thoughts down and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones can really make some deep changes in how we feel.
When treating anxiety disorders, I also teach clients about the fight or flight phenomenon, deep breathing techniques and lots of relaxation techniques. Having an assortment of coping skills makes a huge difference in managing anxiety symptoms when they pop up. There are many self-help workbooks available that give good explanations of these coping strategies. Many clients also benefit from taking yoga or meditation classes.
I’d suggest sticking with the therapy for several months, as well as supplementing your treatment with the adjunct techniques I mentioned above. I hope you feel better soon.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts