This article was written and updated by Katie Taibl, RN, BSN 6/8/23. The original version was written by Adryan. This article was clinically reviewed by Matt, M.A.
Anxiety can be a universal feeling that we all, as humans, experience from time to time. Anxiety and fear are often used interchangeably but are different (yet related) emotional experiences. Sometimes, anxiety can be a helpful signal because it can communicate an unmet emotional need or present danger.
Definitions of anxiety and fear
Below are definitions of fear and anxiety, according to Oxford Languages.
Anxiety: “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”
Psychiatry definition of anxiety: “a mental condition characterized by excessive apprehensiveness about real or perceived threats, typically leading to avoidance behaviors and often to physical symptoms such as increased heart rate and muscle tension.”
Fear: “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”
When left unchecked, anxiety can grow and disrupt our lives. Disordered anxiety can negatively interfere with our daily lives, preventing us from living as our fully authentic selves.
According to the American Psychological Association:
"Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat … anxiety is considered a future-oriented, long-acting response broadly focused on a diffuse threat, whereas fear is an appropriate, present-oriented, and short-lived response to a clearly identifiable and specific threat."
If you're reading this, you might already feel anxious in your daily life. Maybe you recently experienced a major life transition, like a breakup or relocation to a new area. Perhaps you experienced a traumatic event like the death of a loved one. Maybe you've struggled with anxiety all your life. Or, you don't know why you feel so anxious at all!
Fortunately, you've come to a safe place. It's never too late or too soon to seek professional help. Read on to learn more about what anxiety treatment looks like and if it's the right step for you.
What are the signs it's time to seek treatment for anxiety?
Anxiety can present differently for everyone. Here are some major symptoms of anxiety that can interfere with daily life:
- Panic attacks
- Rumination - having repetitive thoughts
- Avoidance of certain places or situations
- Negative thoughts
- Feelings of doom
- Social anxiety
Suppose you're experiencing any of these or other feelings of anxiety like excessive worry, being unable to relax, being unable to sleep, and/or being restless. In that case, treatment may be a good option for you. If you're anxious about seeking help, read on to learn more about what anxiety treatment looks like and if it's the best next step.
What does treatment look like for anxiety disorders?
If you decide to start treatment for anxiety, a mental health professional, like a therapist or psychiatrist, will evaluate you to understand more about your symptoms and experiences. They'll also ask you questions about your life to get a picture of your stressors and strengths. Once they get a good understanding of who you are and what you're experiencing, they may provide you with a diagnosis. For some, this can lead to a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder.
There are lots of safe and effective treatment options available for anxiety. For instance, you can choose to work with a therapist specializing in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). You can also work with a psychiatrist who prescribes prescription medication for anxiety. While either can effectively treat anxiety, therapy and medication work best when combined.
Additionally, it's important to note that anxiety can be indicative of other mental health conditions, including but not limited to panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Working with a mental health professional can help you understand and address your mental health.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
According to FOLX Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) Melissa, “CBT aims to empower people to understand how their thoughts impact their feelings and actions. Thus helping to build more insight and healthier ways to cope. There are really no good or bad coping skills. It’s more important to think about the impact the skill has on your life that is positive, negative, or neutral.”
Talk therapy is a great place to start investigating your anxiety symptoms and learn more about them. If you're still unsure if it's the right time to see a therapist for anxiety, it never hurts to try it out at an initial therapy session with a prospective provider.
How can I benefit from psychotherapy?
Therapy is one way to start your healing journey from anxiety. It's also a great place to process feelings of anxiety. Additionally, therapy is yet another resource for learning and developing coping skills. It can also fit into larger wellness goals—like lifestyle changes—that benefit those with mental health issues day-to-day.
How do I find the right therapist?
Whether you're seeking in-person or online therapy, look out for a clinical psychologist or other mental health providers specializing in LGBTQ-competent care. Learn more about the process in our article, How to Find an LGBTQ-Friendly Therapist.
FOLX Health is the first digital healthcare company designed by and for the LGBTQIA+ community. Our services include expert, gender-affirming virtual primary care, gender-affirming hormone therapy including estrogen and testosterone, mental health care, sexual health care, and preventative care. We offer FOLX memberships that give you access to LGBTQIA+ expert clinicians, peer support, thousands of LGBTQIA+ referrals, and more. Whether you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, gender non-conforming, or nonbinary, you can find LGBTQIA+-friendly healthcare with FOLX. FOLX Health is healthcare that's queer all year. Get all the benefits of becoming a FOLX member and sign up today!