Anxiety is considered ‘disordered’ when it is severe enough that it interferes with your ability to function or enjoy life. Disordered anxiety can cause problems with your work performance, strain relationships, and swallow up your leisure time with endless worry. It can make you feel misunderstood and pull back from friends and family, leading to a sense of isolation or despair. Excitement and planning for the future can fade when you are consumed by the exhausting task of surviving each day’s battle with anxiety.
Disordered anxiety can block you from things that add fulfillment and meaning to life. For example, if your heart pounds or your gut sinks at the thought of riding a train, you are probably less likely to visit friends or family across town. Following a sexual assault or other act of violence or trauma, you may find yourself unable to enjoy hobbies or activities that once brought you joy. Or you might decide not to pursue your dream job because it involves public speaking or air travel. You may even find yourself unable to enjoy a quiet night at home. Unsure of what exactly is causing the worry, you only know that you have an intense sense of impending doom about something.
Another way that anxiety disorders show up is through a sort of feedback loop of thoughts and emotions. For example, high anxiety at work can impair your ability to concentrate on tasks, leading you to produce a lower quality of work or miss a deadline. In turn, poor work performance might cause worry about getting reprimanded or fired, which feeds back into and amplifies the anxiety. These loops, where anxiety produces more and more of the same, can take many forms. Once they are entrenched, it is very difficult to break free.
Disordered anxiety can take a toll across multiple areas of life. Whether you experience severe fear about very specific situations, or you have a general sense of worry and stress that carries through most of your daily life, therapy can make a major difference. If anxiety is preventing your from enjoying life, I encourage you to schedule an assessment in this office or with another trained mental health provider as soon as possible.