Ken Goodman L.C.S.W.

Anxiety and OCD Therapy, Coaching, and Self-Help

Tag Archives: anxiety

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

by Ken Goodman

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is best characterized by frequent or constant worry, anxiety, and tension even when there is minimal or no cause. People who experience GAD find themselves unable to control their worry and often report being anxious most of their lives. The worry they experience is often related to events or activities, like work, school or family. With all of the excess anxiety, life becomes difficult to manage.  Completing daily tasks, multi-tasking, following directions, finding one’s way, participating in an event, arriving on time, and being able to focus, all can be a struggle when one has Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  This disorder can materialize any time in life and is caused by genetics and/or stress.

Some of the symptoms associated with GAD are:

  • Restlessness, feeling amped up, or an edge
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or mentally blanking out
  • Irritability
  • Muscle Tension
  • Sleep Difficulties – trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or restless sleep

The primary feature of this disorder is worry, which can take several forms:

  • Catastrophic thinking—turning a small stressor into a catastrophe
  • Anticipatory anxiety—imagining the worst possible outcome or “what if…” thinking
  • Mind reading— imagining what others are thinking (and it’s never good)

Excerpts from The Anxiety Solution Series before and after treatment:

 “I worried about everything…What if there’s an earthquake?  Am I prepared? What if there’s an accident?  What if I die?” – Instructional Aid

“I did not think that in this short amount of time that I would actually be feeling as good as I do and actually looking forward to life instead of just making it through day by day.” – Instructional Aid

"The Anxiety Solution Series ended up being the perfect solution for me. The strategies were so practical. I feel more confident and calm… a million times better."

Teacher, five-year anxiety sufferer

The Most Effective Treatment for Anxiety

You’re getting ready for a peaceful night sleep and you see something moving on the floor next you’re your bed. A spider! You call your braver half to kill it. Your hero jumps into action. The shoe slams down on the hardwood. Thank goodness!
And then you see the spider scurry under the bed.
NOOO! You can’t sleep in the bed now.  Your poor, aiming hero tries to convince you that it’s a small spider who is more afraid of you, but you don’t see it that way. “That spider was HUGE! What if he crawls on me when I’m asleep? What if he crawls in my mouth?” Your partner thinks you’re overreaching and climbs under the covers. “Come on.  It’s just a little spider.”  You’re horrified! “I’m not sleeping in there! Aren’t you afraid he’s going to bite you?”  “No.”
And with that, your knight in shining armor turns in for the night, while you sleep on the couch.


Why is it that two people can experience the same event, but react so differently?
Their thoughts!

It’s difficult to remain calm when your imagination is running wild with possibilities. Even if you think your thoughts are irrational, you may be unable to control them. You can’t help but feel distressed at the thought of having a spider under your bed. Possibility and probability are confused as it seems likely the spider will crawl into your mouth; perception is distorted as it feels like the spider is huge; and danger is exaggerated as the spider is likely to be deadly. Nagging, anxious thoughts can paralyze us with fear and cause us to avoid, while others who don’t experience those thoughts seem to carry on with their day, or night, without reacting. This is true for any trigger, not just spiders: elevators, driving, tall buildings, etc.

What’s the most effective treatment for anxiety?

If you’ve ever researched treating your anxiety, you know that the term “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)” comes up a lot.
CBT is a therapy model that focuses on our cognition, or the way we think, and our behaviors, or the way we act. The main concept behind CBT is that our thoughts about a situation (ie, the “huge” spider) effect how we feel (afraid and anxious) and how we behave (ie, avoiding the bed). We tend to assign meanings to specific situations and the things that happen in our lives (spiders are big, dangerous, and scary).  So, it’s not the actual situation causing our anxiety, but the meanings – accurate or not.

In our example, meanings have been assigned to spiders  – it isn’t the actual spider causing the anxiety, it’s the meaning assigned to the spider.  And, when you have anxiety, you give your thoughts a lot of meaning, and thus, a lot of power.

The more irrational meanings are attached to a situation, the more anxiety provoking that situation becomes. CBT aims to help you overcome fears by correcting your irrational thoughts and changing your behaviors (decreasing avoidance).  By acquiring a certain mindset, you can learn to approach anxious situations differently and learn to tolerate the anxiety. The more you put yourself in an anxiety provoking, uncomfortable situations, the more comfortable you become with it. Sounds counterintuitive, but it works. With the help of a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist,  you can conquer your anxiety!



What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD)?

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that develops after one experiences or witnesses a traumatic event.  Examples of such traumatic events include natural disasters, (such as a flood, fire, earthquake), rape, war, terrorist attacks, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, assault, torture, an automobile accident, frightening airplane flight, or getting a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness.

Symptoms of PTSD

People can experience symptoms from a recent trauma or one that happened decades ago.  There are three categories of symptoms; Reliving symptoms, Avoidance and Arousal response.

  • Reliving symptoms includes flashbacks of the event, nightmares, intrusive recollections of the trauma, and emotional distress whenever exposed to anything having to do with the trauma.
  • Avoidance includes, avoiding places, things or people that remind one of the trauma, avoiding talking about the trauma, feeling numb, detached, and a lack of interest in doing one’s normal activities.  A person may also experience depersonalization or derealization.  Depersonalization is a feeling of watching oneself, like having an out of body experience and derealization is the perception that one’s world seems unreal.
  • Arousal symptoms include hyper vigilance (which is an excessive awareness of one’s surroundings), irritability or sudden anger, difficulty sleeping, being easily startled, extreme guilt, lack of concentration, self-destructive behavior. It is normal to experience many different emotions after a traumatic event.

PTSD is a normal reaction to an abnormal event.  If these disturbing symptoms persist for more than a month and if they are negatively impacting your life, talk to a health care professional.   It is better to start treatment for PTSD as soon as possible.

Treatment for PTSD

PTSD is usually treated with psychotherapy and/or medication. Therapies most commonly used to treat PTSD are Cognitive therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Cognitive Processing Therapy, and hypnosis; all of which help to reduce the intensity of the emotions connected to the traumatic memory.

Risk Factors for PTSD

Some people are at higher risk for developing PTSD than others. Issues that put a person at higher risk include experiencing a previous trauma, long duration of the traumatic event, the severity of the traumatic experience, having an existing mental health problem, lack of a support system, and excessive stress.

Combat veterans and rape victims tend to suffer from PTSD more than other groups of people. Also, women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD most likely because they tend more to be the victims of violence. It is estimated that about 5 million people at one time in the United States suffer from this disorder.

Excerpts from The Anxiety Solution Series before and after treatment:

As a child I was physically abused by a family member.  The memories kept me frozen.  It’s all I could think about was what happened and what I did.  I could have drown; they would have let me drowned.   The memories that just kept coming into my head that pop in and pop in, I can’t figure it out why?   A lot of this happened a long time ago.  Why does it keep coming into my head?  I don’t understand.  Massage Therapist

I would use all the tools that I needed to use.  Now, two years later, there’s barely a thought in my head.  It’s like there for a minute and I flick it away and say nope, I’m not going to think about you. Massage Therapist

"The exercises on Stress Free allow me to quiet my mind, lessen the chatter, and release fear and worry. It has taught me another way of living."

Stacey, Registered Nurse

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (or OCD)?

Imagine being unable to leave the house without checking the locks at least 8 times. Imagine having a rigid routine for getting dressed and having to start all over if you didn’t follow the routine exactly. Imagine having to shower three times every morning because three is a lucky number. These are just a few examples of the rituals that those suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder go through each day.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, (OCD), is characterized by obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are persistent thoughts that produce a lot of anxiety. Compulsions are the ritual behaviors that people feel compelled to do in an effort to control the obsessions. It is these ritual behaviors, however, that end up controlling the person.

The rituals bring temporary relief from the anxiety, and thus the person feels the need to constantly perform these behaviors again and again. Most people know that the obsessive behaviors don’t make sense and are not helpful, but cannot seem to stop them. People with OCD continue to perform the rituals even though those behaviors depress them and interfere with their daily life.

Obsessions and Compulsions

The most common obsessions are repeated thoughts about contamination, repeated doubts about safety of others, as well as violent, sexual, inappropriate or bizarre thoughts or images.

To qualify for a diagnosis or OCD a person can have either obsessions or compulsions or both. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts like praying, unnecessary counting, touching objects a certain number of times for no reason, placing items in a particular sequence and spending excessive amounts of time making sure objects are in the only acceptable location (i.e. a book self must be lined up perfectly). Compulsive hand washing is one of the most common compulsions.

The reason people with compulsions engage in this type of behavior is to prevent something bad from happening and or to reduce anxiety. For example, to reduce the anxiety or fear of being contaminated by germs, people with OCD will be compelled to wash their hands repeatedly, even to the point of their skin becoming raw. Washing, reduces their fear of contamination.

Causes of OCD

OCD appears to run in families. Studies on twins and obsessive compulsive disorder have shown that if one twin has OCD the other twin is twenty times more likely than the general population, to also have OCD.

About 1-in-100 adults and 1-in-200-to-500 kids and teens in the United States have OCD. One third of adults with OCD developed symptoms in childhood. There are two main age ranges when OCD usually appears: between ages 10 and 12, and between late teens and early adulthood. OCD is found in all ethnic groups and appears to affect men and women equally.

Treatment of OCD

Medication and cognitive behavioral therapy is the treatment of choice for OCD

Excerpts from The Anxiety Solution Series before and after treatment:

“I tended to touch things 4 times or 8 times which was a lucky number for me. Turning the TV on and off a certain number of times. Things that would delay what I needed to do. I couldn’t just get into bed. I had to do a whole ritual of things in order for me to feel comfortable enough to go to bed so something bad wouldn’t happen. “ - V.P. of Sales

I would say 16 months ago my anxiety and OCD was a 10. After a year most of the time my anxiety hovers between 3 and 4…I really don’t have compulsions anymore and it’s made a big difference in my life.” - V.P. of Sales

“I can get out of the house to work on time without triple checking the coffee pot.”

Teacher, 5-year anxiety sufferer