Hot Under the Collar

8 Common Anxiety Symptoms and a Few Ways to Begin to Cool Off

By Rachael Bonaiuto, LPC

When you have anxiety, it’s easy to feel like others don’t understand what you’re going through. Anxiety itself can make you feel as though you’re suffering from symptoms, worries and concerns that are not only pronounced – they also feel inherent. Despite how personal this anxiety is to you, the truth is that anxiety is surprisingly common. I witness anxiety symptoms in most people I encounter on a daily basis – clients, students, friends, and family – in the store, at the bank, even at a red light.  Anxiety is uncomfortable at best, and can become paralyzing and defeating.  And it is common…. so incredibly common.

You are at home, preparing to go to a dinner party with work colleagues. You don’t want to go, you dread it, you think of reasons not to go, fantasize about your favorite elastic-waisted pants and the flavor ice cream that would accompany the movie night you’d rather have. You finally surrender to going, but begin to notice tightness in your chest.  As you stare, hot and bothered, at your closet of ‘not quite right’ clothes, your neck begins to hurt and the pain causes even more fear. You snap at your partner, who gently reminds you that you need to get going. You ignore the texts from co-workers asking you if you’ve left your house yet. You can barely breath and you are frozen.  You are experiencing anxiety and it is profoundly challenging.

So, what are some common symptoms of anxiety? Below are eight typical symptoms of anxiety and a few ways to manage this persistent condition.

  1. You feel constantly worried, tense and on edge
  2. You are plagued by fears that you know are irrational but just can’t shake
  3. You avoid situations/activities because they cause you nervousness & stress
  4. You have difficulty thinking, speaking, and following conversations
  5. You experience pain, stiffness, tension, pressure, soreness, or immobility
  6. Your body temperature increases or decreases without external reason
  7. You feel chest tremors, pounding heart, and/or labored breathing
  8. You don’t feel like yourself, detached from loved ones, emotionally numb

Many common anxiety symptoms show up in your body. You may first experience a knot in your stomach, and then you realize you are totally freaked out about an upcoming presentation. You feel a rapid heartbeat and tightness in your chest and later notice that you are completely anxious to drive in snowy weather.  Your jaw is clenched and your breath is constricted just before you unleash the pent up worry and resulting irritability toward your child.  If you can begin to notice the signals from your body that suggest you are anxious, you may find opportunity to take pause, check in, and navigate what you need in the moment.

Here are a few body-oriented tips for how to deal with anxiety:

1.     Pause:

  1. Find pause through breath. Inhale. Exhale. Feel your belly rise and fall. Notice the air come in through your nostrils and exit out your lips.
  2. Find pause through your senses. Pause to notice what you see. What do you hear and smell? Can you feel your clothes against your body? Experience your feet in your shoes, on the floor. Can you taste the salt on your lips or the flavor from your most recent meal?
  3. Find pause through movement. Go for a walk. Put on your favorite song and dance. Shake it out. Stretch your arms wide. Spread your legs and feel your feet rooted into the earth. Put your hands on your heart or give yourself a massage.

2.    Check In:

  1. Notice what is happening with your breath, senses, movements
  2. Notice, without judgment, what thoughts and feelings you have
  3. Simply observe what is happening in your inner landscape
  4. Scan your body for tension, tightness, fear, irritability, disorientation

3.    Take care:

  1. Ask yourself what you need? Remind yourself (or have someone else remind you) that it is okay to have needs.
  2. If you are having trouble accessing what you need, take another pause, a longer pause, lie on the earth and feel it beneath you.
  3. If you are in need of support, ask for help – from a friend, a loved one or a professional.

Anxiety can negatively impact your quality of life – the way you show up for others and for yourself. Knowing the common symptoms of anxiety can help you recognize when you or a loved one is experiencing unease. When you realize you feel anxious, it can be so valuable to pause, check in and take care of yourself in the moment. Building a deeper understanding of the symptoms and an awareness of what is happening in your body can provide access to your available resources through breath, sensation and movement. When you have access to your internal resources, you can also appreciate more deeply when you need additional support and when you are able to navigate your internal terrain on your own. This self-awareness provides empowerment, freedom and a deeper sense of compassion for self and other. Most importantly, if you are experiencing significant anxiety, seek professional help. Psychotherapy can be very effective in providing relief from the debilitating symptoms of anxiety.

Counseling for Eating Disorders in Teens

Are Your Teenager’s Eating Patterns Causing You Concern?

Are you concerned that your teenager may be developing an unhealthy relationship with food? Is he or she either binge eating or not eating at all? Have you noticed your teen overeating or skipping meals, gaining or losing weight or taking exercise to an unhealthy level? Does your teen often complain about his or her body, negatively compare him or herself to peers or seem overly preoccupied with personal appearance? Is food a common source of conflict in your home? Does your teen seem anxious, moody or unable to concentrate? Have there been problems with friends or at school? Do you wonder if your teenager’s unusual behaviors and feelings toward food are age and gender appropriate or if it’s a phase that he or she will grow out of? Are you struggling to communicate with your teen and help him or her develop a more healthy and positive relationship with food?

So much of our lives revolve around food, and the pressure to be thin, fit and attractive can be a hard burden to carry. This can be especially difficult for teenagers. During the adolescent years, teens are charged with figuring out who they are, how they fit into the greater world and navigating an increasingly bigger and broader social environment. They care deeply about what peers think and feeling accepted is a big deal. However, while outside pressures can influence a teen’s relationship to eating, the source of a teen’s discontent that leads to emotional eating often has little to do with food. Usually, a teen’s unhappiness, which is causing him or her to skip meals or binge eat, exercise incessantly or hate the way he or she looks, is emotionally-based. Diets and over-exercising don’t help. Until your teen identifies the root causes of pain, he or she will continue to struggle. Simply stated, happy teens don’t binge eat or starve themselves.

Eating Issues Are Very Common

If your teen is struggling to maintain a healthy relationship with food, he or she is not alone. Food – sugar in particular – may be the most commonly abused drug in the U.S. It’s socially accepted and regularly available. While food is necessary to live a healthy and active life, its abuse may indicate that there are deeper emotional issues at play. If you suspect that your teenager is “using” food to self-medicate, a BPS therapist can help.

Teenage Eating Issues Are Treatable

With the right therapist and a willingness to consider change, therapy can be extremely effective in treating teenagers with eating issues. In therapy, your teen will learn  that food is not the problem, and that there is no diet or amount of willpower that can help him or her feel better. With the help of a BPS therapist, your teen can learn that the sources of his or her struggles with food are emotionally-based.

We offer counseling for eating disorders in teens that is rooted in practical approaches. Your BPS therapist can help your teen identity the root sources of his or her emotional eating and explore the feelings of shame, guilt or anger that may be associated with the actual act of eating. Your teen can explore issues of self-esteem, body image and his or her relationships with self and others.

With help, it is very possible for your teenager to develop a healthier relationship with food and learn how to better deal with complex emotions in ways that do not include food. Addressing your teen’s emotional and eating issues now can set your teen up for a much happier, healthier and more balanced life now and into adulthood.

But, you still may have questions or concerns…

My teenager insists that he or she does not have a problem.

While your child may contend that he or she doesn’t have a problem, if YOU think that there’s a problem, it’s probably time for some sort of intervention. Like drug and alcohol use, teens commonly withhold truths about how much or how often they eat.

Your BPS therapist is trained and experienced to work with teens who have eating issues – even if your teen continues to deny that a problem exists. Once your teen learns that what he or she says in therapy is confidential and trust is established between your teen and therapist, “real” conversations can occur. Your teen can talk openly about his or her eating patterns, self-doubts, social fears and body image with a trained adult in a nonthreatening way. With this, a new perspective can be created. In time and with the right help, you teen can begin to recognize that a problem exists. Once that realization occurs, healing can begin.

I’m not sure if my teen has a problem or not. It seems that a lot of teenagers – especially girls – are obsessed with body image and food.

If you suspect that there may be a problem, it’s important that you talk with an expert to help determine if your teen has an eating issue that needs to be addressed. It’s also important to realize that what is typical in a social group may not be normal or healthy. It could be that your teen and his or her peer group are engaging in unhealthy eating behaviors that seem normal to both them and their parents because “everyone is doing it.” In these situations, it’s best to use your instinct. You know your child. If something feels really off, it likely is.

I feel ashamed and guilty because of my child’s eating issues. Did I do something wrong as a parent?

What’s going on for your child is not about guilt or shame or blame. It’s about seeing the reality of the problem and addressing the issues that are causing your teen to abuse food. Your teen is not eating in a normal way and something is wrong, but that doesn’t automatically make you a bad parent. Alternatively, seeking help for your child indicates that you care and want to help your child get better. There are many emotions and situations that can lead to eating issues. What’s important now is that your teenager gets the help he or she needs to sort through deeper issues before behavioral patterns become more entrenched. With help, your teen can develop a healthier relationship with food and be a happier and more balanced person now and throughout life.

We encourage you to schedule a referral assessment with a BPS therapist, trained by BPS Director Dr. Jan Hittelman. We will work with you to determine what your teen’s specific issues are and to ensure a good match between your teenager and a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.

You can also check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match your teen with a therapist who has expertise working with adolescent eating issues.

Counseling for Eating Issues for Young Adults

Is Food Running Your Life?

Do you hate what you see in the mirror? Are you binge eating and feeling shameful, guilty or anxious about it? Do you eat more during times of heightened stress or feel unable to control your food intake or emotional stability? Are you excessively concerned with how parts of your body look? Maybe you’ve tried every new diet or exercise fad known to humankind and still not experienced any lasting results. Do you often think that if you could just find the right diet you would look and feel better? Have you wished for a normal relationship with food? Do you think that if you had just a little more willpower your life would be much better?

Most people suffering from eating issues believe that food is the root cause of their problems. That is not the case. There is a reason why all those diets and exercise routines haven’t worked – and it isn’t food or your lack of willpower. Your discontent with your life and yourself, which are causing you to binge eat, exercise incessantly or hate the way you look, are emotionally based. You can diet and exercise nonstop, but until you identify and work through the causes of your pain, you will continue to struggle. Simply, happy people do not binge eat.

Many Young Adults Have An Unhealthy Relationship With Food

If you’re struggling to maintain a healthy relationship with food, you are not alone. Food – sugar in particular – may be the most commonly abused “drug” in the U.S. It’s socially accepted and readily available. But, much like someone struggling with alcohol, it can be very difficult to control. Its abuse is an indication that there are deeper emotional issues at play.

Many young adults – patricianly young women – have complicated relationships with food and unhealthy perceptions of themselves. While appearance is a common preoccupation for many young adults, it can become an obsession for young adults with eating issues, which may develop during the dating years. When rejection occurs – which is does for almost everyone at some point while dating – people with eating issues may place blame on their physical appearance rather than shrug the incompatibility off and move on. They may eat to comfort themselves and end up feeling even more shameful, guilty, anxious, or depressed.

You’ve probably learned from your gazillion attempts at dieting that there is no quick fix. If there were, you likely would have found it already. The good news is, though, that therapy has been proven to be an extremely effective method for treating eating issues. Regardless whether you’ve been struggling with eating issues for years or if an unhealthy relationship with food is a recent issue, a good therapist can help you change how you use food and develop an improved sense of self.

Food Can Stop Taking the Center Stage of Your Life

First, change is absolutely possible.

Once you realize that the source of your sadness and discontent isn’t food, you can start figuring out its true source. With the help of a highly trained and experienced BPS therapist, you can begin to identify the root causes of your pain and develop specific tools to deal with your emotions. Binge or emotional eating is a coping mechanism – and one that probably makes you feel worse. In therapy, you’ll develop the ability to deal with difficult emotions in ways that don’t include food. Also, it’s not the role of your therapist to also be dietician. You’ll never be told that you cannot eat something. The goal isn’t to take food away. Rather, it’s to add foods that are nutrient-dense while you work on getting both physically and emotionally healthier.

While there is no quick fix to an eating issue, with commitment, a willingness to change and a trained therapist, you can get better in touch with your body and learn how to eat in a way that works for you. Your therapist can give you practical strategies and tools to help handle emotional upsets so that you don’t reach for food as comfort. With the right guidance, it is entirely possible to heal your relationship with food, stop obsessing and find a new sense of freedom.

But, you still may have questions or concerns…

I think that therapy could help, but I’m concerned about costs.

This is your life and wellbeing. Addressing your eating issues now may prevent a host of life-long problems and patterns from occurring as you continue into adulthood. Your relationship with food affects your mind, body and spirit. Ask yourself how much you really value yourself – if you’re worth it. Right now you are likely not treating yourself or your body like you are. Investing in therapy is the first step to breaking that pattern. It may be the best and most sustainable decision you ever make.

Many people come to BPS having worked with other therapists who were not trained to work specifically with young adult eating issues or who they couldn’t relate with – which is a waste of time and money. At BPS, we’ll conduct a referral assessment and match you with a therapist who is trained and experienced to work with young adults with eating issues and whose personality is a good match for yours. Once you find that good match, making a commitment to yourself may be one of the most valuable investments there is. Imagine feeling and functioning better on a regular basis – now and in the long-term – and ask yourself what that’s worth.

If money still is an issue, you can talk with your BPS therapist to see if they work on a sliding scale. They may also be able to help you find a resource to help offset cost.

I’m too embarrassed to talk to anyone about this – even a therapist.

While you may be embarrassed, the reality is that therapists who specialize in eating issues have heard it all – even binging on a whole carton of ice cream or 24-pack on Ding Dongs in the middle of the night. The role of your BPS therapist is not to judge you, but rather to help you work through the emotional issues that trigger your compulsive eating. And, you are in control of what you disclose to your therapist. As you develop a trusting relationship, you may find that your level of comfort increases and you feel less embarrassed and more open to getting the help you need to heal.

I should be able to figure this out on my own.

If it were possible to figure this out on your own, you likely would have already found a solution. Our culture continuously promises us that the next diet fad or exercise program will be the quick fix that we’ve been looking for. Most people, however, keep bumping up against the same wall with no results.

Your BPS therapist is trained to work with eating issues and the underlying emotional issues that are tied to unhealthy eating patterns. Your therapist can help you gain clarity about what’s going on for you specifically, and offer strategies and tools that can provide relief. With help, it is possible to experience notable changes and shifts with your relationship to food.

We encourage you to schedule a referral assessment with a BPS therapist, trained by BPS Director Dr. Jan Hittelman. We will work with you to determine what your specific issues are and ensure a good match between you a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.

You can also check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you and with a therapist who has expertise helping young adults with eating issues.

Eating Disorders Counseling for Adults

Is Food Running Your Life?

Do you hate what you see in the mirror? Are you binge eating and feeling shameful, guilty or anxious about it? Have you struggled with anorexia or bulimia? Are you excessively concerned with how parts of your body look? Does it seem like you’ve tried every new diet or exercise fad known to humankind and still not experienced any lasting results? Do you think that if you had just a little more willpower your life would be much better?

Most people suffering from eating issues believe that food is the root cause of their problems. That is not the case. There is a reason why all those diets and exercise routines haven’t worked – and it isn’t food or your lack of willpower. Your discontent with your life and yourself, which are causing you to binge eat, exercise incessantly or hate the way you look, are emotionally based. You can diet and exercise nonstop, but until you identify and work through the causes of your pain, you will continue to struggle. Simply, happy people do not binge eat.

Eating Disorders Are Very Common

If you’re struggling to maintain a healthy relationship with food, you are not alone. Food – sugar in particular – may be the most commonly abused “drug” in the U.S. It’s socially accepted and readily available. But, much like someone struggling with alcohol, it can be very difficult to control. Its abuse is an indication that there may be deeper emotional issues at play.

You’ve probably learned from your gazillion attempts at dieting that there is no quick fix. If there were, you likely would have found it already. The good news is, though, that therapy has been proven to be an extremely effective method for treating eating disorders. Even if you’ve been struggling with eating issues for years, a good therapist can help you undergo a dramatic change in your relationship with food and develop an improved sense of self.

Food Can Stop Taking the Center Stage of Your Life

First, change is absolutely possible.

Once you realize that the source of your sadness and discontent isn’t food, it’s important that you start figuring out its true source. With the help of a highly trained and experienced BPS therapist, you’ll begin to identify the root causes of your pain and develop specific tools to deal with your emotions. Binge or emotional eating is a coping mechanism – and one that probably makes you feel worse. In therapy, you’ll develop the ability to deal with difficult emotions in ways that don’t include food. You should be aware that a therapist with no formal background in nutrition should not be making nutrition recommendations. If you’re seeking nutrition recommendations you should make sure that your therapist also has training in this area, or see a nutritionist or dietician separately.

But, you still may have questions or fears…

I’m scared to look at what’s really causing my disordered eating.

Feeling scared is very common and understandable. It’s usually not easy to look at why we feel bad and behave in unhealthy ways. But, change can only occur once you are willing to take the first step. Are you willing to take risks to feel better? Do you want to really love yourself and your life or do you just want to keep going through it? Once you make that commitment to change and to begin therapy, you’ll likely find that it’s not as scary as you now think. And, it’s kind of like working out – the more you do it the easier it becomes. With a sincere commitment on your part and the help of a trained and supportive therapist, living a healthier and happier life is very possible.

I think that I may need some help but I’m not sure that I can afford it.

This is your life and your wellbeing. Your relationship with food affects your mind, body and spirit. Ask yourself how much you really value yourself – if you’re worth it. Are you treating yourself and your body in ways that promote long-term emotional and physical health? If not, investing in therapy is the first step to breaking those patterns. It may be the best and most sustainable decision you ever make.

Many people come to BPS having worked with other therapists who were not trained in treating eating issues or who they couldn’t relate with – which is a waste of time and money. At BPS, we’ll conduct a referral assessment and match you with a therapist who is trained and experienced in treating eating issues and whose personality is a good match with yours. Once you find that good match, making a commitment to yourself is the investment of a lifetime – imagine being much happier and healthier on a regular basis and ask yourself what that is worth.

If money still is an issue, you can talk with your BPS therapist to see if they work on a sliding scale.

I’ve worked hard to keep my eating issues well hidden. I’m afraid that I’ll be judged if I admit that I have a problem.

It is a priority of all BPS therapists to provide all clients with an environment of support and safety. It is not our role to judge, but rather to offer you support and gentle guidance as you work through the sources of your pain and develop healthier ways to handle your emotions and relationship with food. You may have worked hard to keep your issues with eating well hidden, but talking about them is the first step to dealing with them. And, although you may feel embarrassed by some of your thoughts or food behavior, many others have experienced the same feelings and engaged in similar behaviors. Even if you truly believe that your eating behaviors and underlying emotions are highly unusual, in therapy you may discover that they are very common. Sometimes just learning that we are not so different and that change is possible can provide immediate relief.

We encourage you to schedule a referral assessment with a BPS therapist, trained by BPS Director, Dr. Jan Hittelman. We will work with you to determine what your specific issues are and to ensure a good match between you and a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.

You can also check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you with a therapist who has expertise working with eating issues.