Breaking the Silence

Website for the American Mental Health Counselors Association's Breaking the Silence initiative to address mental health stigma.


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By contributing blogger Dr. Keith Mobley

Fear and anxiety are common, every day parts of living. Unknown outcomes of common events, such as interviews, tests, uncomfortable conversations, or just commuting to work have probably evoked those emotions in you sometime this month (if not this week!). However, anxiety can affect the day-to-day functioning and rise to the level of a diagnosable mental disorder for some. Since anxiety is a typical, if not necessary, part of modern life, it can be hard to differentiate typical anxiety that motivates us to perform, stay alert, or make plans to influence an outcome, and the level of anxiety that can reduce ones productivity, diminish the quality of life, affect other ways of coping or behaving, or sometimes be debilitating to an individual.

Like depression, scientists believe that anxiety disorders are caused by a unique combination of factors for each person; genetic, biochemical, psychological and environmental components may be involved in varying degrees. Similiarly, there may be a range of symptoms that are unique to each person that vary in degrees. Some of the most common symptoms of anxiety disorders are:

  • Excessive or uncontrollable worry and fear
  • Increased frequency of physical responses to fear, such as heart palpitations, muscle tension, trembling or sweating, up to the point of panic attacks
  • Sleep difficulties due to excessive fear or worry or in response to the physical response to stress
  • Ritualistic behaviors in an attempt to control anxiety
  • Poor concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Avoidance of situations or places that incite fear and create distress

Depending on the variety and degree of symptoms, anxiety disorders include Generalized Anxiety Disorders, Panic Disorders, and Social Anxiety Disorders.

The treatment of anxiety parallels that of depression in many ways. First, recognizing the symptoms and seeking help is the most critical and often difficult step. Thereafter, you can usually expect a physician to rule out an organic cause due to a different medical condition, and then psychotherapy (although with concentration on a different set of issues and skills than used for depression), and often times medication, self-help groups, and sometimes other stress management techniques.

Anxiety is a very treatable and common mental health diagnosis. Don’t let you or someone you care about suffer longer than necessary by seeking qualified mental health provider such as a clinical mental health counselor.

For more information, visit the National Institute of Mental Health at or take a free, anonymous online screening Or find a site to participate in person at Be sure to discuss the results with a visit to a clinical mental health counselor. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273 – TALK if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts.

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