A simple definition of anxiety might be: A state of uneasiness and apprehension about future uncertainties. Since anticipating the future is essential to survival, anxiety is an inescapable, and in many cases, useful state of mind. For instance, feeling fear when we see a clear and present danger – such as a rattlesnake ready to strike – helps us save ourselves from death or injury. Meanwhile, feeling mild to moderate worry about an upcoming exam may help us put aside distractions and begin studying. But anxiety that makes us freeze-up or that concerns future events that are very unlikely to happen or are beyond our control, is not useful.
When anxiety symptoms become extreme, disabling, and persistent, they may be signs of an anxiety disorder, and professional intervention may be necessary. Two common forms of childhood anxiety are separation anxiety disorder (SAD) and general anxiety disorder (GAD). Types of anxiety that tend to emerge later in life include panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Anxiety resulting from having experienced a violent event or physical abuse is identified as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). All of these forms of anxiety are eminently treatable.
Effective therapy for anxiety always starts with an empathetic connection between client and therapist – but grows to include an exploration of the thought-patterns driving the uncomfortable emotion. For those with attention and executive function difficulties, anxiety can sometimes be a rational response to the difficulties brought on by the features of their disorder. In other words, procrastination, poor planning, and faulty memory for details, etc. can give a person plenty to worry about! Therefore, I help many clients permanently improve their attention and executive management skills in addition to helping them defuse the anxiety they feel.
John Mohrbacher, LICSW
A licensed clinical social worker, tutor, and organizational coach who specializes in helping children and adults with attention and executive-function difficulties.