Even a few years ago, anxiety wasn’t something often talked about. But today, there’s a language for anxiety disorders, along with an ever-growing professional field of treatment, according to Clinical Social Worker Toni T. Hernalsteen, LMSW, SAP at Traverse Health Clinic.
“Anxiety disorders are real,” she says. “Just as real as heart disease or disabilities. Anxiety does not discriminate. Its ability to affect all ages, race, gender and profession is profound.”
Hernalsteen believes that the rate of people seeking treatment has become more noticeable as mental health stigmas are challenged and seeking support becomes normalized.
“Anxiety disorders may be on the rise or perhaps they have always been present,” she says. “But they are now becoming a part of the conversation.”
In her work at Traverse Health Clinic in Traverse City, Hernalsteen offers insight on how to tell when everyday anxiety is something more.
“Everyone experiences anxiety before a job interview or when facing a challenging situation,” she says. “Anxiety can serve a healthy purpose. It helps us remain solution-focused and productive. The concern lies with the inability to control worry, fears, irritation or difficulty concentrating, thus interfering with daily life.”
Physical symptoms may include increased heart rate, hot flashes, sweating, chronic fatigue or nausea. “The first step to getting help is to create a pathway to assistance,” she says. “Start with a phone call to your primary care provider, counselor or atrusted friend.”
Hernalsteen says treatment can be multifaceted and could include medication and lifestyle changes in conjunction, or separate from, psychotherapy.
“Psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is widely used and works on replacing negative and unproductive thoughts with productive and realistic ones,” she says.
To get started at Traverse Health Clinic, clients can expect a 45–60 minute initial appointment, during which a counselor will discuss personal history, the current situation and symptoms.
“The joy of counseling is that the clients are in control about how much information they share and when they share it,” Hernalsteen says. “Be honest and ask questions. This is your treatment. The counselor is there to provide assistance while you do the work of bringing satisfaction to your life.”