PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Maybe you or someone you know constantly worries.

The worrying can get so bad, it can sometimes make someone sick.

“Besides the thoughts involved with anxiety, a lot of people will have physical symptoms,” said Dr. Alicia Kaplan, of Allegheny General Hospital psychiatry. “For example, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, stomach aches, headaches and even insomnia.

People with anxiety disorders aren’t alone.

“It is the most common psychiatric condition today,” Dr. Kaplan says. “Roughly 40 million Americans have anxiety disorders, but only a third of them are being treated.”

People with this have intrusive thoughts about worst case scenarios. They constantly think, “what if?”

“What if I lose my job? What if something bad happens to my family?” said Dr. Kaplan. “So people for a lot of the day can have those feelings and thoughts.”

It can lead to avoiding certain situations or compulsive behaviors to check on whatever it is that leads to the worry. How you behave at work, at home and in social situations can be affected.

There is help for anxiety disorders. As part of a treatment plan, something called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be useful.

“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the best kind of psychotherapy we have for treating anxiety disorders,” Dr. Kaplan said.

It’s a way to retrain your thoughts and behaviors so that you have fewer anxious notions, and you’re less likely to act on them.

An example would be someone who is overly concerned they’ve forgotten to lock up the house. This is often linked to feelings of responsibility for anything that goes wrong – someone breaking in, for instance.

The concern is so great, someone will frequently have to go home and check.

The first step is to identify the thought of doubt about locking the doors, and stop that thought. That’s the cognitive part.

Then, for the behavioral part, you expose yourself to the door. At first you can check it, but with limits. Three times, perhaps. At the next session, two. Then, only one.

Then, you will look at the door, and not check the lock. This will likely bring on the anxiety again. But the idea is to feel that repeatedly, and over time recognize nothing bad happens if you don’t check.

In Dr. Kaplan’s experience, for moderate to severe anxiety, a combination of medication and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works best.

Most people will have a course of 12 to 16 sessions, each lasting about an hour. For some people though, the cognitive behavioral therapy needs to be ongoing.

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