Life today is so busy and demanding that it isn’t surprising we respond to all that stress with feelings of anxiety. But when those anxious feelings, such as a racing heart, heart palpitations, or tightness in your chest, become persistent and impact your quality of life you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
You are not alone! According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 40 million Americans—18% of the population—experience an anxiety disorder in any given year. Fortunately, anxiety disorders are highly treatable mental health conditions. Using targeted medications, individual psychotherapy, and holistic therapies, anxiety disorders can be managed for improved quality of life.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are six major types of anxiety disorders within the anxiety spectrum. Because of the variances between the anxiety disorders, treatment is tailored to address the unique nuances of each. The major types of anxiety disorders are:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety disorder involves excessive worry that is unwarranted. While it is perfectly normal to worry about your finances, school, health, job, and family, it is considered GAD when the persistent worry consumes you and negatively impacts your life. Irrational worrying can become so pervasive that it can interfere with all aspects of life.
Having specific fears, such as fear of heights or fear of spiders, is completely normal, and most of us manage to control these fears. However, those who struggle with a specific phobia to the point of expressing unreasonable fear, where it impacts their daily lives, have an anxiety disorder. Claustrophobia, for example, is the fear of being in crowded spaces and would inhibit many aspects of life—public transportation, elevators, amusement parks, for example.
Panic disorder is commonly referred to as a panic attack, the spontaneous and unpredictable events that feature a racing heart, heart palpitations, chest pains, trembling, chills, nausea, and shortness of breath. These attacks last about ten minutes and then subside, although they are frightening to endure. Many people feel as though they are having a heart attack.
Social Anxiety Disorder
The fear of being negatively judged or rejected is the hallmark of social anxiety disorder. This anxiety disorder usually first appears in the teen years and can intensify over the years. Because of the extreme fear of being evaluated or critiqued, those with the disorder will avoid anything that would place attention on them. They avoid performance activities and public speaking, as well as work and social events. They may pass up a career opportunity because it would entail interacting with people they are not familiar with.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder involves obsessions, the relentless invasive thoughts, actions, and mental images the individual is tormented with; and compulsions, repetitive, systematic behaviors done to relieve anxiety or distress. Examples of OCD are obsessions over germs, or the fear of losing things, or compulsions like having to turn off the light switch twenty times before leaving the room.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a disorder that results from an intense traumatic experience, such as the sudden death of a loved one, a sexual or physical assault, a natural disaster, the atrocities witnessed in combat, or a serious car accident. People with PTSD struggle with recurring and disturbing memories of the event or vivid nightmares. They may avoid people or places that trigger memories of the event, and may be easily startled or frightened.
Anxiety Treatment Options
Before treatment for an anxiety disorder is determined, a comprehensive diagnostic process must be completed. This would include a physical examination, an interview, and completion of a psychiatric evaluation or assessment. Because of the different features of the various anxiety disorders, careful attention must be made to create an appropriate treatment plan.
In most cases, medications—specifically antidepressants—and/or psychotherapy are used for anxiety treatment.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy are effective psychotherapy modalities for anxiety treatment.
CBT helps the patient identify distorted perceptions or irrational thoughts they may display in response to certain people or triggering events, which results in anxious behavior. Over a period of 3-6 months, CBT treatment can help the patient change their dysfunctional thought patterns by having them practice using different responses to the triggering events. This will lead to acquiring new healthy behavior responses, which can help mitigate the anxiety.
For certain types of anxiety, exposure-based behavior therapy is effective in gradually diminishing the patient’s response to certain anxiety-provoking stimuli. By methodically exposing them to increasing levels of the triggers, they will eventually become desensitized to them, reducing symptoms of anxiety. This therapy is especially useful in treating PTSD and specific phobias.
As a complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) in anxiety treatment, certain holistic therapies can help manage symptoms of anxiety. Deep breathing exercises, yoga, guided meditation, acupuncture, and mindfulness training are all effective adjunct therapies in treating anxiety disorders. These types of therapies bring about heightened feelings of relaxation as well as reducing stress.
Phaite Behavioral Health Care Services
We invite you to call our Admissions Specialist for a free confidential assessment and to discuss therapy options and availability. Call Toll-Free at 888-259-1268.