Anxiety Treatment Center
It is normal to feel anxious at times, especially before a big event or speaking in public. Anxiety is a natural response to stress and can sometimes even be beneficial in certain situations. However, for 40 million people struggling with anxiety disorders, anxiety becomes debilitating and interferes with daily life. Although anxiety disorders can damage one’s life when left untreated, they are manageable and treatable.
What Is Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety disorders are one of the most prevalent mental health disorders in America, affecting about 18 percent of the population in any year. There are several different anxiety disorders from which people suffer, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder. There are also associated disorders related to anxiety disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is when a person constantly worries for no reason. They worry about little things throughout the day and always feel that something bad is going to happen. A person with general anxiety disorder typically acknowledges that their concerns are stronger than the situation warrants; however, they cannot stop worrying or feeling anxious. They have an inability to relax and often have trouble sleeping. When left untreated, generalized anxiety disorder can cause disruption to one’s daily life.
Panic disorder is characterized as a person experiencing several panic attacks within a period of time. The panic attacks affect the person physically and may cause heart palpitations. People often believe they are having a heart attack or dying when having a panic attack and feel out of control. The person becomes afraid of having another panic attack and begins to avoid situations where one might occur.
Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia
Everyone gets afraid of what others might think of them or of being judged at times, but those with social anxiety disorder have those fears to such an extent it can become detrimental to everyday life. Those with social anxiety disorder may even be afraid to do simple things in front of others. Some people only have social phobia in certain situations, while others have the same problem in all social situations.
People with social anxiety disorder are very anxious around other people and find it difficult to talk or interact, even though they wish to do so. They also are self-conscious, feel embarrassed and are afraid of judgment by others. They will worry for days and weeks prior to social events and will even avoid places where there are other people.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
When a person feels the need to repeatedly check things or perform actions in a repetitive manner due to some underlying anxiety or fear, they might have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), a disorder that can cause anxiety and is related to the anxiety disorders. The biggest difference between a person double checking that the door is locked before leaving or performing a similar action and someone with OCD is that the OCD rituals control the person and disrupt relationships, work and day-to-day activities. People with OCD obsess that something bad will happen, typically related to germs or violence, and perform rituals over and over as prevention. They do not enjoy doing the rituals, but it does provide a brief relief from the anxiety behind the disorder.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another disorder closely related to the anxiety disorders. It develops after a person has undergone a traumatic experience that affects their flight-or-fight response. People remain stressed once the experience is over, sometimes for months or years after the initial trauma, and often re-live the event or feel the emotion when something sets off a trigger. Many people associate PTSD with war veterans, but it can be caused by any single or repeated traumatic experience in a person’s life.
Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
Each specific anxiety disorder has its own signs and symptoms, but they all are centered on irrational and excessive fear and dread. It is common for people with an anxiety disorder to also have other mental conditions and even substance abuse issues. Some of the common signs and symptoms for anxiety disorders include:
- Uncontrollable, obsessive thoughts
- Shortness of breath
- Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
- Recurring thoughts or flashbacks of a traumatic experience or experiences
- Partial or full insomnia
- Abnormal routine behaviors such as repeated hand washing
- Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
- Unusually rapid heart rate
- Inability to remain still and calm
- Dry mouth
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Muscle tension
Anxiety disorder causes
There is no single cause of anxiety disorder. Genetics, biology, environment and life experiences all contribute to a person developing the disorder. People with a family history have a higher risk of developing one of the anxiety disorders than others. Women are also more prone to anxiety disorder than men. Trauma and other stressful life events can also cause a person to have an anxiety disorder.
Two parts of the brain may contribute to anxiety disorders: the amygdala and hippocampus. The amygdala is the communications hub center of the brain and when the body senses danger, the amygdala passes the fear message to the area of the brain that triggers the flight or fight response. The hippocampus stores memories, including coding threatening messages into a memory so the person knows to be afraid. Unique activity in the hippocampus and amygdala could be part of the cause for anxiety disorders.
If a person thinks that he or she has an anxiety disorder, it is important to visit a doctor. Some of the symptoms may be due to underlying health conditions that need to be ruled out first. It may actually take time for an accurate anxiety disorder diagnosis as people typically treat the physical symptoms first, not realizing they are due to a mental disorder. It is important to discuss all symptoms, including emotional ones, with the doctor from the beginning.
Anxiety disorder treatment typically includes either psychotherapy or medication, or sometimes both. The medications most prescribed for anxiety disorders are anti-anxiety medicine and antidepressants. Some people will also be prescribed beta blockers to treat the physical symptoms of anxiety attacks.
Psychotherapy is very helpful in treating anxiety disorder, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps a person change the way he or she thinks and responds, especially about the things that make him or her anxious or fearful.
Sovereign Health of California
At Sovereign Health, we offer evidence-based treatment for anxiety disorders. We use a combination of individual and group psychotherapy with complementary alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation, equine therapy, art therapy and more, and medication when applicable. Our treatment program is customized based upon a thorough assessment that finds all underlying conditions in order to provide the best treatment program and prevent relapse. Contact our 24/7 helpline for more information.