Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
What is Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety disorders are some of the most common disorders that we treated in psychiatry. Per the DSM-V, these disorders include separation anxiety disorder, selective mutism, specific phobia, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. These disorders are grouped together because they have many things in common.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder
Physically, we can see an activation of the “fight or flight” response, and the list of potential symptoms is long and varied:
- Gastrointestinal- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, feeling like you can’t swallow
- Cardiac- fast heart rate, palpitations
- Respiratory: shortness of breath, fast breathing
- Cutaneous: flushing, sweating
- Neurological: Tremor,headache, odd sensations, dizziness, vertigo
- Urogenital: urinary frequency or hesitancy, pain with intercourse
Cognitively, patients will suffer from “catastrophization” which means that they become afraid of something that otherwise they should not be afraid of. Because of the thoughts and feelings, patients will get stuck in a cycle of avoidance behaviors, which means that they start to avoid the trigger more and more. What is tricky about this is that their mind starts to play tricks on them, so that they have to go through greater and greater lengths to avoid the stimulus to begin with. Many patients will have extensive medical workups, often going to emergency rooms due to concerns of a heart attack. These disorders can often be found together, or with other psychiatric disorders such as mood and substance use disorders, and ADHD.
How to Treat Anxiety Disorder
Fortunately, there is great news about these disorders, in that they are very very treatable. For many patients, the first line of treatment is not with medications, but with a form of therapy called “cognitive-behavioral therapy”, where patients learn to change the way that they think about their feelings, so that they can stop avoiding what it is they are so afraid of. Patients can learn skills to deal with these disorders in as few as six to twelve sessions. In addition, once patients face this seemingly insurmountable obstacle, they can often feel empowered to make other changes in their lives. Other patients may choose to try medications that reduce the feelings so that they become more manageable. Medications can be started before, during, after, or in lieu of psychotherapy, and each approach has its own advantage and disadvantage. Some patients may choose to use medications on a short-term basis only, while they learn the skills to deal with their symptoms; other patients may choose to stay on meds long term as it improves the quality of their lives.
Frequently Asked Questions About Anxiety Disorders
Is anxiety a mental illness?
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, but an anxiety disorder is a mental illness. These disorders cause constant, overwhelming anxiety and fear that interfere with your life. People with anxiety disorders may avoid work, school, family gatherings, and situations that trigger or worsen their symptoms.
What is anxiety exactly?
There are many causes for anxiety. People with certain personality types are more likely to have anxiety disorders than others, while for some, a big event or even several smaller stressful life situations can trigger excessive anxiety.
What causes anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural response to the stress of feeling fear or apprehension about what’s to come. Going to a job interview, the first day of school, or public speaking are all common situations in which you might be expected to feel some level of anxiety.
Can anxiety be cured?
Anxiety is not curable, but it is manageable. Getting appropriate treatment will help you gain control over your anxiety, rather than letting your anxiety control you. You’ll be able to calm your out-of-control worries and get back to living your life.
What can anxiety do to your body?
Anxiety impacts your body in a number of ways. In the moment, it can cause rapid heart rate, chest pain, and palpitations. In the long-term, you may be at a higher risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. If you have heart disease, an anxiety disorder can increase the risk of a coronary event.
How do you know it’s anxiety?
Signs that you have an anxiety disorder include excessive and intrusive worrying that disrupts your daily life, agitation, fatigue, irritability, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, and tense muscles.
What helps anxiety naturally? (10 Ways to Naturally Reduce Anxiety)
We recommend the following strategies to reduce anxiety:
- Stay active by exercising at least 30 minutes each day.
- Don’t drink alcohol.
- Stop smoking.
- Cut down on your caffeine intake.
- Make an effort to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night.
- Practice meditation.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Learn breathing techniques to relax your body.
- Use cognitive behavioral therapy to change your thought patterns.
- Never shy away from confronting your fears; facing anxiety head-on is the best way to overcome it.
Why do I suddenly have anxiety?
Sudden anxiety often occurs during stressful times in your life, including unexpected events, physical pain or disorders, and significant changes and transitions.
Do I have anxiety or am I just stressed?
Anxiety is more persistent and troubling than stress. If, for example, you were nervous about giving a presentation and after it goes well, you feel relieved, that’s natural stress. If the presentation goes well and the next day, you continue to worry and obsess about how you performed and over-analyze what happened, this is anxiety.
What happens if you ignore anxiety?
If you ignore anxiety, you may find yourself turning to unhealthy ways to cope with your feelings. People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social phobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder are at a higher risk for alcohol and substance abuse. Adolescents who have PTSD have an increased risk of eating disorders.