It’s difficult living with an anxiety disorder. While most people experience a bit of worry…
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Everyone knows what it’s like to feel anxious from time to time. Stressful situations cause people to experience symptoms of anxiety. Job interviews, difficult conversations, or big tests are enough to make anyone nervous. But there’s a big difference between feeling a bit on edge before an overwhelming event and a clinical anxiety disorder diagnosis.
High-strung nerves, restlessness, and an overactive mind are things everyone can relate to. It’s normal to experience when you’re going somewhere new or making a big decision. They’re often temporary, though, and leave once the cause of the stress is gone.
People with anxiety disorders don’t have this same experience. Their anxious feelings are ongoing and often worsen over time. Their disorder can cause significant effects on their daily life, from employment to education to family. What is an anxiety disorder and what does it look like? Continue reading to find out the symptoms of this complex condition as well as causes, effects, and more.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is the emotion that you feel when you’re tense, nervous, and on edge. It’s when you’re worried about something or someone to the point that you can’t focus on anything else. Some people experience such intense anxiety that has a significant impact on their life. It affects their performance at work or school, their relationships, and more.
People with this intense level of worry that doesn’t go away may have clinical anxiety. This is a broad term that includes multiple anxiety-based disorders. Obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder and are two common examples. They make it difficult to carry out normal tasks such as getting work done, going to the grocery store, or hanging out with friends.
Clinical anxiety is the mental illness that affects the largest portion of the population in the United States. Anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million adults every year. What exactly is anxiety, though, and what impact does it have?
Definition of Anxiety
Clinical anxiety includes numerous disorders rooted in all-consuming and ongoing worry. Each disorder has unique characteristics but all of them share a similar thread of anxiety. Some of the most common forms of anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Phobia-Related Disorders
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
People with diagnosable anxiety disorders all live with some degree of nervousness and worry. Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same ways, though. The source of their worries and fears, or the way they respond to them, determines their specific diagnosis.
For example, people with social anxiety disorder fear social settings. It isn’t the same thing as being shy, quiet, or introverted. Social anxiety is an overpowering fear of spending time in social settings. It isn’t only large crowds or loud parties that trigger this anxiety either. Some people with social anxiety struggle to spend time with even their closest friends.
Are Anxiety Disorders Genetic?
It’s common to wonder where anxiety comes from and what its ultimate causes are. Multiple studies have looked at whether anxiety disorders are genetic. Extensive research reveals an undeniable connection between genes and anxiety. People with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are often genetically predisposed to developing the condition.
Environmental factors also play a role in the development of GAD. Some individuals develop anxiety disorders before any real environmental influence. Others show few symptoms of their predisposition to GAD until an environmental factor triggers it. Trauma, environmental adversity, or other stressful life events can set off their disorder.
On the other hand, not everyone with a genetic predisposition to things like pathological worry and fear of uncertainty develop diagnosable GAD. They may be more on edge or nervous but they can manage their symptoms during their daily lives. The signs of GAD might never fully develop into an actual disorder.
Additionally, people without a genetic predisposition to anxiety can still develop an anxiety disorder. Those same environmental factors that trigger an underlying condition can also cause someone to develop GAD, panic disorder, another anxiety-related disorder.
Are Anxiety and Stress the Same Thing?
Everyone experiences stress from time to time. Difficulties at work, trying to balance a schedule, taking care of kids, going to school, building a relationship. Countless things happen in a person’s life at any given time that can cause stress.
Normal levels of stress are relative to the situation you’re facing. If you have a big test coming up you’ll understandably feel pressure and stress to study and perform well. Stress and anxiety are not the same things, though. Feeling stressed out is challenging, tiring, and overwhelming but it passes with time.
Anxiety is the chronic, excessive, uncontrollable worry about something. Their worry is either present despite the absence of a related stimulus or disproportionate to the realistic level of risk. People with anxiety disorders often feel a sense of stress caused by the consuming levels of anxiety they deal with.
Additionally, living under high levels of stress can trigger episodes in people with an existing anxiety disorder. Maintaining manageable stress levels to avoid triggering episodes is an important aspect of managing an anxiety disorder.
Are Anxiety and Depression the Same Thing?
Anxiety and depression are closely related so many people wonder if anxiety and depression are the same things. The two conditions are similar and there is a high rate of comorbidity between them. They affect similar areas in the brain which causes some overlap in the symptoms experienced with each condition.
Despite the relation between them, anxiety and depression are not the same things. People with anxiety may feel down or depressed from time to time but never reach the level of clinical depression. In the same vein, individuals with major depressive disorder experience some anxiety but it doesn’t always progress into a diagnosable anxiety disorder.
Both conditions have their own sets of behavioral and emotional symptoms. The main difference between them is anxiety is characterized by hyperarousal while depression is characterized by a pervasive low mood and sense of hopelessness. It’s important to understand the difference between the two so people receive the proper treatment they need.
Are Anxiety and Panic the Same Thing?
Anxiety and panic are not the same things but they are closely related. Panic disorders (PD) are classified as an anxiety disorder. When someone is having a panic attack they’re debilitated by an overwhelming and consuming sense of anxiety. Panic attacks often occur on a seemingly spontaneous and out-of-the-blue basis.
Since they typically come on unexpectedly, people with panic disorder often live in an ongoing state of worry. They never know when their next episode may happen which causes a sense of hyperarousal at most times.
Meanwhile, not everyone with an anxiety disorder experiences panic attacks. They have an ongoing and overwhelming sense of fear and worry that interrupts their daily lives. Their symptoms of anxiety never manifest themselves in panic attacks, though.
Where Anxiety Comes From
The everyday anxiety most people experience is caused by an understandable stressor. Important exams, big business meetings, meeting a new partner’s parents, and more are all normal things to feel nervous about. People with anxiety disorders don’t always have an external stressor that triggers their anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by feelings of intense worry or fear that interfere with everyday life. The worry or fear is often disproportionate to the external circumstances. Their feelings often don’t make sense to people without an anxiety disorder. But the stressors are very real to the person experiencing them.
There isn’t one single thing that leads someone to develop anxiety. Like other mental illnesses, there are numerous possible causes of anxiety disorders. Where does anxiety come from?
Causes of Anxiety
Research hasn’t pinned down a precise cause of anxiety. Anxiety disorders affect many kinds of people from different backgrounds with different stories. It does not discriminate. There is no way to point to one particular issue as the single contributing factor for the disorder.
Instead, current research indicates that there are both genetic and environmental causes of anxiety. Many people with anxiety are predisposed to developing the disorder. Some are born with higher levels of nervousness and worry from their early years. Others experience a traumatic event or another major stressor that triggers their underlying predisposition.
Some medical conditions cause anxiety as a side effect. Worry that develops as an effect from a medical disorder usually isn’t as pervasive as a diagnosable anxiety disorder. It’s still intense and difficult to manage, though. Some of the medical problems that can cause anxiety include:
- Thyroid problems
- Heart disease
- Respiratory disorders like COPD or asthma
- Chronic pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Drug withdrawal
Where Anxiety Starts
People with a predisposition to anxiety may not develop a full-blown anxiety disorder right away. They might notice more worry or nervousness than their peers but not reach the point of a diagnosable disorder at first. As time goes on, though, various factors and experiences can trigger their underlying anxiety disorder. These include things like:
- Extreme stress: High levels of stress, caused either by a large event (like the death of a loved one) or numerous small stressors (like stress at work or financial worries).
- Trauma: Experiencing trauma is one of the biggest triggers for underlying anxiety disorders. This can be either a single traumatic experience, multiple traumatic events, or ongoing exposure to trauma.
- Pre-existing mental health disorders: Pre-existing mental health disorders can lead to the development of an underlying anxiety disorder. Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are two common examples.
- Stress caused by illness: The medical disorders listed above may trigger a diagnosable anxiety disorder in someone with a predisposition to the condition.
- Drug or alcohol abuse: People who abuse drugs and alcohol, or someone experiencing drug or alcohol withdrawal symptoms, may develop an anxiety disorder.
When Anxiety Becomes a Problem
Again, everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. It’s normal to feel stressed out for a few hours or days when something big is going on. These feelings are fleeting and dissipate after the big event passes.
Anxiety becomes a problem when it impacts a person’s ability to function effectively in their daily life. The feelings of nervousness, worry, and fear are present whether or not there is an external stressor. They affect their performance at work or school, their relationships with others, their enjoyment of activities or hobbies they once loved.
Once a person can’t focus on the things in life that are important to them, their anxiety becomes a problem. It’s not normal to have such high levels of fear and worry that it keeps them from doing things they want to do. A person has likely reached the point of clinical anxiety once it starts affecting their quality of life.
Different Types of Anxiety
There are a few different types of anxiety disorders. They all share the common symptom of chronic anxiety but each type has unique aspects that set it apart. The five major types of anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder or Agoraphobia)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common type of anxiety. Someone must show signs of chronic, excessive anxiety or worry for at least 6 months. Their anxiety must be present on most days to receive a GAD diagnosis.
People with GAD focus on and worry about a wide range of things from personal health to social interactions, work to everyday routine circumstances. Their anxiety often has consequential effects on numerous areas in their life, such as relationships, social skills, school, and work.
Although external causes can worsen anxiety and worry in people with GAD, they also feel tension when little or nothing is happening. Sometimes their underlying and ongoing feelings of anxiety don’t need anything to provoke them. The exaggerated worry is often present regardless of what’s going on.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a well-known but often misunderstood form of anxiety. OCD is characterized by the presence of obsessions (recurrent and unwanted thoughts) and compulsions (repetitive behaviors).
Obsessions range from fear of losing something to germs or contamination to needing things in perfect order. Compulsions include excessive cleaning or washing, arranging objects in a precise and particular way, repeatedly checking on things, repetitive counting, and more.
People with OCD carry out their repetitive behaviors, or compulsions, because the actions provide temporary relief from their unwanted thoughts, or obsessions. If they don’t act on their compulsions, they’re filled with overwhelming anxiety and a sense that something bad may happen.
Sometimes the connection between an obsession and the resulting compulsion makes sense. For example, a fear of germs leads an individual to keep things excessively clean. Everyone wants things clean to some extent. Problems arise when an individual has an overwhelming need to keep things so clean that it interferes with their life.
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by the sudden onset of panic attacks. A panic attack consists of immediate, overwhelming fear and anxiety that lasts for at least a few minutes. They’re so consuming that it’s almost impossible to focus on or think of anything else. Many people also experience physical symptoms like sweating and shortness of breath.
Panic disorders can occur either with or without a clear trigger. Attacks that happen without an obvious cause are even more stressful because their onset is so unexpected. Untreated panic disorder can cause severe impacts on an individual’s quality of life. It may encourage social isolation, lead to the development of other mental health disorders, and more.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another type of anxiety disorder that many people know about. It develops after exposure to a traumatic event or surviving ongoing trauma. Signs of PSTD must last at least a month and interfere with an individual’s relationships, work, or another area of their life to receive a diagnosis.
People with post-traumatic stress disorder live in an ongoing state of “fight or flight” mode. They are often anxious and on edge, whether there is an active reason for it or not. Experiences that can trigger PTSD include active military combat, violent personal assaults, severe accidents, natural or human-caused disasters, or abuse.
Social phobia, also called social anxiety or agoraphobia, is characterized by extreme self-consciousness and overwhelming anxiety in normal social situations. Some individuals with social phobia are fearful of specific situations like large gatherings or public speaking. Others have such extreme anxiety that it affects them almost anytime they’re around most people.
Which Anxiety Disorder is the Worst?
No anxiety disorder is enjoyable to live with. Each type of anxiety comes with a set of challenges that makes life more challenging. Generalized anxiety disorder brings stress to everyday living. Social phobias make it difficult to be around other people. Post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are all exhausting to live with.
It’s difficult to say which anxiety disorder is the worst. Every kind of anxiety has its downsides that affect an individual’s daily life. They all have the common thread of chronic, overwhelming fear and worry. No matter which kind of anxiety disorder an individual has, they’re going to experience an impact on their life.
Which Anxiety Disorder is Most Common?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are likely the most well-known anxiety disorders. Despite common misunderstandings surrounding both conditions, most people have an idea of what each entails.
Though OCD and PTSD are known by many, the most common type of anxiety disorder is a generalized anxiety disorder. It affects 6.8 million adults in the United States or 3.1 percent of the population. GAD is characterized by more general anxiety rather than the specific instances of other types of anxiety disorders.
How Anxiety Works
Scientists are still working to understand exactly how anxiety works. It doesn’t seem to originate in the higher cognitive centers like the prefrontal cortex and the orbitofrontal cortex. Instead, current research explains that anxiety disorders are likely caused by a disruption to the limbic system, also called the emotional processing center.
The limbic system is comprised of the hippocampus, amygdala, hypothalamus, and thalamus. This system is responsible for most of the emotional processing an individual does. Scientists have observed higher levels of activity in these areas in people who have anxiety disorders.
Disruption to the body’s regular emotional processing system can result in symptoms of anxiety. It causes people to feel intense emotions over long periods; excessive nervousness, fear, or worry; and high levels of stress that are difficult to come back down from.
How Anxiety Affects the Brain
At its most basic, anxiety is a reaction similar to the fight-or-flight response. When a person’s brain perceives danger it sends two signals. It sends one the higher cognitive center for thinking and decision-making. The emotional processing center, or limbic system, receives the other signal to determine the emotional significance of the event.
The amygdala is an imperative part of the limbic system. It quickly determines a situation’s level of threat so the body can respond accordingly. Anxiety seems to arise from a sensitive, overactive amygdala. Instead of appropriately determining the level of threat, it overreacts to situations that aren’t necessarily threatening which causes feelings of anxiety.
People with a limbic system that functions normally experience similar feelings of nervousness, fear, and worry from time to time. Their amygdala responds to external stressors as it’s supposed to and responds in an expected and reasonable yet temporary way.
People with anxiety disorders feel high levels of nervousness, fear, and worry a majority of the time. Their limbic system is overactive so they aren’t able to return to a balanced emotional state as quickly or as easily. Their ongoing and excessive levels of stress affect their daily life until they seek help.
How Anxiety Affects the Body
Feelings of anxiety start in a person’s brain with their overactive limbic system. When their amygdala determines the presence of a threat it triggers physical reactions. These physical symptoms make it so anxiety affects the body almost as much as it affects the brain.
There are many different physical effects of these disorders and anxiety affects the body in numerous ways. Some symptoms depend on the type of anxiety disorder an individual has. Others are symptoms shared by many people who struggle with any type of anxiety disorder.
Some of the many physical effects of anxiety include:
- Weight gain
- Rapid heart rate or heart palpitations
- Chest pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Weakened immune system
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Muscle tension
- Worsened asthma
- Social isolation
How Anxiety Affects Sleep
Anxiety can have an incredible impact on sleep. The overwhelming feelings of nervousness, fear, and worry can make it difficult to relax at the end of the day. When a person lays down to fall asleep their head keeps running, overthinking any number of situations. People with severe anxiety often experience insomnia as a side effect.
Individuals who have post-traumatic stress disorder have an especially difficult time with sleep. Flashbacks and nightmares are a side effect of PTSD. These nightmares and flashbacks to the traumatic experience are terrifying to the point that some find they can’t fall asleep or stay asleep.
And it isn’t just anxiety that affects sleep. Lack of sleep also leads to worse anxiety. This creates a debilitating cycle of overwhelming anxiety and insomnia. The cycle causes negative effects on both physical and mental health when left untreated.
How Anxiety Affects Families and Relationships
Anxiety most directly affects families and other relationships in a person’s life. The exact ways anxiety affects families and relationships depend on which individual in the family system has the disorder.
For example, a parent who suffers from anxiety will affect the family differently than a child. When a parent is the one with the disorder it can impact their ability to be present for their spouse or their children. They might find it hard to show up in the ways their family wants or needs them to and other family members often feel like they’re walking on eggshells.
Another determining factor on the way a parent with anxiety affects families and relationships is whether they have a partner. A single parent who suffers from anxiety faces more pressure than one who has a spouse to help them. The added pressure of being a single parent can make symptoms of anxiety worse, creating an exhausting cycle.
The tension created by anxiety affects families and relationships, too. Families may struggle to communicate properly when they’re preoccupied with the anxious family member. These communication difficulties cause division and other bonding problems.
How Anxiety Affects Work and Studies
It’s hard for people with anxiety disorders to show up fully, to be present, or to focus on tasks when their symptoms are acting up. This means anxiety affects work and studies to a significant extent. It can impact a person’s attendance, their interactions with peers or colleagues, or their performance on assignments or tasks.
The type of disorder a person struggles with also has to do with the ways anxiety affects work and studies. Someone with social anxiety will have a difficult time in group settings. They may have a hard time speaking up or sharing their opinions and insights if they’re working on a project with a group.
Another concern is the ways symptoms of anxiety appear in children in the classroom. Teachers who aren’t aware of the signs of anxiety may take the child’s symptoms as a refusal to follow rules or participate. In reality, the child is simply overcome with worry and fear.
Anxiety in the workplace can cause serious problems in an individual’s professional life. They may turn down a promotion to avoid aggravating their fears and worries. Severe anxiety can keep people from completing tasks, meeting deadlines, or even showing up to the office.
Everyone understands the pressures of overwhelming nerves or excessive worry. Most feelings of anxiety make sense under the given circumstances, though. They also lessen after the stressor is over and don’t leave a lasting impact. The majority of people who experience anxiety don’t reach the point of having a diagnosable anxiety disorder.
Still, anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. An estimated 1 out of 3 adults in the U.S. experience an anxiety disorder during their life. Most don’t experience ongoing anxiety, though. They work through their disorder and continue moving forward.
19.1 percent of U.S. adults had some type of anxiety disorder in the past year. Not all anxiety disorders are the same, though. Some people can keep up with most of their responsibilities. Others experience extreme symptoms that affect their daily life. Of those with past-year anxiety disorders, the level of severity broke down to:
- 43.5% mild impairment
- 33.7% moderate impairment
- 22.8% serious impairment
The National Comorbidity Survey Replication also provides data on individual anxiety disorders. It reveals how many people struggle with each condition. Out of the adult population ages 18 and older in the United States:
- 2.7% have Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- 7.1% have Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
- 2.7% have Panic Disorder
- 3.6% have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- 1.2% have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- 9.1% have Specific Phobia
- 0.9% have Agoraphobia
In addition to the anxiety statistics above, there are plenty of anxiety facts, too. The following facts about anxiety will help you better understand the condition and how it affects people.
Specific Phobia is the most common type of anxiety disorder.
You might think Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Social Anxiety disorder is the most common type. While they’re two commonly-known disorders, they aren’t the most prevalent kind of disorder. Specific Phobia, or the intense, irrational fear of something that poses little to no danger, is the most common.
Females have a higher prevalence of anxiety disorders.
More women are diagnosed with anxiety disorders than men. 23.4% of women ages 18 and older had an anxiety disorder in the last year compared to 14.3% of men. In the case of some specific types of disorders like GAD or Panic Disorder, women are twice as likely to have the condition.
Anxiety disorders are most common among those ages 18-29 and 30-44.
Of those with an anxiety disorder, an estimated 22.3% are ages 18-29 and 22.7% are ages 30-44. Anxiety also affects adults in the 45-59 and 60+ range but is not as prevalent. These groups have prevalences of 20.6% and 9.0% respectively.
Children can experience anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders are not limited to adults. Children can also experience anxiety disorders. Until recently, psychiatrists and psychologists avoided diagnosing children with anxiety, though. But research shows that adolescents in the United States are affected, too. An estimated 25.1% of adolescents ages 13-18 struggle with an anxiety disorder.
Unfortunately, not everyone understands the impacts of anxiety. There are dozens of myths and misconceptions about anxiety. Misinformation and misunderstanding are not only frustrating but can even be dangerous. The following anxiety myths are often seen but also untrue.
People with anxiety disorders are exaggerating.
Anxiety disorders are difficult to comprehend if you have no experience with them. It might seem like a person is simply worrying too much or overly concerned. Even if their anxiety doesn’t necessarily make sense, they aren’t exaggerating. Their worry and anxiety aren’t always equivalent to the stressor but their fears feel very real.
Anxiety disorders are something you can just “get over.”
There are still people who believe mental health disorders are something a person can simply “get over.” This is a harmful misunderstanding. People with anxiety disorders can’t just stop feeling anxious all of a sudden. They most likely need effective mental health treatment.
All anxiety disorders are rooted in childhood trauma.
While some anxiety disorders may be rooted in childhood trauma, it’s not the cause of all anxiety disorders. Some conditions like PTSD are more likely to result from childhood trauma. But many different things may cause someone to develop an anxiety disorder.
Anyone who makes the right lifestyle changes can cure their anxiety.
Some people believe anxiety disorders can be cured through a series of lifestyle changes. Incorporating exercise, adjusting diet, and living a generally healthy lifestyle are all helpful tools. While they might relieve anxiety for some people, those with anxiety disorders often need clinical help. Lifestyle changes are more effective when accompanied by informed anxiety treatment methods.
Anxiety disorders can impact every area of a person’s life. From work to school to home, symptoms of anxiety cause a wide range of difficulties. Anxiety prevention isn’t always possible but some things can help manage symptoms. Coping strategies and lifestyle changes are two helpful tools to incorporate.
Coping strategies are practices to incorporate that have the goal of anxiety prevention. When someone notices they’re starting to feel anxious they can try using a few different coping strategies. The following examples are some to try out:
- Pause for a moment when feeling anxious or on edge. Take a few moments to step back from the problem and regroup.
- Breathe slow. Quick, shallow breaths increase feelings of anxiety. Long, deep breaths are more calming.
- Avoid aiming for perfection. Perfection is an impossible ideal and insisting on it only creates more anxiety and eventual disappointment.
- Keep track of anxiety triggers. Uncovering what causes intense reactions can help manage symptoms over time.
- Count to 10 very slowly when overwhelming feelings arise. Count to a higher number if necessary.
Not all coping strategies work for everyone and these are only a few examples. Coping strategies are also not a cure for anxiety disorders. They’re a useful part of an ongoing anxiety treatment plan, though. They help ease overwhelming feelings of fear and worry as they arise.
Hundreds of studies reveal the interconnected relationship between the mind and the body. Making small lifestyle changes are another step toward anxiety prevention. Someone who takes care of their physical health will notice the effects on their mental health. Incorporating lifestyle changes can make a massive difference in their levels of anxiety.
Food is fuel for the body and a person’s diet affects their overall mental health. Eating balanced meals that consist of mostly whole foods is the best way to go. Avoiding processed foods and foods that are high in sugar also helps. Try not to skip meals. Limit or eliminate caffeine and alcohol intake as both tend to increase feelings of worry, fear, and anxiety.
Some people get overwhelmed by the idea of exercise. Exercise doesn’t have to be high intensity or heavy weightlifting. Going on walks, riding a bike, and practicing yoga are all great ways to get exercise. It releases endorphins and contributes to a better mood and outlook.
Many things in life are unpredictable which causes people to feel anxious. Creating a schedule and sticking to it makes things as routine and predictable as possible. Schedules and routines are helpful tools that reduce levels of anxiety.
The importance of sleep is often underestimated. People who struggle with anxiety need to make sure they’re prioritizing sleep. It helps to include ideal times to wake up and go to sleep when creating a schedule like the one mentioned above.
Medications are another helpful tool to use when treating anxiety. They aren’t a cure for these disorders but they relieve symptoms so other treatment approaches are as effective as possible. There are two main kinds of medication used to treat people with anxiety disorders: antidepressants and benzodiazepines.
Antidepressants, also called SSRIs, function by interacting with serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness and contentment. Raising serotonin levels increases a person’s overall mood and ability to function. They are the first line of medications used to treat anxiety before turning to stronger options. SSRI medications used to treat anxiety disorders include:
Benzodiazepines are a type of medication that interacts with the central nervous system. They slow activity in CNS which relieves stress and anxiety along with the resulting physical effects. These medications are fast-acting and provide quick relief from the physiological symptoms of anxiety. They can be highly addictive, though, and short-term use is usually preferred. Medications in the benzodiazepine class include:
Anxiety disorders are debilitating conditions. They can make even the most ordinary, mundane tasks challenging. Symptoms of anxiety follow everywhere, from work to school to social interactions to home life. These disorders can arise when you least expect it and then eventually impact every facet of your life.
Thankfully, anxiety treatment is available. There are a few ways to treat anxiety disorders. Like an addiction, though, anxiety cannot be treated with a one-size-fits-all approach. Clinicians must treat every individual on a case-by-case basis for any type of intervention to be effective. Applying a generic treatment plan to someone with an anxiety disorder won’t help.
When Anxiety Needs Treatment
Again, feelings of anxiety are a normal part of life for everyone. Natural hesitation and concern encourage you to pay attention to your surroundings and keeps you safe. Anxiety disorders are not the same, though. Someone with an anxiety disorder experiences fears and worries on a disproportionate level to the realistic level of threat.
Since an anxiety disorder differs from everyday worries, how do you know when it’s time to seek treatment for anxiety? Where does the line between normal concern and an anxiety disorder lie? What do you do to determine when anxiety needs treatment?
Here are a few signs that your anxiety needs treatment:
- Your levels of anxiety keep you from going to work or school or participating in social gatherings or other enjoyable activities
- You have a hard time leaving your house because you’re worried you might have an anxiety attack or some other overwhelming loss of control.
- You carry out “safety behaviors” to calm yourself, such as avoiding driving on the highway, avoiding eye contact, or only engaging with people you know at social events.
- You notice physiological symptoms as a result of your anxiety such as tremors, difficulties breathing, hot flashes, or heart palpitations.
- You have an extreme fear that affects your life, such as a fear of flying but needing to travel for work.
If you notice any of the above signs you might want to consider asking for help. There is no shame in knowing when anxiety needs treatment. In fact, the longer you wait the worse your anxiety becomes. Many anxiety disorders are chronic conditions meaning they get worse over time. It’s better to ask for help sooner rather than later.
How to Treat Anxiety
There are many ways to treat anxiety. The exact type of treatment for you depends on a few factors such as:
- Type of anxiety disorder
- The severity of the disorder
- Possibility of a co-occurring disorder (having both anxiety and an alcohol or substance use disorder)
- Whether you’ve tried treatment before
Some of the main approaches to treat anxiety include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and intensive treatment facilities. Not everyone will need each treatment approach while others will need every type. You’ll determine which level of care and type of treatment you need if you start seeking professional treatment.
Clinicians use a few therapy modalities when working with patients who have anxiety disorders. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most common approach. Dialectical behavior therapy is helpful for those with a co-occurring substance use disorder or a personality disorder. Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, or EMDR, is the best approach for working with trauma patients.
Medication is a helpful tool when used in combination with therapy. Different types of medication are useful for different types of disorders. Anxiety medications don’t cure anxiety disorders, though. Instead, they provide relief from symptoms while deeper work on the underlying causes of the disorder are uncovered and worked through.
Lifestyle changes alone are not an effective way to treat anxiety. Clinical anxiety disorders usually can’t be treated with a change in diet and some exercise. These aspects are a fantastic complement to a treatment program overseen by a professional clinician, though. Getting adequate sleep, maintaining a regular schedule, and staying connected with friends and family are also helpful changes to make.
Intensive Treatment Facilities
Sometimes people aren’t responsive to an outpatient treatment program. Their anxiety is so severe that they require an inpatient stay in a more intensive treatment facility. Inpatient anxiety treatment is an incredible option for people with debilitating cases of anxiety. These facilities equip individuals with the coping skills and ongoing support necessary to combat a severe anxiety disorder.
Where to Treat Anxiety
Have you tried to handle your anxiety alone and found you’re unable to? If you have you aren’t alone. Millions of people throughout the United States struggle with anxiety every year. And asking for help is the first step toward taking back control of your life.
Treatment in Hawaii
Are you looking for a facility that can help you work through and recover from an anxiety disorder? Hawaii Island Recovery is a premier mental health and addiction treatment facility offering personalized treatment on a small scale. Our intimate, 8-bed facility located on the beautiful island of Hawaii is the perfect place to unwind and work on your anxiety.
Reach out to us today and let us know how we can help you. We can start the process of setting you up with the treatment program you need as soon as you reach out.
You never need to feel alone in your anxiety again!
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