Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. An estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults had any anxiety disorder in the past year, and an estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives. Anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions, with each disorder having its unique symptoms. There is one thing that all of these disorders have in common, and that is an excessive and persistent fear or worry in situations that are not threatening. Anxiety disorders can be overwhelming and can significantly disrupt a person’s everyday life.
Common Anxiety Disorders and Their Symptoms
There are five major types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even if there is little or no cause. People with GAD can experience an inability to control their worry, irritability, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbance and muscle tension.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Repetitive behaviors like hand washing or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away.
- Panic disorder is characterized by unexpected, repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, feelings of impending doom, dizziness or abdominal distress.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Events that can trigger PTSD include violent assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents or military combat. Symptoms include nightmares, frightening thoughts, reliving the trauma, avoiding places or events that are reminders of the experience, trouble remembering parts of the event and negative feelings about oneself.
- Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. It can be limited to one type of situation or be so broad and severe that a person can have symptoms almost anytime they are around other people. People with social anxiety disorder may have an extreme fear of being judged by others, feel self-conscious in everyday situations, difficulty meeting new people and blush or feel nauseated in social situations.
Causes of Anxiety Disorders
Progress has been made in the knowledge we have about anxiety disorders, but we still do not entirely understand its causes. Inherited traits can play a role in developing anxiety disorders, and traumatic events can cause anxiety disorders in people already prone to anxiety.
Anxiety can be a symptom of underlying medical issues such as hyperthyroidism, heart disease or respiratory disease. Substance misuse and withdrawal can also cause anxiety.
Complications of Anxiety Disorders
Constantly feeling worried is not the only problem that results from having an anxiety disorder. They can cause a host of other physical and mental health issues:
- Interrupt concentration at school or work
- Chronic pain
- Substance misuse
- Sleep disturbances
- Poor quality of life
- In extreme cases, suicide
Effective Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
Even though there is no cure for anxiety disorders at this time, that does not mean that people are completely powerless or have to suffer needlessly. Anxiety disorders are often treated with therapy, medications or a combination of both. These disorders can usually be treated on an outpatient basis. Some of these treatments for anxiety disorders are:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be helpful because it teaches people different ways of thinking, behaving and reacting to situations that provoke anxiety. It is helpful in the cases of social anxiety disorders since it allows people to learn and practice social skills. CBT can be used in individual and group therapy sessions. If fear of situations is a factor, exposure therapy (where patients are confronted with the feared situation) can be included in treatment.
- Medications cannot cure anxiety, but they can provide symptom relief. Beta-blockers, antidepressants and benzodiazepines are the most commonly used medications to treat anxiety disorder. Benzodiazepines must be used carefully as they are addictive and have a high potential for misuse.
Other Ways to Manage Anxiety
- Support groups can be helpful as they allow people to share their problems and triumphs with others with similar issues.
- Meditation helps relieve anxiety symptoms for some people. There are numerous apps to assist with meditation.
- Aerobic exercise effectively manages anxiety symptoms for many people and can be used as an adjunct treatment to medications and therapy.
- Hypnosis, biofeedback or complementary medicine methods such as acupuncture are often recommended to treat clinical anxiety.
The Benefits of Anxiety Disorder Treatment
Experiencing long-term anxiety can have several adverse effects on mental and physical health. Anxiety can cause the release of stress hormones, leading to headaches, depression, dizziness and belly fat. When anxiety is effectively treated, these hormone levels can be decreased, leading to feeling better. Because anxiety disorders can lead to rapid heart rate, palpitations and hypertension, treating anxiety can improve cardiovascular health. Since long-term anxiety can weaken the immune system and increase the chance for illness, treatment of that anxiety could lead to a healthier immune system. Anxiety disorders can open the door for substance use disorders, so getting anxiety under control can prevent a substance use disorder or help improve the chances of recovery.
There are so many health benefits to treating anxiety and Casa Palmera can treat co-occurring anxiety disorders and substance use disorders.
Anxiety disorders can cause disruptions in every area of life. They can even lead to substance use disorders. At Casa Palmera, we treat co-occurring substance use and anxiety disorders, as well as primary mental health, with evidence-based treatments and eastern intuitive methods. We provide different levels of care to meet a wide range of needs. Whether you need the structure of residential services or partial hospitalization (PHP) or intensive outpatient (IOP) is more appropriate, we have you covered. Call (855) 508-0473 for more information.