Most people suffer from some form of stress every day, and many manage to cope with the short-term anxiety caused by these situations quite admirably. Once the situation is under control, the fear generally goes away, and life returns to normal. For millions of people, however, this is not the case. These people develop an Anxiety Disorder with symptoms that continue to be problematic for six months or more, even if the original mental, physical, or emotional stressor has been resolved. Excellent treatments based on extensive research have been developed and are now available to help those suffering from the life-constricting symptoms associated with Anxiety.
What is Anxiety?
People with any Anxiety Disorder may feel a persistent sense of foreboding, uncertainty or fear that lasts well beyond any causative event. Doctors diagnose an Anxiety Disorder if the symptoms do not abate after resolution of a stressor or seem to grow worse independent of any particular life difficulties. Some people experiencing Anxiety may manifest other problems, such as drug or alcohol abuse, that make it imperative for them to seek professional for help in sorting out the hidden issues that may be hindering their recovery.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Although every person is different, those with an Anxiety Disorder usually complain of some common symptoms. Many experience physical manifestations of fear along with some unsettling psychological reactions. Some of the most common are as follows:
- Excessive sweating of the hands, feet and underarms
- Tingling or numbness in the body extremities
- Pain in the chest area, a pounding heart or difficulty breathing normally
- An overly rapid pulse rate
- Headaches unrelated to physical causes
- A sick feeling in the pit of the stomach
- An overall feeling of weakness, sometimes accompanied by dizziness
- Feeling cold all over, even when the temperature is reasonable
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Debilitating fatigue or general malaise
Because these physical symptoms are so acute, they cause many people with Anxiety to become even more agitated psychologically, especially since many of the symptoms mimic those that might be caused by heart problems or other medical issues. These physical symptoms can make an Anxiety attack even more severe, leading some sufferers to feel as if they are losing control of their mental health and physical body at the same time. One of the worst parts of having Anxiety is that it is impossible to predict when a severe attack will occur. This makes it especially difficult for people with Anxiety Disorders to live normal lives and go about their daily work and leisure activities in a normal manner.
Types of Anxiety
Medical professionals have identified at least five major types of anxiety disorders, and some people may be suffering from several of these at the same time although one is usually the predominant problem.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Worry is not a medical issue when it is the result of serious troubles, but people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder feel a constant nagging fear that terrible things are about to happen. This dread does not have to be related to any specific situation in their lives, but it may become so severe that it paralyzes them emotionally. Their Anxiety may cause them to withdraw from normal activities and relationships
Social Anxiety: People with this disorder have an abnormal fear or nervousness about interacting with other people in normal situations. They may worry constantly about everyday social activities, even those they have performed successfully hundreds of times in the past. Something as simple as eating at a table with other people may become an insurmountable task. Just the thought of social interaction may bring on Anxiety for those afflicted with this disorder.
Phobia: A Phobia is extreme but very specific fear that occurs in response to specific triggers. People with Phobias may begin to dread an activity or a situation long before it is scheduled, and many are unable to find the strength to go through with it. The reassurance offered by other people and by the facts of the situation may do little to alleviate their fear and distress. Some of the most common Phobias are the fear of flying, the fear of heights, the fear of enclosed areas, and the fear of water. Other Phobias are even more difficult to understand; some people have a phobia of clowns, amusement parks, or swings. Often, doctors and patients can work together to determine the source of a particular Phobia, but not always.
Panic: The suddenness and severity of the symptoms that occur with this type of Anxiety Disorder make those who have it sometimes feel as if they might die or suffer a heart attack. Panic attacks cannot be predicted, and the symptoms often grow progressively more severe during the first 10 minutes of the attack. Some individuals have only a single Panic Attack, but for others, Panic symptoms may on a recurring basis, leading to the diagnosis of Panic Disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is an abnormal compulsion to do tasks in a certain way or to repetitively complete the same actions. This ritualistic behavior is called an obsession, and those with OCD lose their ability to control these activities. Because of the frequency with which they are compelled to perform these tasks, people with OCD are often unable to function in their own homes and social circles. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is usually diagnosed during early childhood or during teenage years when adolescents are already dealing with the stresses that come with puberty.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
Through research and experience, medical professionals have found several excellent tools to use in treating people with Anxiety Disorders. After first ruling out any physical cause for a patient’s difficulties, doctors will try to pinpoint the specific Anxiety Disorder or combination of disorders that need to be treated. Some patients will respond well to Psychotherapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; others will need medications in order to reach recovery. Most doctors use a combination of these treatments in order to obtain the desired results. It may take several months before the right treatment protocol is found, but most people diagnosed with anxiety disorders can reach a point in their recovery where they are once again able to function normally and lead satisfying lives.
Psychotherapy: Through talk therapy, a mental health professional can help a patient explore events in the past that might have contributed to their current Anxiety Disorder. Therapists can also help a patient find ways to cope with the symptoms of their condition while they are working toward recovery. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of treatment that helps people with anxiety disorders to think about situations in a different way and to respond to their feelings in a different manner. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is particularly effective for people who are struggling with Social Anxiety, Phobias of any type, or Panic Disorders. Some of the techniques used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are imaging and deep breathing. Some doctors also use Exposure-based Behavioral Therapy to reduce the amount of Anxiety that their patients feel in threatening situations.
Medication: Several medications have been found to reduce Anxiety and help people cope with the complex symptoms of Anxiety Disorders. Some of those most often used for this purpose are anti-depressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclics, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors; anti-anxiety drugs; and beta-blockers.
When monitored by a highly trained professional, these treatments can make a dramatic difference in a patient’s progress.
Patients want to get the best information possible before beginning treatment for their anxiety disorders. Answers to the following frequently asked questions may be helpful:
Is it possible to find out what caused my anxiety disorder?
Although many patients never discover definitively what may have triggered this psychological illness, through cognitive therapy many are able to discover core underlying beliefs about themselves or about the universe which contribute to the development of Anxiety. There is also evidence that heredity may play a part in predisposing some people to develop Anxiety Disorders.
What types of tests will I have to have in order to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder?
Typically, patients will have a physical exam that includes blood work, and the doctor will assess your personal and family medical and psychiatric history. The doctor will also want to discuss any medications that a patient is currently taking and, if applicable, any addictions with which he or she may be struggling. Patients will be asked to describe all of their symptoms, the time that they have been dealing with them, and their impact on the patient’s social and work functioning. The physician will then use all of this information to make a proper diagnosis.
Will my family have to be involved in my treatment?
This is a decision that will be made by you and the treatment team. Having friends or loved ones involved in a patient’s psychotherapy or undergoing group counseling is sometimes extremely helpful. Support groups are also a valuable resource, and counselors will often use this type of therapy when it is indicated.
Anxiety Treatment at Bridges to Recovery
One of the greatest challenges for those dealing with an Anxiety Disorder is to find a treatment center that understands their issues and has a staff that is highly experienced in treating these types of problems. Bridges to Recovery offers interventional therapies for all types of Anxiety Disorder developed around the whole person. The doctors and staff at Bridges to Recovery, a facility licensed by the California Department of Mental Health and the California Department of Social Services, work diligently to provide patients in the residential treatment programs with the tools and training they will need to develop emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
The focus of the Anxiety programs at Bridges to Recovery is to aid our patients in tolerating life stressors by using strategies to identify the sources of their stress and to develop techniques to manage their symptoms. In addition, although Bridges to Recovery does not focus on the treatment of chemical dependencies, the dedicated professionals at our facilities will provide assistance to aid patients in overcoming any painful addictions which may be related to these Anxiety Disorders. Because our medical professionals have served clients since 2003, Bridges to Recovery has a proven track record as an excellent alternative to hospitalization for the people requiring treatment for Anxiety Disorders.