We all experience anxiety from time to time when we’re confronted with uncomfortable situations or a potential threat. Anxiety can actually be a helpful tool. It can keep us alert and protect us from danger.However, for those individuals with an anxiety disorder, this state of tension is elevated to a debilitating level. Symptoms like mental distress, inability to focus, a rapid heart rate, tremors, sweating, choking sensations and chest pain can interfere with daily activities and destroy dreams of how life could be.
For many people, anxiety is associated with specific situations, like interacting with the public or flying in an airplane. For others, anxiety is linked to trauma from their past. Still others suffer from free-floating anxiety that never allows them to have a moment’s peace. It’s no wonder that individuals suffering from anxiety disorders also have a high rate of substance abuse, dependence and addiction.1
Furthermore, severe anxieties often begin very early in life. “Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric disorders in children, with an estimated 1 in 3 suffering anxiety at some point during childhood or adolescence,” says Dr. Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli, a brain imaging expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.2
What Symptoms Characterize Individuals with Anxiety Disorders?
Whatever the type of anxiety experienced, certain characteristics help distinguish an actual disorder from normal, run-of-the-mill fretting:
- Manufactured – The anxiety has no clear basis in reality.
- Physical signs – Reactions like sweating, choking or shaking occur.
- Overwhelming – The individual has trouble controlling the symptoms when they occur.
- Lengthy history – Episodes of anxiety occur time and again over a considerable period of time.
- Disruptive force – The anxiety interferes with work, personal relationships or social activities.
An anxiety disorder can manifest itself in a number of ways – from restructuring daily activities to gastrointestinal problems. Likewise, methods used to abate fears can vary greatly. Some people engage in complicated rituals when they’re afraid, while others isolate themselves or take refuge in alcohol or drugs.2
Understanding the different categories of anxiety can help people confront this very common malady.
What Are the Most Common Anxiety Disorders?
There are many types of anxiety disorders commonly seen today. Some of these disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder – This is characterized by persistent worry or anxious feelings, even to the point where the patient has a general sense that something bad is about to happen.
- Panic Disorder – Marked by recurrent, sudden attacks of panic that may include sweating, trembling, shortness of breath or a feeling of choking, a pounding heart and feelings of doom. Fear about when the next panic episode will occur only compounds the psychological distress.
- Phobias – These are intense fears about certain objects (like spiders or snakes) or situations (such as flying in airplanes) that are distressing or intrusive.
- Social Anxiety Disorder (or Social Phobia) – Symptoms of this condition include feeling nervous when spending time in social settings, feeling self-conscious in front of others, and worrying about being rejected by or offending others (avoidance of embarrassment or judgment).
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – This condition is characterized by persistent, uncontrollable feelings and thoughts (obsessions) and routines or rituals (compulsions).
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Following a severe physical or emotional trauma – such as a natural disaster, serious accident, abuse, war or crime – flashbacks of the traumatic event, frightening thoughts, nightmares, depression or anger may interfere with everyday routine after the traumatic experience.3
While most of these conditions are driven by similar underlying processes, according to current research,each is characterized bya unique set of symptoms. As such, each disorder requires specific treatment strategies that should be implemented by a highly trained and experienced therapist.4
What Can You Do to Help Alleviate Anxiety Symptoms?
While, in most cases, it’s important for individuals with feelings of high anxiety to get professional help, they should also know ways to stay resilient when things are tough in working toward their own recovery:
- Become an expert– Learn about medication and treatment options. Keep up with current research. Build a personal library of useful websites and helpful books.
- Know your triggers and stressors– If large groups cause stress, attend a Sunday matinee instead. If taking a walk outdoors reduces anxiety, try to work in a 10-minute walk beforeimportant meetings. Prudent strategies like these will help live life with less stress and fewer limitations.
- Partner with your health care providers– Actively participate in the treatmentprocess with mental health care professionals to develop a plan that’s doable. Share your goals, provide input on the strategy to be implemented, and then stick to the personalized plan of action.
- Get healthy– Research suggests that 30 minutes of vigorous, aerobic exercise can eliminate many symptoms, while low-key activities like meditation, yoga or Tai Chi relieve stress. Diet is also an important factor. Try to eat healthy, balanced meals, and pay attention to any food sensitivities which could lead to unnecessary pain, irritability or other physical or psychological stress.
- Avoid alcohol and other drugs– These substances may seem to help with anxiety at first, but they can actually disrupt emotional balance, sleep cycles and negatively interact with prescribed medications. In general, coffee, energy drinks and cigarettes worsen anxiety.
- Find support– Share your thoughts, fears and concerns with other people who care and can be trusted.5
Caution Must Be Taken in Using Anti-Anxiety Drugs
Medications do not cure anxiety disorders, but they are often helpful in relieving symptoms.
Anti-anxiety drugs – like Ativan (lorazepam), Xanax (alprazolam) and Valium (diazepam) – are commonly prescribed for the purpose of calming nerves or preventing panic attacks. These sedative-hypnotic medications belong to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, and they can be addictive.
While alcohol and other drugs are often used as a form of self-medication by individuals troubled by anxiety, substance abuse actually makes anxiety symptoms much worse.When benzodiazepines are ingested with alcohol, sleeping pills or other substances that depress the central nervous system,then unconsciousness, coma or fatal respiratory depression could result. Use extreme caution in mixing drugs.6
What’s the Best Way to Professionally Treat an Anxiety Disorder?
World-class treatment centers now offer rehab programs that integrate addiction treatment with mental health care. Psychotherapy, medication (or both) may be tools used to treat. An anxiety disorder and co-occurring benzodiazepine (or other drug) abuse may present the most daunting challenges you’ve ever faced. The rewards that come from such dual-diagnosis recovery are certainly worth the time and effort.1
From our highly trained specialists to our gorgeous and peaceful setting, The Canyon offers you more – more of what you need and want. For additional details on our innovative approach to helping people regain their authentic self, use our 24/7 toll-free line. A knowledgeable and caring coordinator will listen to your concerns and help guide you through the process, starting with the very first step.
1“Anxiety Disorders”, National Institute of Mental Health, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml , (March 2016).
2 “Understanding Anxiety Disorders”, NIH News in Health, National Institutes of Health, https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/mar2016/feature1 , (March 2016).
3 “Beyond Worry”, American Psychological Association, http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/anxiety.aspx , (2017).
4“Anxiety”, Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, https://bbrfoundation.org/anxiety .
5 “Anxiety Disorders”, National Alliance on Mental Illness, https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders , (2017).
6 “Mental Health Medications”, National Institute of Mental Health, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications/index.shtml , (October 2016).