Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a normal stress response that can be advantageous in certain circumstances. It can warn us of potential threats and help us prepare and pay attention. However, people with anxiety disorders commonly experience acute, persistent, and pervasive concern and panic in response to everyday events.

The symptoms can impair their ability to conduct daily activities such as job performance, schoolwork, and interpersonal interactions. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health disorder, affecting about 30% of adults at some point in their lives. However, anxiety disorders are treatable, and various effective therapies are available. Treatment enables most individuals to lead normal, healthy, and productive lives.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can be classified into several types. The following are some of the more common types:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – is characterized by ongoing and extreme anxiety and worries about everyday activities or events. The worry is out of proportion to the situation, difficult to control, and has a physical impact. It’s frequently associated with other anxiety disorders or depression. People with GAD undergo months, if not years, of persistent anxiety. Approximately 5.7% of individuals in the United States suffer from a generalized anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder – previously referred to as social phobia, is characterized by intense anxiety, fear, and avoidance of social situations due to self-consciousness and fear of being judged or negatively viewed by others. Examples may include irrational dread of public speaking, meeting new people, and eating or drinking in public. This form of anxiety can last for at least six months and get in the way of daily life. Approximately 12.1% of individuals in the United States suffer from a social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.

Panic Disorder

The primary symptom of panic disorder is recurring panic attacks. Panic attacks can be predictable, such as in response to a feared object or unexpected, occurring seemingly out of nowhere. Although panic disorders can occur at any age, they often begin between 18 and 45 years of age, with an average onset age of 24. Panic attacks can also occur alongside other mental illnesses, such as depression or PTSD. Approximately 4.7% of adults in the United States have a panic disorder at some point in their lives.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation Anxiety Disorder – It’s commonly believed that only children suffer from separation anxiety; nevertheless, adults can also be diagnosed with it. People suffering from separation anxiety disorder are terrified of being separated from someone with whom they have an emotional attachment. They frequently worry that their attachment figures will be harmed or that something bad may occur while they are apart. This anxiety causes individuals to avoid separation from their attachment figures. When separation occurs or is anticipated, these individuals may have nightmares about being separated or experience physical symptoms. Studies estimate that between 0.9% and 1.9% of adults suffer from a separation anxiety disorder.

Specific Phobias

Specific Phobias – A phobia is characterized by an illogical, excessive, and irrational fear of a specific place, circumstance, or object that is typically harmless. As the name implies, specific phobias are characterized by intense anxiety or fear when exposed to a specific object or situation you wish to avoid. A few examples of specific phobias include a fear of flying, heights, and blood. An estimated 12.5% of adults in the United States experience a specific phobia at some time in their lives.

Substance/Medication-Induced Anxiety Disorder

Substance/Medication-Induced Anxiety Disorder – is a form of anxiety disorder produced by exposure to alcohol and other substances. The brain generates chemicals that influence thoughts, emotions, and behavior. If these chemicals are out of balance, there may be issues with your ability to think, feel, and act. Numerous medications and other substances alter these chemical concentrations. Certain substances can create anxiety while being taken. Other medications can cause anxiety for several weeks after discontinuation. This type of anxiety can create significant mental distress or significantly impact an individual’s life, such as their career or social life, or another vital area of their existence.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of anxiety vary depending on the type of anxiety disorder. However, general symptoms of an anxiety disorder include the following:

Physical symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Cold or sweaty hands
  • Dry mouth
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • Muscle tension
  • Shortness of breath

Psychological symptoms:

  • Feeling nervous, tense, or restless
  • Having a sense of impending doom, panic, or danger
  • Repeated thoughts or flashbacks of traumatic experiences
  • Uncontrollable, obsessive thoughts

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Inability to be still and calm
  • Ritualistic behaviors, such as washing hands repeatedly
  • Trouble sleeping

Medical Causes

In some instances, anxiety symptoms are the first signs of a medical condition. Medical conditions that can be linked to anxiety include:

  • Respiratory disorders (asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
  • Withdrawal from alcohol, medications, or recreational drugs.
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism
  • Chronic pain or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Rare tumors that produce certain fight-or-flight hormones

If your anxiety results from a medical condition, your physician may order diagnostic testing to discover the cause.

Risk Factors

The causes of anxiety disorder and the reason it affects some people to the point where it interferes with their lives are not fully understood. However, the following factors may increase your chances of developing an anxiety disorder:

  • Trauma
  • Stress caused by an illness
  • Ongoing worry and build-up of stress
  • Family history of anxiety or mental health issues
  • Substance abuse

It’s important to note that everyone is different, and a combination of factors often contributes to developing a specific type of anxiety disorder.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The initial step is to consult a physician to rule out a physical cause for the symptoms. If you are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, a mental health professional at Turning Point will work with you to choose the most effective treatment for you.

Turning Point Centers provide adults with the highest quality mental health care. Our compassionate clinicians offer individualized care to those battling mental health conditions through residential treatment, day treatment (PHP), and intensive outpatient programs.

Despite the distinct characteristics of each anxiety disorder, most patients react favorably to psychotherapy or “talk therapy” and medication. These therapies may be administered individually or in combination.

Psychotherapy – For psychotherapy to be effective, it must be personalized to your individual anxieties and requirements. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one type of psychotherapy that can assist individuals with anxiety disorders. It teaches individuals alternative ways of thinking, responding, and reacting to situations to reduce anxiety and fear. CBT has been extensively researched and is considered the gold standard in psychotherapy. Other forms of evidence-based modalities utilized at Turning Point include:

  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) when clinically indicated.
  • Trauma-informed Care
  • Meditation / Mindfulness
  • Life Skills & Self-Care
  • Music therapy

Medication – Although medication cannot cure anxiety disorders, it can help alleviate their symptoms. Healthcare providers, such as psychiatrists and primary care physicians, can prescribe medication for anxiety. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications (such as benzodiazepines), and beta-blockers are the most prevalent types of medications used for treating anxiety disorders.

Support Groups – Some individuals with anxiety disorders may benefit from joining a self-help or support group and discussing their difficulties and successes with others. Online and in-person support groups are available at Turning Point. Our team members remain there for clients and their families long after treatment ends. We are committed to a long-term relationship with our alumni community and do everything we can to become an integral part of the communities we serve.

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