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Anxiety is a common experience. Most people experience feelings of anxiety before an important event such as an important exam, business presentation or first date. Anxiety disorders, however, are conditions that fill people's lives with overwhelming anxiety, worry and fear that are chronic, unremitting, and can grow progressively worse. Tormented by panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, flashbacks of traumatic events, nightmares, or countless frightening physical symptoms, some people with anxiety disorders even become housebound. Fortunately, there are effective treatments developed through research that can help.
Common Are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety disorders, as a group, are the most common mental illness in America. More than 19 million American adults are affected by these debilitating illnesses each year. Children and adolescents can also develop anxiety disorders.
Are the Different Kinds of Anxiety Disorders?
Panic Disorder—Repeated episodes of intense fear that occur suddenly without warning. Physical symptoms may include any of the following: chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, abdominal distress, feelings of unreality, and fear of dying or fear of going crazy.
Causes of Stress
—Repeated, unwanted thoughts or compulsive behaviors that seem impossible to stop or control.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
—Persistent symptoms that occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event such as rape or other criminal assault, war, child abuse, natural or human-caused disasters, or crashes. Nightmares, flashbacks, numbing of emotions, depression, and feeling angry, irritable or distracted and being easily startled are common. Family members of victims can also develop this disorder. These symptoms can occur months or years after the traumatic event.
Social Anxiety Disorder-- People with social phobia have an overwhelming and disabling fear of scrutiny, embarrassment, or humiliation in social situations, which leads to avoidance of many potentially pleasurable and meaningful activities.
· Phobias —. Individuals with specific phobia experience extreme, disabling, and irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. The fear leads to avoidance of objects or situations and can cause people to limit their lives unnecessarily. Such fears include fear of airplanes, dogs, elevators and other situations.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
—Constant, exaggerated worrisome thoughts and tension about everyday routine life events and activities, lasting at least six months. Almost always anticipating the worst even though there is little reason to expect it; accompanied by physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headache or nausea.
Are Effective Treatments for Anxiety Disorders?
Several types of psychotherapy, especially behavioral, cognitive behavioral and interpersonal, have been shown to be effective in treating various types of anxiety disorders. Behavioral therapy focuses on changing specific actions and uses several techniques to stop unwanted behaviors. Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches patients to understand and change their thinking patterns so they can react differently to the situations that cause them anxiety. Relaxation training, imagery and other stress reduction techniques can also be helpful, as well as interpersonal therapy, which focuses on social interactions.
A number of medications that were originally approved for treating depression have been found to be effective for anxiety disorders as well. Some of the newest of these antidepressants are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Other
anti-anxiety medications include groups of drugs called benzodiazepines and
beta-blockers. New medications are currently under development to treat anxiety symptoms.
Anxiety Disorders Co-Exist with Other Physical or Mental Disorders?
It is common for an anxiety disorder to accompany depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, another anxiety disorder, or other conditions. Anxiety disorders can also co-exist with illnesses such as cancer or heart disease. In such instances, the accompanying disorders will also need to be treated. Before beginning any treatment, however, it is important to have a thorough medical examination to rule out other possible causes of symptoms.
If you want more information about anxiety disorders, want to discuss your particular needs, or want to schedule an appointment, call our offices today. We have therapists, specifically trained and experienced in successfully treating anxiety disorders, and can help suggest the therapist that best meets your needs.
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