We all face anxiety from time to time in response to life stressors. In fact, anxiety is a normal physiological response that can help us react when presented with challenges or dangers. However, for the 18 percent of adults in the US who suffer from anxiety disorders, anxiety can result in excessive fear, distress, unease and panic that can be paralyzing and can negatively impact self-esteem, relationships, happiness, and ability to function in work, school and life.
At Endeavor Psychology, we have extensive experience helping adults and older adolescents deal with a broad range of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive, and social anxieties as well as phobias. Our integrative approach to therapy is tailored to meet the needs and goals of the client and leverages proven psychotherapy techniques as well as the strengths and experiences of the client to deliver maximum effectiveness.
What are the most prominent types of anxiety disorders?
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses that cause individuals to feel excessively panicked, frightened or distressed in situations where others would not experience those same feelings, or would not experience them at the same level of intensity. While there are many anxiety disorders, the following is a list of the most common disorders and their symptoms:
- Panic Disorder: Characterized by “panic attacks,” results in sudden feelings of terror that can recur repeatedly and without warning. Symptoms of panic attack include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, stomach upset, feelings of being disconnected and fear of dying. Individuals with this disorder may worry excessively about having additional panic attacks and may become ashamed and self-conscious, sometimes limiting daily activities.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Expressed by repetitive, irrational and unwanted thoughts, obsessions and/or rituals that seem impossible to control. Some individuals with OCD have specific compulsions (e.g., cleaning hands, obsessively organizing, repeatedly checking to ensure they’ve completed a task like locking the door) that they feel compelled to complete multiple times a day in order to temporarily release anxiety about something bad happening to themselves or to someone they love. People with OCD may be aware that their symptoms are not rationale to others, but may believe that their thoughts and fears could be true.
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): When individuals are exposed to or experience a traumatic event (natural disaster, violence, abuse) it is a normal reaction to feel distressed or “on edge.” For some, symptoms can be severe, resulting in nightmares, flashbacks, acute startle responses, or feeling distracted, detached, numb or angry. A person may be suffering from PTSD if these symptoms last for weeks or even months after the event and are so severe that they make it difficult for a person to carry on with daily activities, maintain loving relationships, or “return to normal.”
- Phobias: Acute and irrational fear of something that really poses little to no actual threat. Phobias can center on particular objects (e.g., bugs, dogs) or situations (e.g., flying in an airplane, being in an elevator) that cause feelings of terror, dread and panic. Individuals with phobias often feel intense shame about their fears and focus so much energy on avoiding objects or situations on which their phobia centers that leading a “normal” life becomes difficult.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Causes a chronic and exaggerated worry about everyday events. Individuals diagnosed with GAD have feelings of worry that last for at least six months, make it difficult to concentrate or carry out daily activities, and often occur for many hours each day. Some individuals with GAD experience physical symptoms of fatigue, tension, headaches and nausea due to the severity of their anxiety.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: Characterized by an intense fear of social situations, often negatively affecting personal relationships at school, work and in social settings including parties and even family gatherings. Social anxiety disorder is often associated with an irrational fear of being humiliated in public. Individuals with this disorder may have symptoms similar to “panic attacks” (e.g., heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath) or may experience severe sweating (hyperhidrosis) when in social situations, which may lead to avoidance of those situations.
There are many other recognized anxiety disorders including: acute stress disorder, anxiety disorder due to medical conditions, and substance-induced anxiety disorder. Individuals with other mental illnesses, such as depression, may also have symptoms of severe anxiety as well.
How are anxiety disorders treated?
Anxiety disorders may be treated through a combination of psychotherapy, aerobic exercise and medication. While medications do not cure anxiety disorders, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs and beta-blockers can be used to help keep anxiety under control while you receive psychotherapy. If you are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder you should talk with your physician about medication options or consult with a licensed clinical psychologist who can refer you to a psychiatrist to prescribe and manage your medication.
Whether or not you use medication to manage anxiety symptoms, it is important that you seek the assistance of a licensed clinical psychotherapist who can help you implement strategies to manage your anxiety in the long-term. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered a “first-line treatment” of anxiety disorders. This form of therapy involves helping clients address their fears by modifying the way that they think and respond to stressful events.
How can Endeavor Psychology help me address my anxiety disorder?
At Endeavor Psychology, our approach to treating anxiety disorders draws heavily on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and relaxation techniques, including mindfulness and meditation, targeted to decrease stress and worry experienced by individuals dealing with anxiety disorders. Our approach also helps clients implement healthy lifestyle changes (e.g., healthy diet, good sleep hygiene, and regular exercise) that have been shown to decrease symptoms and improve outcomes for individuals with anxiety disorders.
We can also refer clients to a medication provider or consult with a client’s current medication provider to help clients explore medication options.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with anxiety, please contact us for a consultation.