Anxiety is a natural human emotion, but for those with anxiety disorders, feelings of worry and fear become a constant part of their lives. Persistent anxiety can disrupt daily activities and lead to avoidance of situations that trigger anxiety.
Fortunately, there are treatments available to help manage anxiety disorders. At Bristol Health, our team works with you to create a comprehensive treatment plan for your anxiety disorder.
While there are various types of anxiety disorders, they often share common symptoms:
- Persistent worrying
- Difficulty concentrating on anything other than worries
- Sleep disturbances
- Inability to control worry
- Restlessness and tension
- Sensations of panic or impending doom
- Increased heart rate unrelated to physical activity
- Excessive sweating or trembling
- Rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
- Gastrointestinal issues
The exact causes of anxiety disorders remain unclear, but researchers believe that a combination of factors contributes to their development:
- Chemical Imbalance: Prolonged stress can alter the brain's chemical balance, affecting mood and potentially leading to anxiety disorders.
- Heredity: Having a parent with an anxiety disorder increases the likelihood of developing one.
- Environmental Factors: Traumatic experiences can trigger anxiety disorders, particularly in individuals with a genetic predisposition.
- Medical Causes: Some medical conditions and medications have been linked to anxiety.
Certain risk factors can increase the chances of developing an anxiety disorder, though they do not guarantee its occurrence:
- Substance use: Using or misusing drugs and alcohol can cause or exacerbate anxiety; withdrawal from substances can also contribute to anxiety.
- Other mental health disorders: Having another mental health disorder, such as depression, increases the risk of anxiety disorders.
- Family history: A direct blood relative with an anxiety disorder raises the likelihood of developing one.
- Illness: Serious health conditions can lead to anxiety due to concerns about the illness.
- Trauma: Adults and children exposed to trauma or abuse are more likely to develop anxiety disorders.
- Personality type: Certain personality types are more prone to anxiety disorders.
- Stressful life situations: Major events or an accumulation of smaller stressors can trigger anxiety disorders.
Determining when anxiety becomes a concern that requires professional help can be challenging. Consider seeking help if:
- Anxiety interferes with daily life, work, relationships, or enjoyable activities
- Worry, fear, and anxiety feel uncontrollable
- Anxiety causes distress
- Depression is present
- Drugs or alcohol are used to cope with anxiety
- Other mental health concerns accompany anxiety
- Anxiety appears to affect physical health
Anxiety disorders do not resolve on their own, so seeking help is crucial.
Anxiety disorders can significantly affect your quality of life in various ways. Besides the constant feelings of worry that hinder your daily functioning, anxiety can lead to several other complications.
These include draining your energy, diverting your attention from enjoyable activities, and increasing your risk of depression.
Moreover, a generalized anxiety disorder can exacerbate or result in other health issues, such as:
- Headaches and migraines
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia
- Gastrointestinal and bowel problems, like ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic pain and illness
- Cardiovascular concerns
Furthermore, a generalized anxiety disorder may coexist with other mental health challenges, complicating diagnosis and treatment. These mental health disorders can include:
Typically, a psychiatrist, psychologist, or mental health professional specializing in treating mental illnesses diagnoses anxiety disorders. At Bristol Health, we have a team of professionals who can assist in your diagnosis.
They will ask specific interview and assessment questions to determine if you have an anxiety disorder. The mental health professional will carefully consider the symptoms you report, their intensity, and their duration. They will also discuss how these symptoms affect your daily life.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, may also be employed to aid in the diagnostic process.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, each with unique characteristics and symptoms. Understanding these various types can help in identifying the specific challenges faced by individuals with anxiety disorders.
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive, long-lasting worry and anxiety about various aspects of life, such as work, relationships, health, and finances. People with GAD often find it difficult to control their anxiety and may experience physical symptoms, including fatigue, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances.
2. Panic Disorder
Panic Disorder involves recurrent, unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden episodes of intense fear and discomfort. These attacks can cause symptoms such as a racing heart, shortness of breath, dizziness, and a feeling of impending doom. People with panic disorder may develop a fear of having future panic attacks, leading to avoidance of situations that might trigger them.
3. Specific Phobia
A specific phobia is an excessive, irrational fear of a particular object or situation. Common examples include fear of heights (acrophobia), fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), and fear of spiders (arachnophobia). Individuals with specific phobias may go to great lengths to avoid the feared object or situation, significantly impacting their daily lives.
Agoraphobia is the fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult, or a fear that help might not be available in the event of a panic attack or other anxiety symptoms. This fear can lead to avoidance of public spaces, crowded areas, or even leaving one's home. Agoraphobia can severely restrict a person's ability to engage in everyday activities and maintain social connections.
5. Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as social phobia, involves a persistent fear of being judged, criticized, or humiliated in social situations. This fear can lead to avoidance of social events, difficulty forming relationships, and significant distress when faced with social situations. People with social anxiety disorder may also experience physical symptoms, such as blushing, sweating, and trembling in social settings.
6. Selective Mutism
Selective Mutism is a rare anxiety disorder that affects children, causing them to be unable to speak in specific situations, such as at school or in public, despite being able to speak normally in other settings. This disorder often co-occurs with social anxiety disorder and can significantly impact a child's academic and social development.
7. Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive fear or anxiety about being separated from attachment figures, such as parents or caregivers. While it is common for young children to experience some degree of separation anxiety, separation anxiety disorder involves extreme distress and interference with daily functioning. This disorder can also affect adults, leading to difficulties in relationships and daily activities.
Understanding these various types of anxiety disorders can help individuals and mental health professionals develop tailored treatment plans to address specific symptoms and challenges.
Several treatment options are available for anxiety disorders. These can be tailored to the individual's specific needs and symptoms. Some of the most common treatment options include:
- Psychotherapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely used and effective form of therapy for anxiety disorders. CBT focuses on identifying, understanding, and changing anxiety-related thinking and behavior patterns.
- Medications: Various medications, such as antidepressants, anxiety medication, and beta-blockers, can be used to manage anxiety symptoms. The choice of medication depends on the individual's specific anxiety disorder, symptoms, and other factors.
- Self-help techniques: Techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation can help manage anxiety symptoms. These techniques can be practiced independently or in conjunction with professional treatment.
- Exposure therapy: This is a common and effective psychotherapeutic option for treating anxiety symptoms, particularly for phobias and panic disorders. It involves gradually exposing the individual to the feared situation or object to help them overcome their anxiety.
- Lifestyle changes: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep, can help reduce anxiety symptoms. Reducing caffeine and alcohol intake and practicing stress management techniques can also be beneficial.
It is essential to work with a mental health professional to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses the specific needs and symptoms of the individual with an anxiety disorder.
At Bristol Health, our experienced team of mental health professionals is dedicated to providing personalized care and support to help you manage your anxiety symptoms.
Whether you're dealing with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety, or any other type of anxiety, we are here to help you on your journey toward a more balanced and fulfilling life.
Get in touch with Bristol Health at (801) 903-5903 or request an appointment to learn how we can assist you with anxiety treatment in Utah County. Our compassionate team is here to help you take the first step toward a happier, healthier life.