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Anxiety Disorders: Symptoms and Treatment

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Anxiety is a natural emotion that everyone experiences. For some people, it develops into an everyday feeling and interferes with daily life. According to the National Institute of Health, anxiety is when someone experiences feelings of fear, worry, or uneasiness with objects or situations where there is no immediate danger. People who suffer from anxiety disorders often have physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, and difficulty breathing. Anxiety can also affect the body in other ways, including headaches, muscle tension, and fatigue.

Anxiety is normal to experience in certain situations. You may feel a little anxious before a first date or during a presentation for work or school. There’s no physical danger in these situations, but your body creates a physical response to anxious feelings.

Feeling anxious every once in a while isn’t a sign that something’s wrong. It becomes excessive or it happens outside of appropriate times, you may have an anxiety disorder and need professional help. There are various treatments available for anxiety disorders and mental illness. Getting help from a mental health professional, like the ones at Footsteps to Recovery, is the first step. They can help you manage your symptoms and live a life free from anxiety.

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

An anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that causes an individual to experience overwhelming feelings of fear, worry, and dread. These feelings often happen during everyday life, where there’s no imminent danger or threat. The symptoms can be so severe that they affect daily life and functioning.

Anxiety disorders have a range of signs and symptoms. Common physical symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Upset stomach

Psychological symptoms may include:

  • Feelings of fear and apprehension
  • Intense worrying or obsessing over a certain situation or problem
  • Having trouble concentrating or focusing on tasks and generally feeling overwhelmed

People with anxiety disorders may also experience panic attacks, which can involve rapid breathing and heart rate as well as chest pain and feelings of impending doom.

Not all anxiety is the same. The different types of anxiety disorders people suffer from include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

GAD is a mental illness where someone feels excessive, irrational fear and worry on a regular basis. Those with GAD may feel like something bad is about to happen all the time. Psychological symptoms of GAD include:

  • Restlessness or feeling on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Irritability

Many people with GAD also experience physical symptoms such as:

  • Tense muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • High blood pressure, which can lead to an increased risk of heart attack

Some may even have trouble sleeping or breathing during intense anxiety episodes.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety is an intense fear of being judged or criticized by others in social situations. It often leads to avoidance of social interactions and activities. Symptoms arise when someone is faced with social interaction and include:

  • Nervousness
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Blushing
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat

People who suffer from social anxiety often turn to drugs and alcohol because being intoxicated in a social situation can temporarily ease feelings of anxiety. Alcohol is readily available in settings like parties or bars, making it easier to loosen up and have fun. Unfortunately, it can also open the door for a substance use disorder to develop.

Panic Disorder

People who suffer from a panic disorder experience sudden, intense panic attacks. A panic attack is a period of intense fear that can last several minutes. During this time, physical symptoms occur, such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Accelerated heartrate
  • Chest pain

People experiencing a panic attack often feel like they are having a medical emergency and fear they are going to die. Panic attacks tend to develop suddenly and without warning, reaching peak intensity within 10 minutes and oftentimes subsiding within 30 minutes. However, some people experience lingering anxiety after the attack has ended. The possibility of it happening again can add to their anxiety level, and they may avoid places, people, or situations where previous anxiety attacks happened.

While the exact cause of panic attacks is not known, they are believed to be the result of either an underlying psychological issue or a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Treating panic attacks involves learning how to identify and manage physical symptoms like rapid breathing, dizziness, and nausea. Progressive muscle relaxation techniques or deep breathing exercises can help some people manage the condition. Others may find the symptoms of an anxiety attack need to be addressed by a behavioral health professional.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to have recurring, unwanted thoughts or obsessions plus the urge to perform certain behaviors or rituals over and over again. People with OCD often experience distressing, intrusive, and recurring thoughts they feel compelled to act on.

Common compulsions associated with OCD include:

  • Hand washing
  • Counting
  • Checking things
  • Organizing items
  • Arranging furniture in a certain way
  • Touching objects in a specific order
  • Silently repeating words

People with OCD may also experience anxiety related to their obsessions, which can lead them to avoid situations or activities that trigger the obsessive thoughts or behaviors.

Anxiety Disorders and Addiction

Anxiety and addiction have a complex relationship. All different types of anxiety disorders can lead to addiction as people often turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their condition. Around 20% of Americans who live with an anxiety or mood disorder also have an issue with substance abuse. Substance abuse can worsen the symptoms of anxiety. Research shows that alcohol and drug abuse can even cause panic attacks in the first place. This leads to a cycle of using that is difficult to overcome.

Addiction treatment centers like Footprints to Recovery use a dual diagnosis approach to treat someone who has both an addiction problem and a mental health issue. It’s important to treat both as they’re often interconnected. Treating just one issue, like stopping alcohol abuse, could lead to anxiety symptoms getting worse.

Through treatment for anxiety disorders and substance use disorders, it’s possible to make significant changes to your health and well-being.

Treating Anxiety Disorders at Footprints to Recovery

Anxiety Disorders

Mental health issues are serious and need to be addressed by professionals just like any other disease or injury. Footprints to Recovery uses a variety of holistic and evidence-based programs to help clients who struggle with mental health disorders like anxiety.

Our programs and levels of care identify and change thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that are part of anxiety disorders. They can also teach coping and problem-solving skills to help with stress management. A personalized treatment plan made by mental health care clinicians can help ensure these problems no longer interfere with your daily life.

Footprints to Recovery provides levels of care that offer a real chance at living free from mental illness. Some options for recovery include:

  • Medical detox Medical detox involves the supervised process of managing withdrawal symptoms and safely removing toxic substances from the body under the care of medical professionals.
  • Residential treatment Residential treatment offers individuals with severe anxiety symptoms a structured and intensive therapeutic environment. It provides round-the-clock support, comprehensive assessment, and specialized treatment modalities to promote symptom relief and overall well-being.
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP) A PHP provides you with a structured and intensive treatment program during the day. You receive comprehensive therapeutic interventions and support for up to six hours each day, then return home or to a sober living environment in the evenings.
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP) An IOP offers you a structured and supportive treatment program with increased flexibility. You receive intensive therapy and support for a few hours every day while maintaining your daily responsibilities and routines.
  • Outpatient care – Outpatient rehab involves treatments and therapies for anxiety disorders once or twice per week while you live at home. It offers the most flexibility of any program and lets you apply learned coping skills to real-life situations.

Evidence-based treatments used during these levels of care include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps you manage anxiety by exploring the relationships between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Through CBT, you learn to recognize patterns in your thinking that contribute to negative emotions. By challenging these thoughts and reframing them in a more positive light, you can reduce the intensity of symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. CBT often focuses on problem-solving skills and specific strategies for managing stressors to promote emotional well-being. Research has shown CBT to be an effective treatment for many types of anxiety disorders.  It is generally recommended for individuals who have had difficulty achieving or maintaining symptom relief through medications or other therapies.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) combines traditional CBT techniques with Eastern mindfulness practices to help you manage your anxiety. It focuses on helping you identify and change unhelpful thought patterns, increase social skills, develop healthy coping strategies, and regulate emotions. DBT is based on the idea of dialectical thinking. That means finding a balance between acceptance and change. It is an evidence-based treatment for a range of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, substance use disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Some holistic treatments for anxiety disorders include:

  • Meditation – Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help calm the mind, reduce stress, and enhance self-awareness.
  • Physical activity – Regular exercise and physical activity can have a positive impact on anxiety. Exercise releases endorphins, improves mood, reduces stress, and promotes overall well-being. Activities like walking, jogging, yoga, and dance can all be part of an anxiety recovery plan.
  • Lifestyle changes – Improving things like diet and sleeping habits can contribute to your overall well-being and help manage anxiety.

Talk Therapy for Anxiety

Traditional therapy programs like individual and group therapy have long been effective forms of treatment for anxiety disorders. In individual therapy, you work one-on-one with a therapist or counselor. This setting provides a private and personalized environment where you can explore your specific anxiety symptoms, triggers, and challenges. Individual therapy allows for a deep focus on your unique experiences and concerns.

Group therapy involves participating in therapy sessions with a small group of individuals who also experience anxiety disorders. In a group setting, you can share your experiences, receive support, and learn from others facing similar challenges. Group therapy provides a sense of community, validation, and understanding. It’s also a chance to practice social skills in a supportive environment.

Footprints to Recovery is a full-service treatment center with a team of compassionate mental health professionals who are ready to help your anxiety. Contact us today to learn more how insurance may be able to pay for your anxiety treatment. Our team of clinical professionals is ready to help!


David Szarka
Medically Reviewed by David Szarka, MA, LCADC
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