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Anxiety Disorder Treatment

In the last decade, anxiety has surpassed depression as being the number one mental health issue that people face. According to the World Economic Forum, 275 million people worldwide suffer from anxiety-related disorders. That’s roughly 4% of the world’s global population with 62% of those suffering being female and 38% of them male. 

Anxiety has become an epidemic in modern-day society. Anxiety is a fight or flight response that your body naturally engineers during times of stress. It is a biological response that helped our ancestors during times of great danger. 

Now, we all tend to have anxiety in one way or another. Normal anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness on what’s to come. It is felt before a major event, like giving a big speech in front of a crowd or moving to a new city. These circumstances can make people feel nervous or afraid, which is completely natural. Therefore, there is nothing alarming about occasional anxiety- it is a mode of survival- three parts confident, one part anxious.

However, an anxiety disorder is something totally different; it is a constant feeling of fearful apprehension or nervousness. It can manifest itself in avoidance behavior and being sensitive to sudden loud noises. 

Anxiety disorder can manifest itself so completely that it becomes impossible to even cross the street, be in closed-off spaces, or even leave your house. It can be debilitating, and in severe circumstances leave people disabled and unable to cope with the outside world. 

As such, it is crucial to start treating anxiety in its early stages so that it does not spiral out of control. 

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    Types of Anxiety Disorders

    Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and numerous phobia-related disorders, among others.

    General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

    People with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) experience an excessive anxiety response or worry about a variety of topics for at least 6 months, including personal health, employment, social interactions, and ordinary life situations. Fear and anxiety can lead to serious problems in social interactions, education, and the workplace.

    Signs and Symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder

    Symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder include:

    • Feeling antsy, agitated, or tense
    • Being quickly exhausted
    • Having trouble concentrating; the mind is vacant
    • Getting irritated
    • Tension in the muscles
    • Excessive worry
    • Having sleep issues, such as inability to fall or remain asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfactory sleep

    Panic Disorder

    Panic disorder is characterized by frequent, unpredictable panic attacks. Panic attacks are brief bursts of acute terror that begin suddenly and culminate within minutes. Attacks can happen out of nowhere or as a result of a trigger, such as a location or circumstance.

    People with panic disorder are constantly concerned about when their next attack will occur, and they actively strive to avoid them by avoiding places, events, or behaviors that they correlate with panic attacks. The fear of panic episodes, as well as the effort expended to avoid them, can cause considerable problems in a person’s life, such as the emergence of agoraphobia.

    Signs and Symptoms of Panic Disorder

    People may feel the following symptoms during a panic attack:

    • Heart palpitations, a hammering heartbeat, or a fast heartbeat are all symptoms of an accelerated heart rate
    • Sweating
    • Shaking or trembling
    • Shortness of breath, suffocation, or choking sensations
    • Feelings of despair and gloom
    • Feelings of being uncontrollable

    Disorders Associated with Phobias

    A phobia is a strong dislike or fear of a specific thing or situation. While it is understandable to feel uncomfortable in some situations, the dread experienced by persons with phobias is out of proportion to the actual risk posed by the situation or object.

    Signs and Symptoms of Phobia-related Disorders

    People who suffer from phobias tend to:

    • Have an illogical or excessive fear of coming into contact with the feared object or situation
    • Avoid the feared thing or scenario by taking active steps to avoid it
    • When confronted with the feared thing or scenario, experience acute anxiety right away
    • Experiencing intense fear when confronted with inescapable objects and situations

    Phobias and phobia-related conditions come in a variety of forms. For instance, simple phobias (sometimes referred to as specific phobias). 

    People who have a specific phobia have an acute dread of, or anxiety about, particular things or circumstances, as the name suggests. Fears of the following things are examples of specific phobias:

    • Closed spaces
    • Heights
    • Flying
    • Spiders, dogs, and snakes are examples of specific creatures.
    • Needles
    • Blood

    Risk Factors for Anxiety and Addiction

    Both genetic and environmental factors appear to have a role in the development of anxiety disorders and addiction, according to research. Although the risk factors for each form of anxiety disorder differ, there are certain common risk factors that apply to all anxiety disorders. 

    The following are some broad risk factors for all types of anxiety disorders:

    • Shyness or behavioral inhibition as a temperamental feature in childhood
    • Early childhood or adulthood exposure to stressful and unfavorable life or environmental events
    • Biological relations with a history of anxiety or other mental diseases
    • Some physical health concerns, such as thyroid issues or cardiac arrhythmias, as well as coffee and other substances/medications, can cause or exacerbate anxiety symptoms; a physical health assessment can aid in the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder

    The point of intersection between anxiety and addiction is found in what the medical community refers to as a “dual diagnosis”.  Addiction can be aggravated by underlying mental health concerns. 

    If you have both an addiction problem and another mental health condition, like anxiety disorder, you are considered to have a “dual diagnosis” in the medical profession. As a result, addiction can exacerbate the severity of other mental health problems. This sets in motion a vicious cycle in which your addiction worsens swiftly and has serious repercussions. For a brief period of time, one may believe that alcohol or drugs alleviate one’s anxiety symptoms. Nevertheless, addiction will almost certainly make things worse in the long run.

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    Effective Treatment For Anxiety

    The good thing is that there are a variety of successful ways and services for identifying, treating, and managing substance use problems and disorders. According to research, intervening early, before the condition progresses, is the most efficient method to treat someone with a substance use problem and in danger of developing an addiction.

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

    Counselors utilize CBT to treat a range of addictions, and it is one of the most prominent therapy in addiction medicine.The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to learn how to lessen the negative behaviors that come with substance dependence. Anticipating risky situations and using coping skills such as avoidance or self-control to prevent relapse is a central element in CBT.

    Matrix Model

    The Matrix model provides a framework for people recovering from stimulant addiction to stay abstinent. It’s mostly used in people who are trying to rehabilitate from methamphetamine or cocaine addiction.

    The Matrix model of treatment includes a number of evidence-based therapies that encourage the prevention of relapse and promotes family therapy, education, and participation in support groups. The patient is frequently given extensive worksheets or manuals to refer to during therapy sessions.

    Exposure Therapy

    Exposure therapy is a type of behavioral therapy that is commonly used to help people who are suffering from phobias or anxiety disorders. It entails a person confronting their fears, whether imagined or real, in a secure atmosphere with the help of a qualified therapist. It has been proved to be successful and can be utilized with people of all ages.

    A person is exposed to a circumstance, event, or object that causes them anxiety, terror, or panic in exposure therapy. Controlled exposure to a trigger by a trusted person in a safe location over time can reduce anxiety or panic.

    Exposure therapy in addiction can look like a person being afraid to walk down a specific street where he/she buys drugs or where people are getting high such as bars. Thus, therapy exposes the person to such situations long enough for them to get through them, ensuring that new neural connections are made that promote relapse prevention.

    Breath Control Therapy

    Breath Control Therapy (BCT) is a somatic-based practice that combines breathing exercises heavily influenced by scientifically proven Western medical science and psychotherapy approaches with ancient Eastern breathing practices and philosophies to promote physical, psychological, and spiritual healing.

    Many health difficulties typically connected with addiction are rooted in unaddressed emotional issues. Therefore, this therapy can be a successful non-pharmacological alternative for a variety of psychological problems, disorders, ailments, and concerns.

    Anxiety: Frequently Asked Questions

    What triggers anxiety?

    Childhood, adolescence, or adulthood traumatic experiences frequently start anxiety disorders. Being subjected to stress and trauma when you're very young will probably have a significant effect. Physical or emotional abuse is one experience that might set off anxiety issues.

    What are the six main categories of anxiety?

    According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are six basic types of anxiety disorders: phobias, panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia), generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, acute stress disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

    What are the hallmark features of anxiety?

    • Difficulties handling daily duties and distress associated with these tasks
    • Unreasonable and excessive dread 
    • Anxious and strained feelings

    How do we react to anxiety?

    Three "systems of functioning" are altered whenever the fight or flight reaction is triggered by danger, whether actual or imagined: your cognitive, bodily, and behavioral states (behavioural).

    When does anxiety become an issue?

    Everybody experiences anxiety symptoms, but they are often transient and do not interfere with daily life. However, anxiety may go beyond the normal range when its cognitive, physical, and behavioral symptoms are intense and persistent. It creates distress in a person's life to the extent that it impairs their capacity for work or study, social interaction, and management of daily duties.

    When does anxiety require a mental health professional?

    The level of suffering brought on by the anxiety symptoms is one aspect that determines whether the anxiety requires the attention of mental health specialists.
    • the setting in which the anxiety arises; 
    • the degree to which the anxiety symptoms affect a person's capacity to work or study, interact socially, and handle daily responsibilities.
    • the environment in which the anxiety takes place.

    How does anxiety manifest?

    People with an anxiety disorder may have frequent bouts of anxiety or brief, acute episodes that may happen for no apparent reason. People with anxiety disorders may experience uncomfortable, nervous feelings that lead them to avoid daily activities and routines that could trigger these symptoms. Some people occasionally experience anxiety episodes that are so frightening or paralyzing. Most people who suffer from anxiety disorders know how unreasonable and extreme their fears are.

    How are anxiety levels assessed?

    A physical examination, questions about your symptoms, and a blood test are all steps in the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. It allows the doctor to rule out other conditions, such as hypothyroidism, that might contribute to your symptoms. Your physician could inquire about medications you are taking, therapist, etc. Note any thoughts you have while you complete this practice.

    What drugs are used to treat anxiety?

    Excessive anxiety has been treated with medications like benzodiazepines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications respectively target GABAA (gamma-aminobutyric acid, type A) receptors and prevent serotonin from being reabsorbed.

    What occurs when a loved one suffers from an anxiety disorder?

    Everyone is impacted and under additional stress when a family member suffers from an anxiety illness. Since most people suffer some anxiety throughout their lives, it could take time before your relative is appropriately diagnosed and starts receiving therapy. Your relative may have heard well-intentioned advice such as, "You worry too much. Relax.” Alternatively, "What's the issue with leaving the house? Simply do it! You might have even mentioned these things to your family member. These words would be wise counsel for someone without an anxiety illness, but anxiety disorders entail more than common worry. Your relative may need medical assistance to recover.

    Recovery Plan for Addiction and Anxiety

    Comprehensive rehab centers that include mental health and addiction services are the answer to anxiety and substance abuse. While anxiety treatment was traditionally separated from substance abuse treatment, research now suggests that providing integrated therapies that address both issues at the same time is the most effective strategy to help clients with dual diagnoses.

    Those seeking recovery/restoration plans for both anxiety and addiction can:

    • Go through medical detox if necessary
    • Focus on resolving the underlying trauma
    • Other physical (e.g., chronic pain, cancer) and psychological co-occurring illnesses should be addressed
    • Try a variety of pharmacological that are recommended based on your symptoms
    • Incorporate family members into couples or family therapy
    • Make a strategy for dealing with certain sources of stress
    • Learn about how to make lifestyle adjustments that will help you feel less stressed and anxious

    Find Help for Anxiety Disorder & Addiction

    If you are suffering from anxiety and substance abuse, we are here to help. Our compassionate and professional team understands where you are as they have been there before. Call today so we can help you get the help you need.

    This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

    This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

    Dr. Bickley graduated from U.C. Irvine with honors: Phi Beta Kappa, Golden Key International Honor Society, Cum Laude. He has been featured on national radio and print media. He is also a frequent lecturer at National Conferences. He holds an A.S. degree in Drug & Alcohol Studies, and two B.A. degrees in Criminology & Psychology, and masters and doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. He is a licensed California Drug & Alcohol Counselor Level II, a licensed Clinical Supervisor and is certified in treating Eating Disorders.

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