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What is anxiety?

Anxiety is our mind and body’s natural response to stress. Everybody will experience a level of anxiety at points in their lives. While it may feel unsettling, anxiety is a natural stress response that can actually help us in situations where we may feel uncomfortable, under pressure, or out of control.

Anxiety keeps us alert, ready, and prepared for stressful events that may occur, like a job interview, important presentation, health issue, or moving house. Once the stressful situation is over, our mind and body will naturally return to their normal, relaxed state. 

However, anxiety can become a problem when we start feeling anxious in unwarranted, uncontrollable ways. Overwhelming anxiety can impair our judgment or paralyze our ability to act calmly in certain situations. 

Many people experience prolonged feelings of anxiety, even when they have no obvious reason to be stressed. Our bodies can get stuck in the fight or flight mode for reasons that we don’t fully understand, and as a result, we find ourselves feeling hyperaware, short of breath, and panicky in scenarios where we should feel calm.

The National Health Service in the UK defines Generalized Anxiety Disorder as:

“People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. As soon as one anxious thought is resolved, another may appear about a different issue.”

Living with severe anxiety – that can include constant worry, sleep problems, and difficulty completing daily tasks – can take a toll on your mental and physical health. If you are worried about your anxiety, it’s important to talk to a professional who can help you learn how to manage your stress better and get to the root cause of your challenges.

What are the different types of anxiety disorder?

Anxiety plays a significant role in many different disorders, including: 

  • Agoraphobia
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Specific phobias
  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Separation anxiety disorder
  • Illness anxiety disorder

These anxiety disorders vary in their specific triggers and impacts on daily life, but they all share a common thread of irrational fear and worry. 

Other mental health conditions that share features with anxiety disorders include:

Studies also indicate that anxiety disorders and substance use disorders commonly co-occur – requiring a specialized approach to treatment called dual diagnosis or integrated services

What are the signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder?

There are no set signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Each person experiences it in their own unique way, and, as a consequence, there’s a broad range of physical, psychological, and emotional side effects that can arise, including: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased heart rate
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Insomnia or difficulty falling asleep
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Memory problems
  • Racing thoughts
  • Severe irritability
  • Panic attacks

When an anxiety attack strikes, these feelings are often exaggerated, and a whole new set of more severe symptoms can occur, including: 

  • Faintness or dizziness
  • Dry mouth and wheezing breath
  • Severe sweating
  • Hot flashes
  • Distress or severe fear (often irrational)
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Worry or paralysis

There are, of course, many other signs and symptoms to watch for with anxiety. It’s also important to remember that these side effects could result from something else, like an underlying health condition, so it’s important to get checked out. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with signs and symptoms of anxiety, and it’s affecting your day-to-day life, please seek professional help from an experienced therapist or councelor. You do not have to suffer in silence.

Anxiety disorder statistics

Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health conditions globally, and they affect millions of people from all ages and backgrounds.

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What are the risk factors for anxiety disorders?

No one thing causes an anxiety disorder. Research shows a complex combination of various factors are involved, including:

Genetics and biology

Genetics plays a significant role in predisposing individuals to anxiety disorders. Those with a family history of anxiety are at higher risk of developing the condition.

Scientific evidence indicates that genetic components include alterations in brain structure and function, specifically in emotional regulation and threat processing.

Environment

Traumatic or stressful life events, particularly during childhood, can elevate the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Physical or emotional abuse, financial difficulties, or the loss of a loved one are examples.

Personality

Certain personality traits might increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Individuals who tend to be perfectionists or those who are overly sensitive to criticism may have a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders.

Other mental health conditions

Often, there’s an overlap between anxiety disorders and other mental health conditions, like depression or substance abuse. Having one mental health condition can increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder or worsening symptoms.

How is an anxiety disorder diagnosed?

Diagnosing an anxiety disorder involves a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional. There are several key steps involved:

Clinical assessment

The initial assessment involves discussing anxiety symptoms and how they impact your daily life. The mental health professional will ask about frequency, duration, and possible triggers. They will also explore your medical history, including family history of mental health conditions and any past traumas that could be contributing to your anxiety.

Diagnostic criteria

Mental health professionals refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria, published by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM-5 outlines specific criteria for various types of anxiety disorders and will aid in determining if your symptoms align with a particular disorder.

Medical exam

While anxiety is a psychological condition, it often manifests in physical symptoms such as fatigue, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, GI issues, and more. Sometimes, the mental health professional will require a medical exam to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may mimic or exacerbate anxiety symptoms.

Differential diagnosis

Since dual diagnoses are common, mental health professionals need to differentiate anxiety disorders from other mental or medical issues that may present similar symptoms. For example, depression and substance abuse often overlap symptoms with anxiety disorders.

Treatment options for anxiety disorders

Treatment for an anxiety disorder is based on how severely you are affected by it and whether or not it impairs your ability to function in everyday life. 

The most effective treatment options are often used in combination to address the diverse aspects of anxiety disorders. These include:

In a rehab setting, you will likely benefit from a combination of these treatments, receiving tailored support and guidance from experts who can help you understand your anxiety and work towards eradicating it for good.

Therapies like psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling) involves working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an effective form of psychotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder.

Helping yourself

There are strategies you can adopt at home which may help to ease your anxiety symptoms. However, many of these at-home remedies provide short-term solutions. Overcoming your anxiety for good may require you to find guided help from experts.

Some strategies for easing anxiety include: 

  • Quitting smoking
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Practicing meditation and other relaxation techniques
  • Staying active and exercising regularly
  • Eating healthily
  • Avoiding alcohol or other substances that might trigger anxiety
  • Avoiding caffeine 

While these factors might not trigger your anxiety, they are often contributors to worsening the side effects and will heighten feelings of irritability, shortness of breath, stress, and restlessness. 

To begin mitigating the effects of anxiety disorder, then, we recommend trying these at-home remedies. If your anxiety becomes severe, or is a chronic problem that has persisted for some time, however, contact us today and find out how we can help.

Anxiety disorder treatment at Tikvah Lake Recovery

Anxiety treatment at Tikvah Lake Recovery is not a passive experience. While you’re in our care, you’ll be expected and encouraged to play an active, engaged role in your personalized treatment program and work with your therapist to uncover the underlying reasons you may be experiencing anxiety.

Depending upon your strengths, needs, preferences, and goals, your personalized treatment plan may feature various treatment approaches, from holistic wellness practices like yoga, meditation, and art therapy, to evidence-based therapies like CBT and DBT.

Your willingness and ability to work with your therapist will ensure that you’re receiving the services that best meet your needs, provided in the manner most conducive to helping you achieve your immediate and long-term goals. 

All our experts here at Tikvah Lake Recovery understand anxiety disorders and how to treat them effectively, along with any co-occurring disorders that may present.

To find out more about how Tikvah Lake Recovery can help you or a loved one overcome an anxiety disorder and take back control of your life, contact us today. We are here and ready to help.