An estimated 16.4% of Americans have an Anxiety Disorder within any given year. -US Surgeon General, 1999
Two-thirds of people with diagnosable mental disorders do not seek treatment. -US Surgeon General, 1999
Most cases of anxiety disorder can be treated successfully by appropriately trained health and mental health professionals. -American Psychological Association, 2008
What is Anxiety?
We have all experienced worry, fear, trepidation and even terror. We all rely on these emotions to survive and get through life’s challenges. Anxious feelings warn us when we are in danger, and heighten our body’s ability to pay attention. When we perceive danger or a threat we react by fleeing, fighting or freezing (avoiding calling attention to ourselves when something threatening is nearby). We also experience these same emotions when we are not in any actual danger, for example, whenever we watch an action movie. Reportedly, when movie audiences in France first saw a movie of a fast approaching train, they ran screaming from the theatre! Because we understand what movies are, the fear we feel during an action movie is enjoyable. We know we are really safe, and we have control over the experience. We choose to be there and can leave when we want.
Anxiety is excessive worry, fear, dread, feeling overwhelmed, or panic that we don’t enjoy and can’t control. Anxiety has physical symptoms that may include increased heart rate, tightness or nausea in the abdominal area, shortness of breath, sweating, chest pain or discomfort, feeling dizzy, trembling, feelings of unreality, and chills or hot flashes. Anxiety’s mental components may include thoughts like “I can’t handle this,” “This is too much for me,” “This is too hard,” and “What if something really bad happens?” Anxiety may be triggered by specific situations, such as taking an exam, socializing, getting on an airplanes, or being somewhere similar to a place that was previously dangerous, embarrassing, or difficult. Anxiety can seem to come from out of the blue, triggered by unconscious internal events. Anxiety can vary from mild, infrequent feelings to intense, nearly constant feelings. Anxiety increases our stress, and taxes our body’s ability to stay healthy.
People who experience anxiety may or may not have panic attacks. Panic attacks, also called anxiety attacks, are sudden and overwhelming surges of terror, feeling that one is losing control, or that something inside oneself is terribly wrong. The person may believe they are having a heart attack or are dying, and may go or be taken to the hospital emergency room. A panic attack is diagnosed when four or more of the following symptoms appear abruptly: accelerated heart rate, palpitations, or pounding heart; sweating; trembling or shaking; sensations of shortness of breath; chest pain or discomfort; nausea or abdominal distress; feeling of choking; feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded or faint; derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself); fear of losing control or going crazy; numbness or tingling sensations; and chills or hot flashes.
What are the best treatments for Anxiety?
Anxiety is generally treated with medications, psychotherapy, or often both. Many research studies show that medications and psychotherapy are equally effective in reducing the symptoms of anxiety, while psychotherapy is more effective at reducing future recurrences of anxiety. Medications help many people reduce their anxious symptoms quickly and effectively. Medications are reasonably affordable in the short term and take no more effort than taking the medication. On the other hand, medications do not treat the causes of anxiety, so anxiety symptoms may come back when the medications are stopped. Some anti-anxiety medications have side effects and some are addictive.
Psychotherapy works to resolve the underlying cause of people’s anxiety. These can include patterns of thinking or behaviors that have developed over time, and problems in the past or present that aren’t resolved and often not understood or only partially understood. Psychotherapy is effective at helping to identify, understand and resolve sources of anxiety. On the other hand, psychotherapy generally takes longer than medications to reduce anxiety symptoms. Treatment of uncomplicated cases is generally about three months, though it can sometimes take two months or less, while complicated cases may take six months to years. In the short term psychotherapy is more expensive than medication. Psychotherapy is a collaborative process that requires the person to find a psychotherapist to work with that is skilled in this area and who they really like and trust. Finally, of course, clients must put forth effort to work with their psychotherapist to understand themselves and make changes.
Research shows that both medications and psychotherapy are effective treatments for anxiety. We believe that the best treatment for anxiety includes psychotherapy whenever possible in order to resolve the sources of anxiety as well as the symptoms.
The Anxiety Treatment Center
The Anxiety Treatment Center at Gallatin Psychotherapy, Inc. is a core group of psychotherapists with the training and experience to give people the insights, skills, and changes they need to live a life free from anxiety. The Anxiety Treatment Center offers several types of clinically proven treatments, including Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, EMDR, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness techniques, education, peer support and skill training and development. We develop an individualized treatment plan with each person to provide the most effective means to reduce or eliminate each person’s anxiety symptoms.
Is anxiety always bad?
No, anxiety is helpful to us in useful amounts. Worry and stress are normal parts of people’s lives. Worry, stress, and fear feelings try to alert people to problems or situations that need to be dealt with and provide the energy to cope. Anxiety becomes a problem when it interferes with rather than helps a person’s ability to handle life’s challenges.
How do I know if I could benefit from professional help?
Excessive worry, panic, fear, feelings of being overwhelmed become problematic when they are chronic and upsetting enough to make people feel uncomfortable, out of control, or helpless. If you have trouble making the transition from feeling worried or fearful to getting into action to address your situation or problems, then professional help may be beneficial for you. If your symptoms interfere with your personal life, work life, of any other important area of your life, you should definitely consider seeking professional help. People who have recurrent panic attacks should always seek professional help.
When seeking professional help, the first professional you should see is your family doctor. They can determine whether your symptoms are due to a medical condition or an anxiety disorder. If due to an anxiety disorder, then we recommend you seek help from a qualified mental health professional.
Are there different types of anxiety disorders?
Yes, anxiety disorders are often classified into six major types, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Phobia, Panic Disorder, Specific Phobias, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For anxiety symptoms to qualify as a full-fledged Anxiety Disorder, the symptoms must cause significant distress to the point that they interfere with one’s social or family life, work, or other important area of functioning. People with an Anxiety Disorder may suffer from more than one Anxiety Disorder, depression, and alcohol or drug abuse.
What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?
With GAD, people worry a lot about a variety of everyday problems, like family, personal health, money, and work. They constantly think about the bad things that might happen. Even though they realize they are “worry warts” they can’t seem to stop or control themselves. People diagnosed with GAD have three or more of the following symptoms: restlessness or feeling keyed up on edge, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating or mind going blank, irritability, muscle tension, and problems with sleep.
What is Social Phobia?
People with Social Phobia are afraid and overly self-conscious in everyday social situations. They are afraid others will judge them in harsh, critical and negative ways. While they may be aware these fears are irrational, they can’t control them. People with Social Phobia are likely to avoid social situations, and to experience intense discomfort before, during and after a social encounter. Physical symptoms include blushing, trembling, difficulty talking, nausea and sweating. Sometimes people experience Social Phobia only in specific social situations or with specific types of people, but sometimes the fear is so general that almost all social encounters are uncomfortable.
What is Panic Disorder?
People are diagnosed with Panic Disorder when they have had repeated panic attacks not attributed to a medical condition, and they have anxiety about having another attack. Panic attacks are very distressing experiences and often people cope with them by trying to avoid situations that may trigger another attack, or cause embarrassment if a panic attack happens there. Changing one’s life because a panic attack may happen can become even more disabling than the panic attack itself.
What is a Specific Phobia?
People with a Specific Phobia have an intense, irrational fear of some specific thing that in reality poses little danger. Common examples are fear of being in elevators or other enclosed spaces, heights, flying on an airplane, getting injected with a needle, or dogs. Often people can avoid the thing that are afraid of, and seek treatment only when it becomes important to overcome their fear for their personal or work situations.
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
People with OCD have obsessions (distressing thoughts that won’t go away) and compulsions (ritualist behaviors that are performed over and over again to attempt to try to make the distressing thoughts and feelings go away). Common obsessions can be about germs, imperfection, intruders, and thoughts of doing something violent, deviantly sexual or otherwise completely counter to one’s value system. Common compulsions include washing one’s hands, straightening and cleaning, locking doors, checking things, counting, touching things, saying things and hoarding. Try as they may, people with OCD have difficulty controlling their obsessive thinking or stopping their compulsive behaviors.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
PTSD develops in some but not all people after a traumatic experience. PTSD is well known among veterans, but can also develop after traumas such as child sexual or physical abuse, rape, violent assault, kidnapping, accidents, natural disasters, and being a witness to a traumatic event to someone else. Symptoms usually begin within three months of the trauma, but can begin years later. Symptoms include flashbacks (vivid reliving of the traumatic experience) while awake or in nightmares, avoiding situations that may trigger remembering the experience, feeling emotionally numb, and feeling keyed up or on edge. People with PTSD may also experience other problems such as alcohol or drug use, feelings of depression, problems in work, and problems in personal relationships including withdrawal or violence.