Anxiety Disorders

What are the common anxiety disorders?

Anxiety is a normal and adaptive response to stress or perceived threats. It's a natural part of the human experience and serves as a protective mechanism, preparing the body to respond to danger. However, when anxiety becomes excessive, persistent, and interferes with daily life, it may be indicative of an anxiety disorder.

There are several common anxiety disorders, each characterized by specific patterns of excessive fear, worry, or anxiety. Some of the most prevalent anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): GAD is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable worry about various aspects of life, such as work, relationships, and health. Individuals with GAD often anticipate disaster and may have physical symptoms like muscle tension, restlessness, and fatigue.
  • Panic Disorder: Panic disorder involves recurrent and unexpected panic attacks—intense episodes of fear accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and a sense of impending doom. People with panic disorder often worry about future panic attacks.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia): Social anxiety disorder is marked by an intense fear of social situations and a fear of being judged or embarrassed. This fear can lead to avoidance of social interactions, impacting daily functioning and relationships.
  • Specific Phobias: Specific phobias involve an intense fear of a particular object or situation. Common examples include fear of flying, heights, spiders, or enclosed spaces. Individuals with specific phobias may go to great lengths to avoid the feared stimulus.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is characterized by intrusive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions) performed to alleviate anxiety. Common obsessions include fears of contamination or harm, while compulsions may involve repetitive handwashing or checking.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): While PTSD is often associated with trauma, it is also considered an anxiety disorder. It can develop after exposure to a traumatic event and involves symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, and avoidance of reminders of the trauma.
  • Agoraphobia: Agoraphobia involves an intense fear of situations where escape might be difficult or where help may not be available in the event of a panic attack. This fear can lead to avoidance of certain places or situations.

What are some typical anxiety symptoms?

Anxiety is often characterized by feelings of worry, fear, apprehension, or uneasiness. It can manifest both physically and emotionally, leading to a range of symptoms. Common physical symptoms of anxiety include: rapid heartbeat, muscle tension, sweating, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath, dizziness, upset stomach or nausea, difficulty concentrating, irritability, sleep disturbances, and feeling tense or jumpy.

Treatment for anxiety may include psychotherapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy), medications (such as anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants), and lifestyle changes. The specific approach depends on the type and severity of the anxiety disorder.

It's essential to differentiate between normal, adaptive anxiety and anxiety disorders. While some level of anxiety is a natural part of life, anxiety disorders can significantly impact a person's well-being and may require professional intervention for effective management.

What can I expect if I decide to treat my anxiety by going into a residential program when I am already so anxious? How can an inpatient program help me through the fear of getting treatment? 

When anxiety becomes a barrier to seeking treatment, it can create a challenging situation. Here are some things you might experience and strategies to consider:

  • Anxiety may lead to procrastination or avoidance of seeking help. It's common for individuals to delay seeking treatment due to fears and worries. Try breaking down the process into smaller, more manageable steps. Set realistic goals for each step, and celebrate your progress.
  • The thought of addressing anxiety can be overwhelming, leading to a sense of paralysis and inaction. Consider starting with small self-care activities, like deep breathing or mindfulness exercises. Gradually introduce the idea of seeking professional help as a positive step toward self-improvement.
  • Anxiety may fuel concerns about being judged or misunderstood, making it challenging to open up to others, including mental health professionals. Remind yourself that mental health professionals are trained to provide support without judgment. Consider reaching out to a trusted friend or family member for initial support.
  • Anxiety can lead to social withdrawal and isolation, making it difficult to reach out for support. Try starting with small social interactions. Share your feelings with someone you trust, and consider involving them in the process of seeking treatment.
  • Anxiety may be a significant barrier in getting help. Seeking help is a courageous step, and the right support can make the process more manageable.

Entering a residential program for anxiety can be a transformative experience. A residential program will provide an immersive and structured environment where you can focus solely on your mental health.  Here's what you might expect:

  • Comprehensive Assessment: Professionals will conduct a thorough assessment to understand the root causes and specific aspects of your anxiety.
  • Structured Routine: A daily schedule with various therapeutic activities, such as individual and group therapy, mindfulness exercises, and possibly medication management.
  • Peer Support: Interacting with others facing similar challenges can be powerful. Sharing experiences and learning coping strategies from peers can foster a sense of community.
  • Therapeutic Modalities: You'll likely have access to different therapeutic approaches, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and experiential therapies.
  • 24/7 Support: Continuous access to mental health professionals ensures that you receive support whenever you need it.
  • Holistic Approach: Residential programs often incorporate holistic practices like yoga, meditation, and art therapy to address mental health from various angles.
  • Family Involvement: Some programs involve family therapy or workshops to enhance understanding and support from your loved ones.
  • Skill Building: You'll learn and practice coping mechanisms, stress management techniques, and problem-solving skills to navigate life post-treatment.

About the Author:

Dr. Segal completed his medical school education at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine, in Tucson, Arizona. He continued training in a general psychiatry residency at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Then Dr. Segal completed a forensic psychiatry fellowship at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, in Los Angeles.  Dr. Segal is double board certified in General and Forensic Psychiatry.  Dr. Segal is the Chief Medical Officer at the Valley Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.

ROLAND SEGAL, M.D., DFAPA

Distinguished Fellow American Psychiatric Association

American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology

Board Certified General Adult and Forensic Psychiatrist

Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University of Arizona

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