Anxiety Disorder Information
Everybody feels a little anxious now and then, and for most, it’s normal, and nothing to worry about – at least, if it’s only a temporary occurrence.
Anxiety disorder is different. If you suffer from anxiety disorder, you may feel varying degrees of stress and distress that can prevent you from enjoying a normal life. Constant fear, worry, and the feeling of being completely overwhelmed are common complaints and can amount to a crippling disability.
The good news is that with counseling, medication, and a treatment program that is tailored to your specific needs, it is possible to overcome your anxiety and go on to lead a happy and fulfilled life, free of debilitating fear.
What is Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety disorder is a diagnosis that encompasses one or more very different conditions. Symptoms can range from moderate and occasional to severe and constantly present:
Panic disorder is characterized by feelings of abject fear and terror that come on at random or inopportune moments. Symptoms can include chest pain, profuse sweating, irregular heartbeat (palpitations), or feeling like you are choking or having a heart attack.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is also known as social phobia. You may be overwhelmed by normal, everyday social situations, and may be self-conscious, obsess or fixate on how others view you. You may have a fear of being ridiculed or embarrassed that prevents you from participating in social activities.
Specific phobias can manifest as a fear of a situation, object, or place. Examples of phobias could include fear of heights, fear of water, or fear of flying. These fears go beyond what most people would consider normal, and will often cause you to avoid situations where you may be exposed to the object of your fear.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
If you have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), you may feel unfounded worry, fear, or apprehension for no discernable reason. Many children and teens suffering from GAD will experience excessive worry about minor issues and things that have not yet come to pass, such as school work, punctuality, athletic performance, family situations, and more.
Though many potentially troublesome things happen in the normal course of adolescence, a child or teen that suffers from GAD will experience these feelings excessively, to the point where it is physically draining, uncontrollable, and disruptive to their lives as well as to the rest of their family.
Other anxiety disorders that can be present include separation anxiety disorder, selective mutism, and agoraphobia (fear of open spaces).
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder
Younger children may be unable to articulate their specific fears, but they can manifest as troubling thoughts such as:
- Fear of something happening to the parents
- Fear of something catastrophic happening to the home (fire, earthquake, burglars)
- Fear of not being accepted to the school they are applying to
- Fear of contracting an incurable illness
- Fear of harm coming to a family member
They may present with symptoms that include:
- Inability to concentrate
- Fidgeting, sometimes uncontrollable
- Muscle pain
- Wild mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
- Seeking constant reassurance
- Obsessive list making
- Refusing to go to school
- Constant procrastination
- Reluctance to join in class functions or activities
- General decline in self-care
Though some symptoms tend to be specific to a particular type of anxiety, there are a few common manifestations that include:
- Excessive and irrational fear
- Constant tension and distress
- Inability to manage daily tasks without a great deal of distress
- Fatigue or insomnia
- Trouble concentrating
Anxiety disorder symptoms can be grouped into physical and cognitive/behavioral symptoms. These may include:
- Cognitive/behavioral symptoms
- Anxious thinking (“I can’t control my feelings”)
- Predictive ideas (“I am going to fail”)
- Avoidance of situations or activities that bring on anxious feelings (driving, crowds, school)
- Avoiding activities that cause similar feelings, such as vigorous exercise
- Reacting excessively to situations, such as a raised heart rate in response to the doorbell or a phonecall
- Safety behaviors such as staying near the phone to call for help if needed in order to quell anxieties
The physical symptoms of anxiety are often mistaken for more serious illnesses, including heart attacks. In determining whether the specific symptoms will require mental health intervention, we consider:
- The level of distress that the symptoms present
- The level of disruption the symptoms cause in terms of your ability to socialize and perform everyday tasks
- The context at the root of the anxiety
If you have anxiety disorder, you may feel uncomfortable or anxious much of the time, or your episodes may be brief and intense. These episodes may come on for no discernable reason. You may have feelings that are so distressing that you will go out of your way to avoid activities and routines that cause you to feel this way.
It is possible that these feelings are occasionally so intense that you feel immobilized with terror. You may know deep down that your fears are irrational and largely unreasonable, but you simply can’t control them.
If this sounds like you, help is available.
Anxiety Disorder in Children and Young Adults
Children and young adults who display symptoms of anxiety have more specific signs and symptoms than adults.
Statistically, about 1% of all children under the age of 18 will develop GAD. Girls are twice as susceptible as boys to develop this disorder.
Some commonalities in children who have been diagnosed with GAD include:
- Overprotective parents
- Children that are inhibited or cautious in trying new things
- A dislike of risk
- Have a negative view of things (glass half empty)
Unfortunately, children who are left untreated are unlikely to resolve their GAD and it can go on to develop into a significant impairment later in life.
Risk Factors for Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorder can be caused by any number of issues and can be affected equally by psychological and biological factors as well as potentially stressful life situations. These could include:
- Traumatic life events, such as the death of a parent or sibling, or an accident
- Family history of mental illness, depression, or anxiety
- Developmental disabilities
- Illicit drug or alcohol abuse
- Co-occurring medical or psychiatric issues
It should be noted that even though a parent or family member struggles with anxiety disorder, there is no guarantee that it will manifest in you. Environmental stressors can contribute to your propensity, just as a stable environment can lessen the potential for it to take hold.
Treatments for Anxiety Disorder
Depending on the degree of severity of your anxiety disorder, there are several treatments available, many of which can be self-managed, depending on the severity and intensity of the symptoms.
Often, treatment for anxiety disorder will combine several therapies towards the ultimate goal of helping you cope with your day-to-day life. Some of the therapies we employ might include:
- Relaxation techniques
- Stress management techniques
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Medication therapy
Your treatment program may combine two or more of these protocols in an effort to develop a plan that works and that you can self-manage.
Medications for Anxiety Disorder
There are a number of medications that are commonly prescribed to treat the symptoms of anxiety disorder. However, most are not meant to be used long-term as they carry with them the risk of addiction and other permanent extrapyramidal syndromes (serious physical side effects).
Drug therapy options will ultimately be determined by your doctors, who may prescribe antidepressants:
- SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) such as Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, Cymbalta, and Effexor
- Tricyclic antidepressants such as Tofranil, Doxepin, Elavil, and Norpramin
- Anti-convulsive medications such as Gabapentin and Pregabalin (Lyrica)
Those who suffer from acute anxiety attacks may also be prescribed anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, Klonopin, Librium, or Lorazepam (all benzodiazepines), but generally, these drugs are used only on an as-needed basis to ease the sudden onset of symptoms.
Anxiety Disorder Treatment in Colorado
In all cases, it is important to understand that drug therapy alone is not the answer to anxiety disorder. In order to treat this syndrome successfully, a combination of therapies is necessary.
Our treatment facility in Colorado Springs is dedicated to the needs of young adults, offering caring support and rehabilitation in an age-specific and gender-specific environment. In many cases, we are treating young adults who have co-occurring disorders, or a combination of mental health disorders along with drug addictions.
Underlying issues such as anxiety disorder can lead to or exacerbate addiction as a young adult may get involved in drugs simply to feel “normal”. If there is an addiction present, we work closely with the patient to make sure they are receiving the care and treatment they need, both for the addiction and the underlying mental health issue.
As we work towards managing the behaviors and symptoms that have led to this point, we are focused on reestablishing trust and helping them to develop life skills that will provide a greater chance of success once they leave the program. These skills and coping tools help build resilience to challenging events they may face every day in the real world. We find that working in age-similar and gender-specific groups contributes to success in that they are free of the tensions, posturing, and distractions that may be present in mixed groups.
Peaks Recovery: anxiety disorder treatment in Colorado
If you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety disorder and you don’t know where to turn, call Peaks Recovery today. We are dedicated to treating young adults in a safe and caring environment at our beautiful Colorado Springs location, and we can help.