Anxiety & Panic Disorders
These disorders come in many forms, like a panicked feeling in social situations or constant anxiety about your health, your job, or your family. If you can’t seem to shake something like this, talk to a qualified psychiatrist. They can work with you to figure out what’s going on and help you manage it.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
You may have unnecessary fears about simple, everyday things, like money, health, family, or work. You expect the worst, even when there seems to be little to worry about. It may be hard to control this kind of worry for months at a time. It can affect your sleep and concentration, and it may leave you feeling restless, tired, and irritable.
Social Anxiety Disorder
This is not simply shyness -- you’re terrified of humiliating or embarrassing yourself in social situations. It typically starts in your teen years, and it can make social, professional, and romantic life almost impossible. You may feel powerless and ashamed.
When You're Worried About How Much You Worry
These disorders come in many forms, like a panicked feeling in social situations or constant anxiety about your health, your job, or your family. If you can’t seem to shake something like this, talk to your doctor. She can work with you to figure out what’s going on and help you manage it.
A panic attack is a sudden rush of intense anxiety that seems to come out of nowhere. It can happen anytime, even while you’re asleep. If you have them regularly and are very afraid of having another attack, you could have panic disorder. It typically starts in early adulthood, and women get it twice as often as men. Many of the same symptoms that accompany general anxiety such as a racing heart or pain in your stomach happen with a panic attack. But panic attacks are more intense, build quickly and then subside. Other symptoms include trembling, feeling like you can't breathe, being afraid you're going to die, a sense that you're going crazy.
In the past, this condition had been linked to panic disorder, but it’s now thought of as a separate disorder. You may stay away from public places where it seems hard to “escape,” like sports stadiums, the subway, or a shopping mall. In severe cases, it can be impossible for you to go outside your “safety zones” without serious anxiety.
We all have things that scare us -- like spiders, heights, elevators, or the dentist -- but most people manage these fears. When a specific fear causes so much anxiety that it affects your daily life, it becomes a phobia.
I am Trained and use the Following Treatments in my practice.
Treatment: Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
Most anxiety disorders are treated in similar ways. For example, this kind of therapy helps you learn about your condition and do things -- like keeping a journal, meditation, or reflection -- to understand and change certain thoughts and behaviors. It can take 12 to 16 weeks to notice signs that you’re feeling better.
Treatment: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
With this uncommon treatment, your therapist leads you through a series of side-to-side eye movements as you talk about a troubling thought or memory. This is like the natural rapid eye movement (REM) that happens when you dream. Research shows it works for post-traumatic stress syndrome, and some doctors use it to treat panic attacks and phobias as well.
Treatment: Exposure Therapy
The idea with this is to get rid of your fear by being around the thing that scares you in a planned, gradual way: The more you’re around it, the less anxious you’ll be about it. If you have social anxiety, it might be going to a restaurant. If you have an insect phobia, it might mean getting close to a picture of the bug and then actually getting near one.
Treatment: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
With this type of therapy, you work to be aware of and accept the negative thoughts brought on by your anxiety. You learn to think about them in a different way and commit to change any behaviors that interfere with your life.
Treatment: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
These medications affect the way your brain uses the chemical serotonin to send messages that control mood and anxiety. They’re used to treat all types of anxiety disorders, as well as many forms of depression.
Treatment: Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
Similar to SSRI drugs, these medications affect chemicals in your brain -- serotonin and norepinephrine -- that are related to anxiety and mood. They’re sometimes used as a first treatment for generalized anxiety disorder.
These medications relax tension in your muscles and help calm other symptoms of anxiety, but they also can slow your thinking and make you sleepy. If you use them for a long time, you might gradually need higher doses to get the same effect, and you can become addicted.
Thomas Kessler, LMFT, RAS
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Marriage & Family Therapist and Registered Addiction Specialist