Anxiety Disorders Explained
Anxiety is one of the most common psychological problems facing individuals today. Some anxiety based on fear or worry is justified and healthy; such as, the anxiety one feels before a test, or worry one feels about the health of a loved one. However, sometimes, anxiety can become debilitating or highly uncomfortable. Anxiety can cause significant interruptions in daily functioning reflected by physical, emotional, occupational and social problems. The good news is that anxiety can be treated very effectively through counseling and therapy.
Different Types Of Anxiety Disorders
GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER (GAD)
Often characterized by feelings of anxiety and excessive worry about many different things and issues, even if those worries are unprovoked. People with GAD often suffer from physical symptoms of anxiety (e.g., gastrointestinal problems, headaches, fatigue) and often seem to be chronically anxious and worried.
OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER (OCD)
Characterized by intrusive and unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Examples of obsessive thoughts may include worrying that if you don’t engage in a certain behavior a certain amount of times, something bad will happen. Another example of an obsessive thinking pattern is being excessively focused and fearful of germs. An example of a repetitive behavior may be washing hands or turning a light switch on and off. Individuals with OCD will do the repetitive behaviors (also called rituals) to try and rid of the obsessive thoughts. Although temporary relief may be found from engaging in the repetitive behaviors, the obsessive thoughts and ultimately the repetitive behaviors often re-emerge. The symptoms of OCD can dramatically interfere with everyday functioning and often require intervention.
Characterized by unanticipated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms (e.g., chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, heart palpitations). Panic disorder can be incredibly frightening and can lead to extreme avoidance of certain situations that can ultimately impede functioning.
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)
This anxiety disorder can develop after an individual has been exposed to a frightening situation in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. This harm is experienced or witnessed. Often, individuals who suffer from PTSD experience a sense of detachment, nightmares or flashbacks during waking hours and are often easily startled. These symptoms often cause sleep problems and other mood related problems. Individuals with PTSD can benefit from intervention aimed at reducing their symptoms and helping them process the trauma that they were exposed to.
SOCIAL PHOBIA (SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER)
Exemplified by self-consciousness and overwhelming anxiety in everyday social situations. Social phobia may be specific to public speaking or may extend to any social circumstance. Phobia: A phobia is an unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little to no real danger. This fear is overwhelming and can cause intense physical and psychological distress often impacting a person’s ability to function in certain types of situations.
Brief anxiety is often mild in nature and often associated with a stressful (positive and/or challenging) life event like transitioning to a new career or having a child. This type of stress or anxiety tends to last less than 6 months and often remits once the person adjusts to the change.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety in adults can manifest in many different ways. Some symptoms can include:
- Feelings of nervousness, apprehension, fear, or worry
- Disturbances in sleep and appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Restlessness or feeling edgy
- Muscle tension or body aches
- Intense and unrealistic fears or avoidance of certain places, situations or objects
- Intrusive and repetitive thoughts/behaviors
The above list is a sampling of symptoms one may experience when struggling with an anxiety disorder. However, everyone is unique so different symptoms that are not listed may show up. Thus, this list should not be considered inclusive of all potential symptoms of anxiety. In addition, some of the symptoms listed may be representative of other psychological or medical problems. This is why proper assessment and diagnosis is so critical to treatment.
The symptoms of anxiety in children often look different than they do in adults.
Causes of Anxiety Disorders
There are many causes of anxiety. Some causes may include a mental health or physical condition, an effect of a drug, a variety of external stressors, or a combination of these. Some internal and external causes of anxiety include (but are not limited to):
- Stress from grief or loss
- Marital stress
- Substance use or side-effects from medications
- Stress in a personal relationship, such as a friendship
- Stress at work or school
- Stress from financial difficulties
- Stress related to major or minor life changes
- Stress from trauma
- A major or minor medical illness
- A mental health condition
Commonality of Anxiety Disorders
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults in a given year. Anxiety disorders tend to last at least six months and can get worse if left untreated.
Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis
Diagnosing an anxiety disorder occurs throughout the process of individual therapy or through a comprehensive psychological assessment that aims at identifying how an individual is functioning and what symptoms may be interfering with their ability to live and work in the way they want to.
Equilibria’s Philadelphia therapists are trained to help individuals with anxiety by utilizing an integrative, strength-based treatment model to address each individual’s set of unique issues associated with anxiety. In many cases, research has shown that certain types of psychotherapy, medication management, or a combination of both can be very effective in treating many anxiety disorders.
Based on the individual’s needs, we pull from cognitive behavioral, interpersonal, systems-focused, and insight-oriented approaches to design effective treatment, consultation and assessment strategies to help our clients.
Anxiety Related Equilibria Links
Schedule An Appointment for Anxiety Treatment
If you would like to meet or talk with one of our psychologists in Philadelphia about anxiety treatment, call us at (267) 861-3685, option 1; or fill out our online form.