Anxiety is a crippling and intense feeling that accompanies several negative situations and mental health challenges. Those unfortunate enough to suffer from anxiety attacks may be temporarily gripped or frozen by the frightening mental and physical side-effects of these events.
Many times anxiety is a normal part of human life. However, individuals who suffer from chronic bouts with anxiety usually have an excessive and persistent worry or fear about normal situations. These can turn into chronic anxiety disorders that include repeated episodes of sudden and intense feelings of terror that may peak within seconds or minutes.
What Are Anxiety Disorders?
These specific cases are known as anxiety disorders and can make life extremely difficult. When the acute symptoms of these disorders take hold, they can feel nearly impossible to control and present real risks of damage because of severe physical side effects.
There isn’t one label known as “anxiety disorder.” However, this generalized term is broken down into more specific types of anxiety disorder that include certain symptoms and fears. It’s possible for individuals to have more than one anxiety disorder that requires various forms of treatment.
Because of the complexity of these disorders, they may be difficult to identify to diagnose. The first step in diagnosis is first identifying the underlying cause. The next section will highlight some of the most common driving forces behind developing anxiety disorders.
Underlying Causes of Anxiety Disorder
Although hundreds of independent forces may collectively lead to anxiety disorders, there are seven primary groups of underlying causes that lead to chronic issues.
1. Heart/Blood Pressure Issues
If you’ve ever suffered from a panic or anxiety attack, you understand how intense the physical symptoms can be. Your hands become sweaty, it’s difficult to breathe, and your heart may feel like it’s going to explode.
It may feel like a heart attack, but it’s not. However, there is a relationship between anxiety disorder and your heart. Strong data and research suggest that anxiety may be triggered by a heart attack, stroke, and other heart conditions.
The connection also goes both ways. Individuals that suffer from long-term anxiety disorders may also develop high blood pressure and increased heart rate, leading to heart disease and other challenges.
2. Alcohol/Substance Abuse
A strong link also exists between alcohol or substance abuse disorder and anxiety. Data shows that individuals with anxiety disorders are two to three times more likely to develop challenges associated with substance abuse disorder.
Individuals turn to a substance to seek relief from their symptoms when this further complicates the situation over the long term. Regardless of which issue comes first, about 20 percent of individuals with anxiety also have a substance abuse disorder. This can lead to a vicious cycle that requires treatment for dual-diagnosis.
Caffeine is a strong stimulant that can be bad news for someone with anxiety challenges. The jittery effects on the body are similar to those caused by a negative anxiety episode. This is because caffeine plays on the body’s “fight or flight” response, making anxiety worse and leading to an anxiety attack.
Many medications have negative side effects that may cause symptoms of anxiety and even anxiety attacks. These medications include thyroid drugs, asthma treatment prescriptions, and even over-the-counter decongestants.
When you suddenly stop taking medications that provide relief for anxiety, such as Xanax or Valium, the withdrawal will cause rebound anxiety, which is very dangerous.
5. Weight Loss Supplements
Many over-the-counter weight-loss medications include anxiety-producing side effects that can be quite unpleasant. Some of the ingredients in these supplements cause insomnia and have extremely high levels of caffeine. Guarana, which is a common ingredient in diet products, has four times as much caffeine as coffee.
The most important product to avoid is ephedra. This leads to increased heart rate and anxiety and has even been linked to death in some cases.
6. Thyroid Issues
The thyroid gland is in the front of the neck and produces thyroid hormones. These hormones are critical for regulating your metabolism and energy levels. However, if too many of these chemicals are produced, anxiety may ensue, as well as heart palpitations and irritability.
When you have anxiety symptoms accompanied by swelling in your neck, weight loss, fatigue, and heat intolerance, you should consult your primary care physician. They can check your thyroid gland to identify the presence of any challenges or more serious conditions.
7. Stress Intensifies Anxiety
Stress and anxiety go hand in hand. Stress may lead to anxiety, and anxiety may make stress more difficult to manage. If you’re overly tense, it’s not uncommon to turn to alternative behaviors that can complicate anxiety, such as smoking and substance or alcohol abuse.
Keep in mind that stress and anxiety often include physical symptoms such as stomach and muscle aches, headaches, and other physical indicators.
When you understand the underlying causes, it becomes easier to gain an idea of how they segue into more chronic forms of anxiety disorder. These various forms of anxiety disorders include the marked fear of certain situations, people, places, or things.
Although they are similar and may even intersect, each disorder is unique and requires a specific form of treatment. Additionally, each of these disorders may be accompanied by co-occurring disorders, including other mental health conditions and substance abuse or alcohol disorders.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are similar to stress disorders. Stressful feelings are often a product of Anxiety associated with a traumatic event, extreme fear, or obsessive thoughts. There are six common forms of anxiety disorders.
This includes a fear of the future, stress over changes in schedule, feeling incomplete, and other symptoms. Chaos or disorder has physical consequences like fatigue, insomnia, elevated heart rate, trouble focusing, muscle tension, and intense worry.
Agoraphobia is an intense fear that may be hard to overcome and extremely painful to experience. Individuals who suffer from agoraphobia are afraid of being alone outside. If this is left untreated, individuals may develop an illogical fear of leaving their residence or remaining alone.
Panic disorder is outlined as a constant, recurring feeling of extreme stress, anxiety, or worry. Normally panic disorder is associated with violent anxiety attacks and intense emotions that involve stress and fear.
A phobia covers a generalized list of different mental health disorders. These include the intense fear of items, people, locations, or things. Some of these fears include flying, clowns, spiders, personal interaction, small spaces, elevators, escalators, and other situations.
Social Anxiety Disorder
This is also known as social phobia and forms a very common anxiety disorder. Individuals with this form of anxiety disorder have a fear of public speaking, remaining in large crowds, or having any reservations toward social exchanges. The fear of eating or drinking in public may also be present as well.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
This form of anxiety disorder may include the extreme fear of being separated from family or other loved ones. When these important people are absent, there is an irrational fear of them being harmed.
One of the most difficult aspects of managing and treating stress disorders is having the ability to identify them. What are some of the more specific ways that mental health professionals diagnose these disorders?
Diagnosing Anxiety Disorder
The proper treatment of anxiety disorders is only possible through a proper diagnosis. Working closely with mental health professionals, clients may complete assessments and certain therapies that assist in diagnosing these issues.
Diagnosing a number of anxiety disorders may begin with a physical exam to identify the challenges that accompany these conditions. Physicians look for a variety of symptoms including high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and even shakiness or tremors that these disorders trigger.
The next step in diagnosis includes meeting with mental health professionals to complete questionnaires and assessments to further place an accurate diagnosis. These assessments may include asking clients to provide an outline of a normal day in their lives.
Finally, clients will be asked to answer a series of questions that allow counselors to gauge how these individuals react to certain situations. Certain behaviors and reactions can further identify the presence of an anxiety disorder.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
Treatment for anxiety disorders includes a number of different psychological and medication-assisted therapies in combination with peer groups.
Psychological approaches include many different behavioral therapies or exposure therapies. Exposure therapies are more common during the presence of phobia-based anxiety disorders.
This includes slowly and increasingly exposing clients to the focus of their fears. These forms of treatment often require a high amount of courage from clients, but with the guidance of properly trained mental health professionals prove to be very effective.
Medication-assisted options include a variety of different prescription drugs with a goal of short-term administration. Some of the mediation options include:
- Non-addictive anxiety medications (Buspirone, etc.)
- Antipsychotic medications
It’s important that clients don’t consider medications as a long-term solution. These medications should only be prescribed for a short period until clients learn more natural methods of dealing with challenging symptoms of anxiety disorders.
Peer groups and peer-based counseling sessions are also significant sources of relief. These are especially effective in anxiety disorder because individuals can engage with other clients suffering from the same ailments. This is important in ensuring clients they are not alone in their struggles and meeting individuals that have battled disorders and won a huge source of inspiration.
At Icarus Behavioral Health, we also specialize in many holistic approaches to treating anxiety disorder. This includes diet options, physical activities, and other options that have been proven to garner significant results.
One of our main areas of focus is providing various forms of evidence-based treatment. Evidence-based treatment comes in many forms and is simply different types of treatment options that produce results backed by research and testing. When you take the guesswork out of treatment, the chances are much higher that clients will obtain long-term success in the battle against anxiety disorders.
Long-term Recovery from Anxiety Disorders
At Icarus Behavioral Health, we understand the difficulties of living with different anxiety disorders. At times, these disorders may seem crippling, but there is light at the end of the tunnel with the right personalized treatment plan.
Anxiety can be a normal part of life; however, it shouldn’t be the only way of life. If you or someone you know is suffering from symptoms of anxiety or an anxiety disorder, we encourage you to contact one of our admissions specialists to begin the intake process.
Our track record proves that we’re passionate about recovery and mental wellness. We would love for you to be the next member of the Icarus Behavioral Healthy family and a valued member of our alumni.