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Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a recurrent state of excessive nervousness that is found in a number of mental disorders. It is often accompanied by compulsive behavior. A disorder is commonly defined as a disturbance in the normal functioning of an individual’s physiological condition.

Modern psychiatry recognizes a group of mental disorders, known as anxiety disorders, which are characterized by specific mental and physical symptoms. Similar to mental disorders, a number of abnormal psychosomatic symptoms are attributed to anxiety disorders, such as fears, phobias and a heightened state of nervousness. Anxiety disorders, like other mental disorders, have been attributed to genetic predisposition, extreme circumstances, and formative life experiences. Common mental symptoms of an anxiety disorder include severe apprehension, unsettling memories, fear of impending danger, fear of losing control, or obsessive thoughts concerning the individual’s sense of security. Common physical symptoms include nausea, rapid heart rate, sweating, dizziness, abdominal pain or a general sense of malaise.

Like mental disorders, anxiety disorders can be treated by therapy. Treatment of anxiety disorders may include psychotherapy, medication, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, and relaxation training.

Therapy may take place in different settings, such as a counselor’s office, rehab centers offering in-patient or out-patient care, or at residential rehab centers

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) may be described as the presence of distressing thoughts in the mind with a concomitant urge to carry out certain acts, rituals, or physical gestures with the aim of dispelling the stressful thoughts. For example, a person who fears leaving a door unlocked may check the lock again and again. Although the individual may perform the ritual, the distressing thought pattern is renewed and the obsessive-compulsive behavior is repeated.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be brought on by life experiences, usually of a terrifying nature, in which the individual suffered grave physical or emotional harm or was threatened with such harm. Military combat, accidents, disasters, sexual assaults, and child abuse can trigger the onset of PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD may include flashbacks, nightmares related to the trigger event, social withdrawal, anger, depression, or hyper-vigilance. Individuals suffering from PTSD are often described as appearing numb or disconnected from life around them.

Social anxiety disorder, sometimes called social phobia, is characterized by an abnormal sense of self-consciousness in social situations and may be accompanied by the fear of being judged, embarrassed, or humiliated in front of others. Symptoms of social anxiety disorder may include extreme shyness or avoidance of social situations altogether. Social anxiety disorder may be limited to very specific types of social situations, such as the fear of speaking in front of an audience, or it can be so severe that an individual may experience symptoms in almost any social situation.

A specific phobia is characterized by an exaggerated fear of a specific activity, object, or situation that does not present a real danger to the individual. Common specific phobias include the fear of snakes, the fear of heights, or the fear of seeing blood. An individual with a specific phobia will be so affected by anxiety that their normal daily activity is disrupted.

Anxiety Mental Disorders and Stress

Stress can be defined as the body’s physiological reaction to external stimuli, known as stressors, which are either real or imaginary. Stress is brought on by thoughts or situations that make an individual feel angry, anxious, frustrated, or threatened. When individuals are so overwrought by stress that they find themselves unable to function properly on a day-to-day basis, they may develop an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders, like other mental disorders, are adversely affected by high stress levels.

Stress in normal daily life, such as driving in heavy traffic, can make most people feel anxious. Most people recognize that some amount of stress is a normal part of life. Generally, the stress of ordinary daily situations does not trigger or produce specific anxiety disorders or other mental disorders. However, a prolonged exposure to high levels of stress, or situations imbued with extraordinary levels of stress, can induce a state of poor physical and mental health in an individual. Persistent stress coupled with poor health can lead to an anxiety disorder. In addition, an individual who is already suffering from one or more mental disorders is more likely to develop an anxiety disorder. Like other mental disorders, anxiety disorders are chronic conditions that can worsen considerably over time if left untreated.

Not all mental disorders are connected to stress-related causes. However, all anxiety disorders are directly connected to how an individual manages stress. For an individual suffering from an anxiety disorder, even a relatively minor stressful situation can trigger a panic attack or a disruptive emotional experience. In other words, even minor amounts of stress can easily increase to unmanageable proportions. Although stress is not the only cause of an anxiety disorder, stress is an integral part of the complex physiological problem of anxiety disorders.

Medications for treating mental disorders can be administered in different settings, such as at home or at various rehab centers. Among the medications that may be administered to treat PTSD are bupropion, duloxetine, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, and venlafaxine. For OCD, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as citalopram, escitalopram, fluvoxamine, paroxetine and sertraline may be prescribed. Medications for treating social anxiety disorder include beta blockers to relieve performance anxiety; antidepressants, such as fluoxetine, venlafazine, and sertraline; and fast-acting benzodiazepines for serious cases. Because of the particularity of specific phobias, there are no proven drug treatments for this anxiety disorder. However, tranquilizers and benzodiazepines can be taken prior to a stressful situation that will reduce anxiety to manageable levels. In addition, if normal daily activities are disrupted by a specific phobia, SSRIs may be helpful.

Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

There are two types of treatment for anxiety disorders: medication and psychotherapy. Most treatment strategies will use both. Individuals suffering from anxiety disorders can be treated at counselor’s offices, residential settings, or rehab centers.

Although there is some overlap between treatments for mental disorders, each type of anxiety disorder is treated by a specific program of medication and psychotherapy. OCD is treated by behavioral therapies, such as aversion therapy, thought switching, and implosion therapy. PTSD has been effectively treated by exposure therapy for combat trauma; eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy has proven to be useful for rape victims. Unlike other anxiety disorders, medication has proven to be somewhat less effective in treating specific phobias. Instead, specific phobias are treated with psycho-therapeutic methods, such as relaxation techniques, progressive desensitization, and exposure and response prevention.

Like other mental disorders, anxiety disorders can be treated in a variety of rehab centers. Because anxiety disorders are often closely intertwined with chemical dependencies, depression or other diagnoses, rehab centers offer an effective environment for treating anxiety disorders. Rehab centers can accommodate individuals suffering from mild to severe anxiety disorders. Some individuals may find rehab centers are helpful for restoring a sense of well-being in their lives.

Among the types of rehab centers that treat mental disorders are rehab centers that offer out-patient programs, rehab centers that offer in-patient programs, and residential rehab centers.

Rehab centers that offer out-patient programs accommodate patients who wish to keep up with their daily responsibilities, such as school or work, while continuing to live at the treatment facility. Rehab centers that offer in-patient programs usually feature extensive clinical facilities, a full staff of professionals, and twenty-four hour care. These programs are effective at treating the most severe cases of anxiety disorder. Residential rehab centers offer twenty-four hour care in a residential setting. These highly structured programs accept patients for long-term care, typically six to twelve months, and are effective at treating more severe cases of anxiety disorder.

In addition to rehab centers, anxiety disorders may be treated at counselor’s offices or in group therapy sessions held in public settings.

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