Anxiety and panic disorders don’t have to rule your life

We all feel anxious from time to time … taking a test … waiting for a medical diagnosis … making a big decision. Anxiety is a normal part of life.

But when anxiety takes over, controlling you and making it difficult to work or attend school, participate in day-to-day family life or enjoy something as simple as a car ride, it may be time to consider whether anxiety disorder may be the cause.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, nearly 40 million Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder, making it the No. 1 mental health diagnosis in the country. In this article, we’ll look at three types of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorders.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is often described as feeling restless, wound up, or on edge. Those with generalized anxiety disorder may find it difficult to concentrate, become easily fatigued and be easily irritated. Muscle tension, difficulty sleeping, both falling asleep and staying asleep, and the inability to control worry are often present.

Individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder have a fear of situations in which they expect to feel embarrassed, judged, or rejected. They often fear offending others. Symptoms include:  feeling anxious about being with other people; difficulty talking with others; feeling very self-conscious in front of others; excessive worry about being humiliated, embarrassed or rejected; fear of being judged; worrying for days or weeks about events where there will be other people; avoiding social situations; difficulty in making and keeping friends; blushing, sweating or trembling around others; and feeling nauseous when others are around.

Those with Panic Disorders may experience recurrent, unexpected attacks of panic for no clear reason. These panic episodes are often described as periods of intense fear, with physical manifestations:

  • Heart palpitations, a “pounding” heart or very rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling and shaking that cannot be controlled
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed or faint
  • A sense of being short of breath, unable to breathe or choking
  • A feeling of impending doom

Panic disorder clients often feel out of control and suffer intense worry about when the next attack will occur. Many times, they will avoid places or situations in which panic attacks have occurred. Panic disorder symptoms mimic heart attacks, asthma exacerbation or thyroid disease. For this reason, it’s important to talk to your doctor about any symptoms you may have and undergo a thorough physical exam. When physical causes have been ruled out, it’s time to seek assistance from a mental health professional.


Treatment

Successful treatment of anxiety disorders depends upon several factors, the most important one being the individual’s willingness to seek care and participate fully in treatment.

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is directed at the client’s specific anxieties. Psychotherapy can be quite successful. the client and therapist fully explore the disorder and its causes.  

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT provides the client with different ways of thinking about, behaving and reacting to anxiety-producing situations. CBT often involves two approaches: cognitive therapy and exposure therapy. In cognitive therapy, the client identifies, challenges and neutralizes the unhelpful thoughts that underlie the disorder.

Exposure therapy focuses on confronting fears, thereby freeing clients to engage in avoided activities. This can be uncomfortable, but relaxation exercises and guided imagery can help the client through therapy.

Families can be of significant help to those dealing with anxiety disorders and play an important role in helping their loved one overcome an anxiety disorder. Families learn to be supportive and how not to perpetuate symptoms. Therapists can assist families in learning and perfecting these skills.

Stress management techniques such as meditation, guided imagery, and breathing techniques, can help those with anxiety disorders manage their symptoms or even prevent a panic attack. Aerobic exercise has also been shown to be effective in controlling anxiety disorders.

Clients and mental health professionals work together to find the right combination of therapy, lifestyle changes, and support to address their condition.

Since 1966, Bluegrass has been helping children, adults and families in central Kentucky successfully manage a wide range of mental health conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorders. Our 24-Hour Help Line is available for support and to get started with treatment call 1.800.928.8000.