Understanding Anxiety: Treatment, Types, and Symptoms
Despite affecting over 40 million Americans 18 and older, anxiety treatment only reaches about 36% of them. The stigma against mental illness could partially cause this gap. However, it’s important to remember that having an anxiety disorder is not a personal failing, and help is available.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a form of fear that can be healthy for human development within reason. Healthy amounts of fear protect us from harm and help us grow. However, intense fear that appears frequently or affects daily life is no longer helpful and may indicate an anxiety disorder.
While some symptoms can overlap, types of anxiety can vary greatly.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most common. People with GAD often experience excessive worrying or pressure, even without a trigger to those emotions. Many individuals describe:
- Muscle aches
- Constant irritation
- Sleeping problems
- Difficulty concentrating
People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder often experience unwanted thoughts and repeat actions to prevent or soothe them. For example, an obsession could be fearing death when leaving a door open. Then the compulsion, or ritual, would be checking behind the door several times before closing it.
Other symptoms include:
- Uncontrolled compulsions or rituals
- Extended time focused on these behaviors
- Receiving temporary relief from the rituals
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder often develops after experiencing terrifying events, like natural disasters, military combat, accidents, or abuse. Certain stimuli may cause the symptoms to appear, leading to avoidance of situations or things related to their triggers. PTSD can be temporary or chronic.
Some symptoms include:
- Sudden mood changes
- Feelings of guilt or anger
- Flashbacks or bad dreams
Individuals with this disorder experience sudden episodes of intense fear called panic attacks. These episodes can occur frequently, often without a clear trigger, and have very physical reactions, such as:
- Chest pain
A person with an anxiety disorder can have a panic attack without a panic disorder. Professionals diagnose panic disorders based on their frequency and other factors.
What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?
Anxiety symptoms often appear from exceedingly stressful situations or trauma. However, individuals can have a genetic or neurological predisposition toward anxious thoughts. Common emotions that come with anxiety include:
- Trouble concentrating
- Phobias (intense, often irrational fears)
If you find you have felt the same anxious symptoms for over three months, you may have an anxiety disorder. When these feelings interfere with your daily life, anxiety treatment can help.
How Is Anxiety Treated?
Medical providers diagnose anxiety disorders through an evaluation to see if you meet the criteria. They may refer you to a specialist, like a psychiatrist, to begin a treatment plan.
A specific type of medicine, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can treat and manage some anxiety symptoms. Your provider may prescribe SSRIs like Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, and Celexa to treat anxiety.
Some patients may need a benzodiazepine, a medication that helps alleviate neural overreaction. A psychiatrist can prescribe them in addition to suggesting other lifestyle changes.
Taking prescribed medicines is just one way to manage anxiety. This treatment works better when combined with counseling, meditation, and exercise can help reduce anxiety symptoms.
To schedule an evaluation and learn about anxiety treatment, please complete our online New Patient Intake Form. Crescent City Psychiatric staff reviews each submission and will help you schedule a new patient appointment. You can also call us at (985) 249-1322.