If you’re struggling with an anxiety disorder, you probably know the ways in which the symptoms are impacting your life. Anxiety is a perfectly normally emotion that most people feel from time to time when facing a problem at work or school or before making an important decision. Anxiety disorders, however, are far different than standard feelings of anxiety – these disorders, including panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder, can lead to such distress that it interferes with a person’s ability to lead a normal life. Coping with an anxiety disorder can be tremendously challenging, leading you to act in ways you normally wouldn’t and preventing you from living your life. Left untreated, anxiety disorders can be crippling and disabling.
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety
Everyone feels anxiety from time to time – it’s a normal reaction to stressful situations such as starting a new job, taking a big exam, or going out on a first date. Some anxiety can even be beneficial, allowing for increased focus and alertness and can help with problem solving abilities. People with anxiety disorders, however, find that their anxiety is far from helpful—in fact, it can be so harmful that it interferes with daily activities, hinders interpersonal relationships, and decreases productivity at work or in school. There are a number of types of anxiety disorders, each of which can lead to tremendous challenges, including:
Agoraphobia is characterized by avoidance of situations a person is afraid may lead to panic, most notably in public places in which crowds are present. Symptoms of agoraphobia may be so severe that an individual is fearful to leave his or her home.
Panic disorder is characterized by feelings of terror that strike repeatedly and without provocation or warning. Symptoms of panic disorder include physical sensations such as choking, chest pain, or heart palpitations.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after exposure to a particularly traumatic event such as a natural disaster, sexual assault, or death of a loved one. Symptoms of PTSD include intrusive memories, flashbacks, deliberate avoidance of potentially triggering stimuli, and emotional numbness.
Social phobias or social anxiety disorder include intense, overwhelming preoccupations or self-consciousness about normal, everyday social situations. These anxieties are often centered on a fear of being judged by others or acting in a way that may cause mortification or shame.
Phobias or specific phobias are an intense fear about a specific object or situation, such as enclosed spaces, spiders, or flying. Specific phobias are generally inappropriate for the situation and lead to the avoidance of unremarkable situations.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder that leads to unfounded, disproportionate, and unrealistic worry or tension in absence of a stimuli. Often called “free floating anxiety,” people who have GAD may experience anxiety that occurs without provocation.
While anxiety disorders can be tremendously crippling, with proper therapeutic interventions and treatment, those with anxiety disorders can learn the skills needed to lead a happy, healthy, productive life.
How to Help a Loved One or Family Member Seek Treatment
If your loved one has been struggling with an anxiety disorder, you probably feel helpless as you watch them spiral downward into crippling anxiety. As their life becomes smaller and smaller, you may find that you’re stuck covering many of their responsibilities. You may feel frustrated, angry, and guilty for your emotions. You know that your loved one needs help to overcome his or her anxiety disorder but you may not know how to guide him or her into treatment. Here are some tips for gently guiding your loved one into treatment for anxiety disorders:
Understand anxiety disorders: One of the best ways you can help you and your loved one is by learning all you can about anxiety disorders. This can help you understand the best treatment options for anxiety disorders, explain some of the symptoms your loved one may exhibit, and empower yourself.
Unconditional support: Anxiety disorders, like other mental illnesses, are not a choice, and your loved one has not chosen to experience the symptoms he or she faces. Offer your loved one unconditional love and support for his or her disorder, but do make sure that you impart the fact that your loved one does need to take charge and seek help for his or her disorder.
Research treatment for anxiety disorders: There are a number of ways that anxiety disorders are treated. Call local treatment facilities to determine what their protocol is for treatment of anxiety disorders. When you find a facility that best matches your loved one’s needs, make an appointment to tour the campus with your loved one to alleviate any stress or anxiety about entering an inpatient center.
Why Seek Inpatient Treatment
If you’re coping with an untreated or improperly managed anxiety disorder, you may have watched helplessly as your life began to spin out of control. You may awake each morning hoping that your anxiety will abate only to find that you’re racked with such anxiety that you can’t even get out of bed. Unable to complete responsibilities at work and school, you may be on the verge of getting fired or flunking your classes, which further increases your anxiety. Attempts to control your anxiety may have led to drug or alcohol use, which helped for a short while until you became addicted. You may not know if it’s worth it to continue battling and you may feel like giving up. It’s time to regain control of your life.
An inpatient program for anxiety disorders that combines medication management with a number of therapeutic interventions has been shown to be one of the best ways to control symptoms of intense anxiety. Inpatient treatment centers allow clients to escape the stresses and pressures of daily life in order to focus solely upon what matters most – recovery. Through an inpatient program, clients will learn tips for coping with anxiety triggers, adjust medication as appropriate, and bond with others struggling with similar disorders.
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorders
Medication may be used at the beginning of your stay to reduce unhelpful anxiety symptoms. Some people may taper down their medication during their stay with us as they learn more adaptive coping mechanisms. Others may require more long-term medication management to treat anxiety disorders or any co-occurring mental health disorders.
Individual therapy can be very helpful for people with anxiety disorders as it allows for one-on-one time to discuss the ways in which anxiety disorders have impacted your life. Many of our therapists find that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a helpful tool for helping our clients with anxiety disorders. Through CBT, you’ll learn to identify and change unhealthy thought patterns so that you can learn to see the world in a healthier manner.
Group therapy can be tremendously valuable for people with anxiety disorders as often the symptoms of the disorder have led to social isolation in the person’s life. Groups will allow you to interact with others struggling with similar disorders so that you can all grow, learn, and heal. Groups may focus on topics such as coping with anxiety triggers, managing stress, and co-occurring disorders.
Family therapy is vital to recovery and we aim to involve family in all aspects of your care and recovery. Through family sessions, we’ll educate your loved ones about anxiety disorders, connect them with community resources for their healing, and focus upon ways in which your loved ones can support you during your recovery.