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Understanding Anxiety

Causes of Anxiety Disorders, Understanding Anxiety, Treatment Options for Anxiety,

Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric disorders, but they are often undiagnosed. This leaves people with the condition struggling to manage their symptoms without the benefit of support or treatment. Knowing the signs of anxiety may help you or someone you love to get the help that is needed to recover from this mental health condition.

Anxiety Disorders We Treat

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences sometimes. It can even be a good thing when it helps us to get things done or make important decisions. It becomes a disorder when it gets in the way of people living happy, healthy lives. At The Pavilion in Williamsburg, Virginia, we treat five major types of anxiety disorders. These include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) 
    • Persistent worrying at a level that exceeds the likely impact of the related events
    • Overthinking plans and solutions
    • Focusing on worst-case scenarios
    • Perceiving non-threatening situations as dangerous
    • Difficulty managing uncertainty
    • Inability to let go or relax
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
    • Uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (obsessions)
    • Repetitive behaviors (compulsions)
    • May involve phobias around germs, losing things, or lack of control
    • Symptoms consume the person’s time and cause them distress
  • Panic disorder
    • Overwhelming bouts of fear that may have no specific cause
    • Attacks may involve a pounding heart, sweating, shaking, difficulty breathing, nausea, dizziness, feeling disconnected or numb, and chest pain similar to a heart attack
    • Between attacks, the person may worry about when and where another attack will happen
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    • Reliving a dangerous, painful, or scary event through nightmares or flashbacks
    • Intrusive thoughts about what happened
    • Being triggered by things that remind the person of the event
    • Memory issues around the trauma
    • Guilt, shame, and other difficult feelings around the event, or numbness 
  • Social phobia (sometimes called social anxiety disorder)
    • Intense fear of being judged or rejected in social or performance settings
    • Worrying about being perceived as anxious due to blushing or stumbling over words
    • Fear of being seen as stupid, awkward, or boring
    • Avoidance of situations where they could be judged harshly
    • Distress when such things cannot be avoided, which may lead to panic attacks

Causes of Anxiety Disorders

A number of factors can lead a person to develop an anxiety disorder. These include:

  • Medical issues like heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, asthma, chronic pain
  • Substance misuse
  • Traumatic events
  • Inherited traits
  • Medication side effects

Risk Factors for Anxiety Disorders

Certain things can increase a person’s likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder, such as:

  • Having close blood relatives with anxiety disorders
  • High levels of childhood anxiety
  • High levels of stress and inability to manage stress
  • A more sensitive personality
  • Other mental illness diagnoses

Treatment Options for Anxiety

If someone is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the most likely treatment recommendations are therapy and medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common type of therapy used. CBT focuses on coping skills to manage symptoms and may include exposure therapy, where a person gradually increases their tolerance for the things that trigger them. Medication options often include antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Sedatives are sometimes used for short-term relief. Often, the most effective strategy is to combine therapy and medication. Anxiety support groups may also be helpful.

Lifestyle changes can also make it easier for people with anxiety to manage their condition. Some of the most helpful choices a person with anxiety can make are:

  • Getting regular exercise
  • Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and other drugs
  • Using visualization, meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques to manage stress
  • Prioritizing sleep
  • Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fish
  • Journaling about things that make them feel anxious and how they managed the situation

Consequences of Leaving Anxiety Untreated

When a person who has anxiety does not receive the support they need and deserve, it can lead to additional issues. Some of the most common consequences of ignoring anxiety are:

  • Depression and other mental health conditions
  • Substance misuse from trying to self-medicate symptoms
  • Sleeping problems
  • Physical health complaints including digestive and bowel problems, headaches, and chronic pain
  • Social isolation
  • Suicidal thoughts

At The Pavilion, we have a wide range of treatment options that we can customize to meet the needs of each client we serve. We are here to help our patients and their support systems to recover from the difficult experience of navigating mental illness.

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