At Milestones Ranch Malibu, we understand how tension-filled and encumbered life can be for be for those who suffer from an anxiety disorder and how difficult it is to watch a loved one struggle. Our expert medical staff works closely with our experienced and caring clinicians to provide the best possible treatment for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders, as well as any additional addiction or other mental health issue.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety, in simple terms, means fear in its various forms – dread, worry, nervousness, tension, upset. Though the term “anxiety” has a negative connotation; it is – in small doses – a useful part of our genetic make-up and essential for survival. Without some degree of anxiety, we would walk off cliffs, pick up poisonous snakes, and remain blithely unaware of hazardous situations. However, some people experience too much anxiety, too often. This is called an “anxiety disorder.”
The following are some of the more common anxiety disorders:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by persistent tension and worry about numerous, every day situations, and the fear is unfounded. For instance, you may worry constantly family, health, finances, and work – even if all these domains are relatively stable. The person is unable to control the worry.
Specific Phobia is an exaggerated fear of common objects or situations, e.g., spiders, dogs, heights, water, darkness. The object or situation provokes extreme tension and discomfort. Also, people develop a habit of avoidance or will endure the situation or object, but with severe distress. Although many people are uneasy about specific situations, true phobias affect quality of life, and ability to perform daily activities.
Social Anxiety Disorder (former called Social Phobia) is characterized by unrealistic fear of social situations and negative evaluation from others. Usually, a person with this disorder is disproportionately afraid of how he or she will appear in the company of others. Social Anxiety disordered clients have a fear of embarrassing or even humiliating themselves in front of others and will regularly decline social events and obligations, (or endure the situation with extreme distress).
Panic Disorder involves recurrent and unexpected periods of extreme panic, known as panic attacks. This is a psychological experience where one feels intense fear and a sense of “going crazy”, or that death is impending, coupled with real physiological changes such as increased heart rate, sweating, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or shaking. Symptoms often mimic those of a heart attack, and many people – before an accurate diagnosis – seek admission to an emergency room, thinking they’re having a heart attack.
(Certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders, diabetes, hypoglycemia and adrenal disorders may produce symptoms of anxiety. When dealing with possible anxiety disorders, a complete examination by a physician is necessary to rule out organic causes.)
What are some common symptoms of anxiety disorders?
The symptoms of anxiety can be alarming, and may include:
- chest pain
- racing pulse
- shortness of breath
- tingling in hands or feet
- hot flashes or chills
- choking feeling
- sense of unreality, or dreamlike sensations
What is the neurochemistry of anxiety?
The brain and body are helping deal with a perceived threat. In broad terms, you are preparing for “fight or flight.” Blood pressure, heart rate, blood flow to the muscles, and sweating increase as immune and digestive system functions decrease, enhancing physical performance for short bursts of time.
The hormone adrenaline, released from the adrenal glands in times of threat or emergency, plays a central role in the short-term stress reaction. This is the hormone that enables us to lift a heavy object off a trapped child, or run from a dangerous, unleashed dog.
The problem with the anxious client is that s/he cannot distinguish between a major threat (an oncoming car out of control) and a minor threat (a neighbor looking at him/her askance). One’s nervous system is like an alarm designed to go off when a burglar breaks down the front door, but rings when a fly lands on it.
Treatment for Anxiety:
As with many other psychiatric illnesses, anxiety is treated with psychotherapy in conjunction with non-habit forming medication (if deemed appropriate by a psychiatrist).
Cognitive-Behavioral therapy is the most widely recognized, empirically proven method of diminishing anxiety. The clinician assists the client skill-building to recognize thoughts that foster anxiety, and teaching behaviors that will lessen anxiety. Some additional techniques used to diminish anxiety include:
- Calmative breathing
- Relaxation exercises
- Controlled worry (allow only a certain amount of time allotted to worry each day)
- Gradual confront of feared object or situation (either in real life or in your imagination)
- Avoidance of caffeine, drugs, and alcohol
- Relaxing activities, e.g., listening to music
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocressing (EMDR)
We hope the information contained in this article has been helpful to you. Please feel free to contact us at Milestones Ranch Malibu with any questions or comments you may have. Call: (800) 791-6859 for assistance.