Adult Anxiety Treatment

Anxiety Disorders are the most prevalent mental health problems in the United States, surpassing alcohol and drug abuse. Affecting one out of every five people, these disorders are complex conditions that can manifest in a variety of ways.

Most of us have experienced anxiety at some point in our lives. It is a normal response to threatening situations. Under certain circumstances, anxiety can actually help us to evaluate and mobilize our resources in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones. In moderation, it can also help us to be more efficient and improve our performance in some tasks. However, in excess, anxiety can hinder our abilities and interfere with our daily lives. At extreme levels, it can severely impair our functioning. When a person’s life becomes disrupted, he/she may be suffering from an Anxiety Disorder and may benefit from professional intervention. 

Panic Disorder

In order to fully describe Panic Disorder, it is first necessary to define panic attacks. A panic attack is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) published by the American Psychiatric Association as “a discrete period of intense fear or discomfort”, including four or more of the following symptoms

  • sweating
  • trembling or shaking
  • shortness of breath
  • a sensation of choking
  • chest pain
  • heart palpitations or pounding heart or rapid heartbeat
  • nausea or abdominal pain
  • dizziness or feeling faint
  • fear of losing control
  • fear of dying
  • numbness/tingling sensation
  • feelings of being detached from reality
  • feelings of being detached from oneself.

The primary feature of Panic Disorder is a history of panic attacks, as defined above, followed by one or more of the following symptoms:

  • persistent anxiety about having further panic attacks.
  • excessive concern about the implications and/or consequences of the panic attacks
  • substantial modification of daily activities in an effort to avoid further panic attacks.

While some may not consider Panic Disorder to be a true OC Spectrum Disorder, these three symptoms indicate that the condition has obsessive-compulsive qualities that are quite similar to OCD. In fact, recent studies indicate that approximately 6% of those with OCD also have Panic Disorder. Both Panic Disorder and OCD are categorized as anxiety disorders in the DSM-IV, and both involve intense, irrational fears. Furthermore, an individual with Panic Disorder can be extremely obsessive about having more panic attacks, as well as compulsively avoidant of situations in which he or she fears a panic attack may occur. In extreme cases, this avoidant behavior may evolve into Agoraphobia, in which the individual markedly restricts daily activities in an effort to prevent exposure to situations that he or she fears may result in the onset of a panic attack. Agoraphobia may become so severe that the individual never leaves his or her home.

As these symptoms demonstrate, Panic Disorder can cause significant emotional distress. Panic Disorder may greatly impair academic and professional functioning, and can have a profoundly negative impact on interpersonal relationships.

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is fear of being in any situation from which escape might be difficult or embarrassing or in which it might be difficult to get help if something were to go wrong. These situations are either avoided completely or are endured with marked distress. Typical situations that might bother someone with Agoraphobia include being outside the home alone, standing in a line, crossing bridges or riding in buses, trains or cars. Agoraphobia is a condition where the sufferer becomes anxious in environments that are unfamiliar or where he or she perceives that they have little control. Triggers for this anxiety may include wide open spaces, crowds, or traveling (even short distances). This anxiety is often compounded by a fear of social embarrassment, as the agoraphobic fears the onset of a panic attack and appearing distraught in public. Some people may have it and be able to function in society but many are home bound. Agoraphobia by definition however is fear of open spaces.

OCD

What Is OCD?

OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. A very simple description of OCD is that it is a condition in which an individual experiences recurrent obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are defined as repetitive thoughts, ideas, or impulses that an individual experiences as inappropriate, intrusive, and unwanted. Compulsions are defined as repetitive behaviors that an individual feels driven to perform in an effort to avoid or decrease the anxiety created by obsessions.

In OCD, obsessions are not just exaggerated fears about real-life situations, and usually are not directly connected to commonplace problems such as normal relationship, academic, or financial concerns. In fact, the individual with OCD is quite often very distressed precisely because he or she recognizes that the thoughts are excessive, irrational and/or inappropriate.

 OCD compulsions may appear in various forms, including recurrent observable behaviors such as hand washing, repetitive “mental compulsions” such as praying rituals, or avoidant behaviors that have an almost phobic quality. Often, the obsessions and compulsions seen in OCD are a source of considerable shame and embarrassment, leading the individual to go to great lengths to hide his or her symptoms. OCD obsessions and compulsions can be extremely time-consuming, often taking up many hours of a person’s day. As a result, OCD frequently causes significant emotional distress, and may greatly interfere with academic and professional functioning, as well as interpersonal relationships.

 OCD compulsions may appear in various forms, including recurrent observable behaviors such as hand washing, repetitive “mental compulsions” such as praying rituals, or avoidant behaviors that have an almost phobic quality. Often, the obsessions and compulsions seen in OCD are a source of considerable shame and embarrassment, leading the individual to go to great lengths to hide his or her symptoms. OCD obsessions and compulsions can be extremely time-consuming, often taking up many hours of a person’s day. As a result, OCD frequently causes significant emotional distress, and may greatly interfere with academic and professional functioning, as well as interpersonal relationships.

School Refusal

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Medical/Dental Anxiety

Fears of medical and dental procedures are common in children. Nearly all children experience some anxiety during regular medical and dental checkups and, of course, anxiety often worsens when “shots” are involved. Most children are able to overcome their fears and it does not stop them from getting necessary immunizations, injections, blood work, or dental procedures.

But, if the fear is so great that it interferes with a child getting necessary medical and dental help, then it may be a condition known as ‘medical phobia’.

The main feature of medical phobia is excessive distress and a desire to avoid most medical or dental procedures. Often, even minor medical procedures have the power to effect excessive distress and even “panic” in children effected by medical phobia. When faced with the prospect of a trip to the doctor or dentist, these children may experience an array of intense anxiety symptoms that include sudden sweatiness, rapid breathing, heart palpitations, and an overwhelming desire to run away.

Medical phobia is relatively common in both adults and children. An unusually large percentage of those with medical phobia have relatives with medical phobia. Individuals with needle phobia usually feel intense fear and distress when faced with a needle situation, and will have an increased heart rate and blood pressure.

Following the initial increased heart rate and blood pressure, the body compensates with the opposite — a vasovagal reflex which causes a lowering of the heart rate and blood pressure. In some individuals, this vasovagal reflex is so extreme that the person may faint.

It is normal for many children to dislike needles. But if it’s to the point where your child is refusing and/or too overwhelmed to have a needle you may wish to seek help from a professional.