Everyone feels anxious at some point in their lives but how can you tell when you’re suffering from anxiety disorder? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), extreme fear and worry that does not subside may point to an anxiety disorder. When a person has an anxiety disorder, the frequency and intensity of anxiety may be overwhelming enough to interfere with normal daily functioning.
The APA also identifies several major types of disorders, from generalized anxiety disorder that involves recurring fears and worries about matters such as health or finances, to phobia-related anxiety that are focused on intense fears of certain objects and situations, to panic disorder that involves strong, unprovoked feelings of terror and dread. No matter what type of anxiety disorder a person suffers from, the symptoms of an anxiety attack remain the same: debilitating fear, shortness of breath, insomnia, nausea, trembling, dizziness, and a racing heartbeat. Anxiety disorders also often surface in adolescence to early adulthood.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and medications
Another common factor all anxiety disorders share is their treatability. The APA says that the prospects for long-term recovery from anxiety disorders are good, but only if individuals seek appropriate professional treatment.
According to psychologists, most cases of anxiety-related disorders are treatable through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) administered by properly trained mental health professionals such as licensed psychologists. Research has shown that CBT can be highly effective; as such, many psychologists use this form of therapy to help people identify their triggers and learn to manage the effect of these triggers.
Through behavioral therapy, psychologists use techniques to reduce or completely stop the negative behaviors associated with anxiety disorder. For instance, patients with anxiety disorders may be taught how to relax and use deep breathing techniques to counter the panic and the rapid, shallow breathing caused by anxiety attacks.
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients understand that their thoughts and their overall mental state contribute to the symptoms of anxiety disorders. Changing thought patterns reduce the likelihood of panic attacks occurring and can even reduce their intensity, too. This increased awareness of their mental state, combined with behavioral techniques, can help patients tolerate anxiety-inducing situations in a safe, controlled manner.
Sometimes, psychologists may also use group therapy to deliver treatment and provide support for individuals suffering from anxiety disorder. Group therapy can be an effective approach in that it lets patients feel a sense of camaraderie as they go through treatment for their disorder. Family psychotherapy is also an option for family members of people suffering from anxiety disorder. Through family psychotherapy, family members learn new ways of interacting without aggravating anxiety and other associated negative behaviors.
In some cases, appropriate medications can also play a role in treatment alongside psychotherapy. If medications are needed, a patient’s care is usually collaborated on by more than one health professional. Patients must understand that all drugs have side effects, and these side effects must be closely monitored by the physician who provided the prescriptions.
The importance of seeking treatment
Psychologists emphasize that there should be no shame in seeking treatment for anxiety disorders. These disorders can have severe, life-threatening consequences if left untreated. For instance, a person who suffers from frequent panic attacks may start living his life in fear of triggering an attack, thus avoiding any situation that may possibly cause anxiety. This can have a huge impact on his quality of life and may even interfere with his ability to carry out the basic activities of daily living.
More important, people who have untreated anxiety disorders often also suffer from other psychological disorders as a result, such as depression. Research has found that these people are more likely to abuse alcohol and other harmful substances. In these cases, a person’s relationships with family members, friends, and coworkers become affected by his anxiety disorder, too.
By seeking help from a licensed psychologist or psychotherapists, people who suffer from anxiety disorders can regain control of their emotions, thoughts, and lives.
The length of psychological treatment
According to the APA, majority of people suffering from anxiety disorders are able to reduce or completely alleviate their anxiety symptoms after several months of appropriate psychotherapy. These people are capable of returning to their normal daily lives. Many patients start seeing improvement in their symptoms and general wellbeing within a few treatment sessions.
One factor that affects the course of treatment for the patient is his or her comfort level with the psychotherapist. From the outset, the patient should be comfortable with his or her psychotherapist so they can work together on developing the right treatment plan. There must be a sense of teamwork and support between the patient and therapist for treatment to be ultimately effective.
Treatment plans also work best when they are tailored to the patient’s specific needs, which depend on the type of anxiety disorder he or she suffers from. Patients adjust differently to various types of treatment, so adjustments may have to be made before a treatment plan is fully pursued.