According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “an estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults had an anxiety disorder in the past year” and “an estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.”
These statistics make an impression, but it can be easy to forget that each data point represents a person gripped with worry about things in their life: a loved one, their health, their finances, the future. At SoCal Mental Health’s Orange County mental health treatment center, we use evidence-based therapies to help clients address and manage various types of anxiety disorders.
General Anxiety Disorder
One of the most diagnosed types of anxiety is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). People with generalized anxiety disorder have intrusive thoughts and worries, with symptoms that are present most days for at least six months. Individuals imagine bad outcomes for personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday circumstances. Persistent fear and anxiety can affect sleep, mood, and cognition.
Ongoing symptoms can cause significant problems in areas such as social interactions, school, and work. Some may try to cope with generalized anxiety disorder by avoiding people, places, and things that worsen their symptoms, which can lead to disconnection from friends and family and inference with job opportunities. Work performance, education, and personal relationships can suffer when generalized anxiety disorders go unmanaged.
Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by overriding stress that is recurrent and not always tied to a specific event.
Common symptoms of generalized anxiety include:
- Restlessness, pent-up energy, edgy feelings
- Easily tired
- Lack of concentration and ability to focus on tasks
- Holding tension in the body
- Lack of control over emotions
- Problems getting enough sleep or getting only shallow, unrestful sleep
When these symptoms persist, quality of life can take a downturn. Individuals may find themselves missing appointments, losing their appetite, or having less engagement with activities they normally enjoy. The worries themselves focus on everyday things: responsibilities, the health of a partner, things that might seem minor such as errands, car repairs, or keeping appointments.
Lack of sleep can also lead to a number of poor health outcomes including everything from increased alcohol use to depression. Generalized anxiety disorder can lead to ongoing arousal of the sympathetic nervous system, which can trigger “fight or flight” instincts and flood the body with stress hormones like cortisol.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Another common type of anxiety is social anxiety disorder. Also called social phobia, people suffering from social anxiety disorder have a persisting fear that others are watching and judging them as they go about their daily lives. A person may feel anxious or afraid in a specific social situation, or just in general.
While most people may experience some nervousness when encountering new people, those suffering from social anxiety disorder have intense fear regarding talking to and being seen by others. They may be sensitive to criticism or believe that an otherwise benign conversation caused someone to think of them negatively. Despite their best efforts to “go with the flow,” they still find themselves preoccupied with worrying about what others think of them.
Symptoms of social anxiety disorder can be truly challenging. The mind-body connection can be all-too apparent for those coping with the cycle of self-consciousness. While many of the symptoms are psychological, social anxiety can also have physical manifestations.
Symptoms of social anxiety can include:
- Worrying weeks in advance of an event
- Difficulty talking
- Difficulty breathing
- Profuse sweating
- Difficulty trusting one’s instincts
- The feeling of “drawing a blank” in one’s mind
Normal things such as meeting new people, asking someone out on a date, interviewing for a job they want, answering a teacher’s question, or talking to the bus driver can be sources of extreme discomfort for those with social anxiety disorder. Everyday behaviors like eating in front of others or using a public restroom can cause anxiety or fear. At the root is the fear that they will be humiliated, judged, and rejected. They may break off plans they once looked forward to in an attempt to avoid public scrutiny.
People with untreated social anxiety disorder are less likely to marry and are more likely to have fewer friends and acquaintances than their peers. Individuals that leave their social phobia unmanaged have reported struggling with educational goals and quitting jobs to avoid giving presentations or taking part in high-pressure meetings. Social anxiety sufferers are also more likely to turn to using alcohol or other substances to relieve their symptoms. No one should have to compromise the good things in life due to anxiety, and a proper diagnosis is the first step to a more serene way of living.
Psychotherapy and medication are common treatments for anxiety disorders. Medication is prescribed as needed and is a collaborative effort between a mental health professional and the client.
To treat anxiety and anxiety symptoms, SoCal Mental Health utilizes:
- Medication – antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can be used to treat symptoms of anxiety. Anti-anxiety drugs come with the risk of addiction or tolerance so should be monitored closely by a mental health professional or doctor.
- Psychotherapy – also known as talk therapy, is a beneficial way to treat many mental health disorders including anxiety. Collaborative efforts between the therapist and client will help establish treatment goals.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) – the “golden standard” of psychotherapies that is evidence-based and used to treat many mental health disorders including depression. This therapy is based on the idea that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all intertwined, and changing one can affect them all.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) – a type of psychotherapy that focuses on practices of mindfulness that can help align beliefs and morals with behaviors. With this therapy tools to stay present, find acceptance, and commit to action are taught and practiced.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – evidence-based psychotherapy that focuses on teaching coping skills to treat anxiety disorders. The acceptance skills mindfulness and distress tolerance along with the change skills interpersonal effectiveness and emotion regulation are the basis of this therapy.
- Holistic Therapy – mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), meditation, art therapy, and aromatherapy are used to complement evidence-based therapeutic methods and enhance the effects of treatment.
How We Can Help
At SoCal Mental Health, we have years of combined experience dealing with anxiety disorders to help clients experience real peace of mind. With an accurate mental health diagnosis, we can identify anxiety disorders and create a treatment plan that takes advantage of the most up-to-date therapeutic modalities. One-on-one care and therapy can be combined with proper medication to manage symptoms and address the challenges of daily life.
We provide clients the care they need in a supportive community that builds confidence and hope in a better, more connected tomorrow. Anxiety is a part of any life, but if it feels unavoidable for you or a loved one, there is a solution. Don’t live with that feeling one more day than you have to. By reaching out to SoCal Mental Health, you can get started on the path to an easier, more peaceful way of life.