Find peace at Serene Behavioral Health.
All humans worry. We may feel stage fright during a performance or butterflies before giving a big presentation. Similarly, we might find ourselves concerned about the well-being of our friends or family members. Occasional nervousness is a sign that your brain is working properly – its fight-or-flight systems are firing normally, ready to protect you from external threats. When that system is continuously overactivated, however, it can result in stress, restlessness, tension, and insomnia. This constellation of symptoms is referred to as an anxiety disorder.
What is Anxiety?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive, uncontrollable worry. A person with this diagnosis will experience these feelings for more days than not over the course of six months.
With the new edition of this diagnostic tool, two important changes have been made to the definition of an anxiety disorder.
First, in order to be diagnosed, a person’s worry should not be better explained by another mental illness. For example, someone with anorexia may become anxious about their weight. Since that can be better explained by their eating disorder, this person would not be diagnosed with a separate anxiety disorder.
Second, a person’s worries should not be attributable to the physical effects of substances (ex: medications or illicit drugs) or other medical conditions (like thyroid disorders).
What are the Symptoms of Anxiety?
The DSM-5 provides a checklist of symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. Signs that your mental health has reached a critical point include:
- Feeling “on edge” or restless
- Becoming easily, quickly fatigued
- Having difficulty staying on track (difficulty concentrating)
- Experiencing irritability
- Struggling to fall and stay asleep
- Developing muscle tension
- Being unable to control one’s worrying
Anxiety disorders impact a person’s ability to function in daily life. Together, their worries and symptoms cause significant impairment and distress in different areas (personally and professionally).
What Causes Anxiety Disorders to Develop?
Several potential factors can combine to create an anxiety disorder later in life. Like all mental illnesses, we must consider the roles of both nature and nurture in this diagnosis.
First, there are internal factors beyond our control. These include genetic predisposition – if your blood relatives have anxiety, it can be passed down to you. Co-occurring mental illnesses can also increase your vulnerability to an anxiety disorder. Finally, your personality may make you more prone to GAD and other conditions.
There are also environmental causes that can catalyze anxiety. Basically, the events of our lives can shape our mental health. If you have undergone a traumatic experience, for example, you may become vigilant for future incidents that seem similar. Severe illness can have a similar effect; if you have been hospitalized for one condition, you may become hyper-aware of any bodily changes moving forward. Finally, substance abuse can cause anxiety (or worsen any pre-existing worries).
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD is the most common disorder in this class, and it’s probably what you think of when you hear the word “anxiety.” The DSM-5 defines it as excessive anxiety and apprehensive expectation (worry) occurring more days than not for a minimum of six months. GAD isn’t about one specific issue or setting – it covers many different activities and events.
Panic disorder is diagnosed when a person experiences repeated “panic attacks.” These attacks are defined as abrupt, intense surges of fear characterized by:
- Racing heartbeat
- Feeling of choking or shortness of breath
- Trembling and shaking
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Chest pain, discomfort
- Heat sensations or chills
- Derealization (feelings of unreality)
- Depersonalization (detachment from oneself)
- Fear of death
- Numbness or tingling
A phobia is marked by intense fear of a specific situation or thing. The most common phobias involve animals (ex: spiders); natural environments (ex: heights); blood, injection, or injury (ex: needles); and specific situations (ex: airplanes). There may also be other types, like agoraphobia (fear of leaving your home) or avoiding situations that may lead to illness.
Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
People with social phobia fear situations in which they may be scrutinized by others. This may include regular social interactions (small talk with unfamiliar people) or occasions which call for performing in front of others (giving a speech). Their fear and worry are out of proportion with the social situation, which may result in their avoidance of such scenarios.
Many uncommon conditions fall under this diagnostic umbrella. They include separation anxiety disorder, selective mutism, substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder, anxiety disorder due to another medical condition, other specified anxiety disorder, and unspecified anxiety disorder.
Anxiety doesn't have to rule your life.
How to Treat Anxiety Disorder
If the symptoms and diagnoses above feel familiar, rest assured that treatment is available. There are many effective therapies for each type of anxiety disorder. At Serene Behavioral Health, we specialize in the resolution of mental illnesses – even if you have a co-occurring condition like depression or bipolar disorder. Our expert clinicians will create a treatment plan tailored to your needs.
Our therapies for anxiety include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Traditional “talk therapy.” CBT helps you to address and overcome the maladaptive thoughts and beliefs that perpetuate obsessive worrying.
Also called “motivational therapy,” MI provides the inspiration and positive reinforcement you need to make a lasting change.
We believe that group therapy can help you to develop social skills, establish a support network, and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Knowing that others are experiencing the same symptoms that you are – and are dealing with the same setbacks – can help everyone to recover together.
Inpatient clients who require medication will be assessed by Serene Behavioral Health’s prescribing medical staff prior to admission. Our trained staff will supervise each resident’s prescription intake.
You Deserve a Worry-Free Life
We understand how debilitating an anxiety disorder can be. Whether you’ve always felt “on edge” or have recently developed symptoms, our programming can help you to recover. You deserve joyful days and restful nights. Contact Serene Behavioral Health to learn about treatment for anxiety at our beautiful California location.