Anxiety has become a hot topic recently,
which has led many people to seek treatment for what they’d believed to be simple stress. Anxiety disorders are unfortunately quite common – affecting about 40 million North American adults each year – but luckily it is quite treatable. While anxiety is a natural, essential part of human life, a reaction to a situation we perceive as stressful or dangerous, that stress response may be triggered when it shouldn’t. This causes the hypothalamus to trigger a release of adrenaline and cortisol, a stress hormone; this is also known as the fight-or-flight response.
While small levels of anxiety can be beneficial, when anxious thoughts begin to interfere with daily life and cause significant distress, it’s best to seek treatment. There are several anxiety disorders and connected mental health issues: generalized anxiety disorders where excessive worries and fears are present for months; panic disorder which involves bouts of paralysing fear more commonly known as panic attacks; social anxiety disorder, or a fear of social situations where the sufferer feels judged or may be rejected. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is closely related to anxiety, as the sufferer feels that their behaviours keep intrusive thoughts and anxieties at bay. Prolonged stress response can also lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Some medications such as anti-depressants can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety, as can other medications such as beta-blockers, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), though these may cause side effects, and stopping them can cause severe withdrawal symptoms.
Research shows that therapy is usual the most effective treatment for anxiety disorders as it may help uncover the underlying causes of worries and fears, and teach the patient to relax and develop better coping and problem-solving skills, including new, less frightening ways to view their situation. Cognitive behavioural therapy is the most widely used technique for treating anxiety disorder; it is effective for panic disorders, phobias, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. While cognitive therapy examines how negative thoughts contribute to anxiety, behaviour therapy examines how the patient reacts and behaves in stressful, anxiety-triggering situations. Another effective technique is exposure therapy which exposes the patient to the situations or objects they fear in a controlled setting, either using the imagination or real life situations to systematically desensitize the sufferer.
Further, regular exercise and self-care such as learning relaxation techniques or undergoing CBT or biofeedback can greatly reduce anxiety. Regular sleep is important as well, and a bedtime routine can be helpful in falling and remaining asleep. Some doctors also recommend scheduling a “worry time”: a 30-minute session every day at the same time during which the patient identifies their worries and brainstorms possible solutions. Identifying anxiety triggers is another way to put feelings of panic and worry into perspective, and visualizing positive outcomes can help as well.
A residential inpatient program like the one here at Valiant Behavioral Health, is an excellent way to learn tools to dealing with your Anxiety in a Health way. Call us today to speak with one of our staff.