In this article, we will talk about anxiety, create an overview of anxiety-based disorders and find out more about anxiety therapy and how these treatments can help with your anxiety.
Mental health and psychological well-being of people has become an important conversation today. The World Health Organization has made mental health a global development priority. With an increase in the number of mental health studies, we understand the importance of mental health in our lives.
Historically, mental health illness was viewed as a topic of taboo. This is changing today. Although the progress is a little delayed in middle and low-income countries, it is still evident. Today, more people are introduced to mental health terminologies. Unfortunately, this has become a two-edged sword. Despite being introduced to the correct terminologies, there is no complete understanding of these terms. We notice people (especially the younger population) using terms such as anxiety, OCD or depression colloquially referring to any discomfort or sadness. This has led to a simple point of view on a subject that is in fact, complex.
In this article, we will explore the term ‘Anxiety’ and understand the overview of Anxiety based disorders.
When you are anxious about something, you will feel a knot in your stomach that hints your nervousness in a situation or at the anticipation of a situation. This could be before a positive event such as a wedding, or it could be because of a negative event such as facing consequences for missing a deadline at work. In both positive and negative cases, the stress caused by anxiety is considered to be a good thing.
Before the onset of civilizations, it is this feeling of anxiousness that set off the ‘fight or flight’ instinct in us. This trait has carried with us over the course of evolution and helps us identify safe and unsafe spaces. In case of positive stress, we push ourselves to overcome the situation whereas in case of negative stress we may choose to flee. So, for the most part, anxiety is a good thing.
This leads us to the question, ‘When does anxiety become a disorder?’ Whether we are faced with positive or negative stressors, our body reacts to it for a short period of time until the situation or event in question passes. In anxiety disorders, this fear or stress of the event does not pass easily. The negative stress exists for an extended period of time. When these negative feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety frequently hinder someone from accomplishing their daily activities, it is diagnosed as an anxiety based disorder.
Anxiety could be traced back to genetic, environmental or behavioral factors. There are many different types of anxiety-based disorders. The common thing across is that an individual deals with negative emotions such as worry, nervousness, stress and fear much more than the average person, thus hampering their daily functioning.
Individuals with this disorder face excessive fear and worry over daily events and activities that could have negative results. This worry becomes difficult to control and may show physical symptoms such as fatigue, restlessness, difficulty in focus or hindered sleep.
When an individual has increased anxiety about being separated from someone they are attached to, they could have separation anxiety. This is mostly seen among children. They might display symptoms such as dreams about being forcefully separated from the attached person (being kidnapped) or increased fear of being alone.
This refers to situations where individuals are not able to speak in specific social situations. This disorder leads to the hindrance of social, academic or occupational functionalities of the individual.
Individuals are diagnosed with this disorder when there is an extreme fear of a specific object or situation. Disproportionate fear kicks in on cue when exposed to the object or situation.
An increased fear of being embarrassed or humiliated in social gatherings or situations. This leads to significantly visible avoidance from such situations. The stress causes due to social situations or anticipation of social situations interfere with the accomplishment of daily tasks and functionalities.
This relates to sudden panic attacks or symptoms that are triggered randomly out of the blue. Individuals with this disorder will also face the fear of panic symptoms and the return of panic attacks. It is important to note that, those with panic disorder have panic attacks without any specific reason that it can be accounted for.
Refers to increased fear of being in situations from which escape or receiving might be difficult. Some example of such situations could be – standing in closed spaces, walking through crowded areas, stepping out of the house etc.
This refers to increased fear or anxiety that is a result of a medication or a psychoactive substance. This may occur in two scenarios – either when the individual is intoxicated/on the drug or during withdrawal.
Individuals with OCD have obsessive and compulsive thoughts that lead to compulsive behavior that can hinder a person’s daily activities. Although these can include things such as cleanliness, those will obsessive disorders will not be able to carry on with their day if the compulsive behavior is not met. These disorders include –
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is the persistent obsessions that cause distress if the ‘compulsions’ are not met.
Excoriation refers to the habit of picking skin continuously that leads to lesions.
Hoarding disorder refers to a disorder where individuals face distress in parting with objects.
Body dysmorphic disorder is the excessive preoccupation believing that one’s body is ugly, abnormal, deformed or unattractive.
Trichotillomania is the repeated pulling of one’s hair from scalp, eyebrows or eyelashes.
Commonly known as PTSD, this is a disorder that people face after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or near death event themselves or through a loved one. The effects of this event hinder daily functioning. People face four types of PTSD – re-experiencing, avoidance, negative cognitions and mood, and hyperarousal.
Intense anxiety in response to re-experiencing symptoms of a trauma (such as dreaming of the trauma every day), that lasts for a month or more after the traumatic event.
Facing anxiety and other emotional symptoms in response to a specific event that has causes stress. This could be a divorce, moving to a new place etc.)
There are different types of treatments that can be chosen by the mental health professional to help people with anxiety. They are as follows:
A short-term talk therapy where the mental health professional helps an individual come up with strategies and methods to deal with anxiety.
A long-term treatment that deals with a broad range of issues with the ultimate goal of helping the individual with the disorder to regulate emotions, manage stress and understand behavioral patterns better.
Refers to a short-term one on one or group treatment that helps individuals identify the negative thinking behaviors. This treatment helps people process their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors to help cope with life and daily routines. The Ultimate goal is to help reframe the traumatic situations that cause anxiety.
This is a specific type of CBT used to help individuals diagnosed with PTSD and specific phobias. In this treatment, the mental health professional re-introduces individuals to their traumatic memories or phobias with a goal of helping them understand that these memories or phobias are not dangerous anymore. The mental health professionals help the individual with the disorder by making them feel safe.
This treatment is a type of PE where individuals recall their trauma while paying attention to a back and forth movement or sound. The memory is recounted until the anxiety caused is reduced significantly. This is also used to treat PTSD.
This is a long-term treatment that helps individuals acquire skills such as stress management, mindfulness and interpersonal skills that will, in turn, help them understand, manage and regulate their stressful emotions.
This is a treatment that is used largely to treat General Anxiety Disorder. In this treatment, the mental health professionals help individuals come with a plan and encourages them to display positive behaviors even when faced with negative emotions. This aids in bettering the daily functioning and accomplishment of tasks.
This is a treatment that is used if an individual’s anxiety is caused by family members. Here, the mental health professional includes family members during the therapy sessions and helps the family understand and learn how to help the treatment of the person with the anxiety disorder.
Medications such as anti-depressants, buspirone, and benzodiazepines may also be used by mental health professionals while treating anxiety-based disorders. The medications can help with reducing the cognitive and interpersonal issues related to Anxiety. Benzodiazepines can aid with sleep disturbances. Beta-blocker medications that help reduce adrenaline, decrease blood pressure and increase blood pressure may also be suggested in certain cases. It should be noted that none of these medications should be taken without the prescription from a mental health professional.
This therapy focusses on the theory that emotions are adaptive. The treatment helps individuals with social anxiety by helping them improve their emotional awareness and reducing negative feeling such as shame and self-criticism.
TMS is a new treatment that is emerging for anxiety therapies. It uses electromagnetic fields to modulate the activities in the outer layer of the cerebrum. A small current is passed l a wire coil to help regulate mood. This currently affects an area that is 5cm deep into the brain allowing doctors to target specific regions that require treatment.
These are online therapies that are conducted with the help of technology (computer). These therapies generally follow CBT method to treat anxiety and thus can be delivered via the internet. The ease of access makes it an easier option for most people.
There are various steps that can be adopted by us treat anxiety at home. These can be adapted before, during or after therapy with a mental health professional. The steps discussed below can also be used for managing the stress and anxiety of our everyday lives.
Support networks are available on the internet where you can reach out and ask for help if you feel like you might be dealing with an anxiety based disorder. Many organization websites such as the American Psychological Association, the World Health Organization etc. have resources with regard to mental health and various mental health disorders. It is highly recommended that you do not self-diagnose. Always reach out to a mental health professional near you. Speak to friends, family, and neighbors to find out the best mental health professionals in the city. Do not hesitate to talk to a few of them before beginning therapy with someone you are comfortable with. Ensure to make mental health and emotional wellness a personal health priority.