Anxiety Disorder Care


What is Anxiety?

You might notice it when speaking in public, running late for a meeting or interviewing for a job. Your heart rate begins increasing as your adrenaline surges. This is anxiety, and it’s your body’s way of preparing itself for a possible emergency.

More than 40 million Americans have anxiety disorders, making it the most common U.S. mental illness. We’ve all experienced anxiety; however, people with anxiety disorders have intense fear and excessive worry for longer periods of time. If constant or extreme anxiety interferes with your daily life, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders take many forms, each with different symptoms. Some cause constant anxiety in daily life while others are triggered by situations like social contact. There are 5 major types of anxiety disorders in addition to specific phobias and pediatric anxiety.

People with panic disorder suffer from panic attacks – sudden bouts of intense fear with strong physical reactions. Attacks can occur repeatedly and without warning, causing chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and stomach upset.

When social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobias, occur fear and anxiety may lead you to avoid social settings in ways that affect your life. Severe stress can affect your daily choices, work, school or other activities. SAD is an ongoing behavioral health issue, but learning coping skills in therapy and taking medications can help improve your social skills so you can better engage with others.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder that involves obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are persistent, uncontrollable thoughts, urges or images that are invasive, unwelcome and alarming.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) causes ongoing and extreme anxiety in daily life. People with GAD live with feelings of dread, worrying constantly and uncontrollably about things like their health, loved ones, jobs and routine life events.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to traumatic and life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, accidents and serious illnesses.

Certain places, things or events can cause intense fears and feelings in some people. Examples include fear of heights, flying, confined spaces, animals, blood, public speaking and many others. Most people with phobias work hard to avoid these triggers. If a phobia is affecting social interaction, work or other key areas of your life, you should seek treatment.

Causes of Anxiety Disorders

Many factors and behaviors can cause or worsen anxiety disorders, including:

  • Genetics – Studies show some families have a higher-than-average number of anxiety disorders among relatives.
  • Environment – Life experiences or traumatic events such as abuse, violence, illness or death may trigger anxiety disorders.
  • Health issues – Medical problems linked to anxiety disorders include heart disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, respiratory disorders and others.
  • Drugs and alcohol – Drug or alcohol use, misuse or withdrawal can cause or worsen anxiety.
  • Personality – Studies show people who are prone to anxiety disorders show similar traits such as perfectionism, resistance to change or irritability.
  • Other behavioral health disorders – People with other illnesses like depression often have anxiety disorders.
  • Medication side effects – Medicines and over-the-counter drugs used to treat allergies, asthma, depression, thyroid conditions, Parkinson’s disease and more can cause or worsen anxiety. Discuss the side effects of any medications you take with your Mercy doctor.

Anxiety Disorder Signs

Our bodies and emotions can signal an anxiety disorder. Different types of anxiety disorders have unique signs and symptoms – but some characteristics are common to all anxiety disorders. Examples of anxiety symptoms include:

  • Feelings of dread
  • Shortness of breath
  • Expecting the worst and watching for signs of danger
  • Pounding or racing heart
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Frequent urination or diarrhea 

Anxiety Tests & Diagnosis

To diagnose anxiety disorders, your Mercy provider or behavioral health professional may:

  • Perform a physical exam
  • Review your medical history and symptoms
  • Order lab work or other tests

Anxiety Treatment Options

Anxiety disorders can be effectively treated through several treatment approaches such as counseling and therapy, medication or a combination of both. At Mercy, we provide the treatment plan that’s right for you.

A therapist works with you in counseling sessions to discuss ways to manage your anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches you skills to manage anxiety. CBT therapy for anxiety can be done individually or in a group of people with similar issues.

Medications can be used to treat anxiety disorders. A variety of medications are used to treat anxiety and panic disorders – and many of them also treat depression. Your Mercy doctor or behavioral health professional will discuss your options, including the benefits and risks. 

Some people with anxiety also benefit from healing therapies used along with regular medical care, which is known as complementary or integrative therapies. Mercy Integrative Medicine focuses on your emotional and spiritual well-being through a variety of therapies. Meditation is a therapy that helps clear your mind so you feel calmer and at peace.

Dealing with Anxiety

Living with an anxiety disorder is manageable with the right care and support. Mercy doctors and behavioral health professionals offer treatments and services to help you reduce anxiety and get more out of life.

Taking care of yourself is also key when you’re feeling stress and anxiety. Be sure to get plenty of sleep, eat healthy foods and take time to exercise. Always avoid alcohol and drugs, which can worsen your anxiety. Making time for healthy self-care can make a big difference when you live with anxiety.

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