Anxiety disorders are some of the most commonly reported mental health issues worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2021, 11.7% of adults experienced “regular feelings of worry, nervousness, or anxiety.” Though they are so common, anxiety disorders remain among the most complex mental health illnesses.
Why Is Anxiety More Common Today?
It may seem that anxiety disorders are more common today than, say, a century ago. However, part of that is due to an increase in assessments and diagnoses. In years past, many people with anxiety disorders went undiagnosed and untreated. Now, people have more knowledge about what anxiety is and how to access treatment.
Though it is true that an uptick in diagnosis is partly to blame for the seeming increase in anxiety disorders, there are more contributing factors that influence the likelihood of developing anxiety today. Modernization and social change in recent decades have indeed brought challenges to people’s mental health. Take demographic shifts for example. In the U.S., more and more people are living alone compared to a few decades ago. Social isolation is one risk factor contributing to anxiety disorders. The widespread use of the internet and social media has also produced negative effects on people’s mental health.
Common Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is a normal human experience. Many situations can and should make people feel anxious or nervous. However, anxiety disorders are something entirely different. Those who struggle with these conditions tend to respond to certain things with intensified fear and paranoia to the point of paralysis or total avoidance. Anxiety-triggered dysfunctions may include overreacting to certain situations or lack of control over one’s emotions in these situations.
There are many different types of anxiety disorders, including social anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, separation anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Each of these types of anxiety present with different symptoms. However, common ones observed in many or all of them include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and increased blood pressure.
Why Are Anxiety Disorders So Complex? What Are the Causes?
Anxiety disorders affect all genders, races, and ages. What makes anxiety disorders complex is the wide range of types and causal factors. Some major causes include genetics, environment, and chemical imbalances. For example, anxiety disorders can run in families and become heritable. Alternatively, they can come as a result of traumatic experiences or substance abuse.
People who experience chronic stress or certain chemical imbalance at different points in life may develop anxiety disorders. Take hormonal changes in women for example. Some women experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a kind of anxiety that appears only during the week or two before their periods.
Are Anxiety Disorders Preventable?
Depending on the causes, not all anxiety disorders can be prevented. For example, conditions that are caused by genetics or past trauma are hard to reverse. Luckily, individuals can do things to prevent or manage symptoms. There are many preventative self-care methods to cope with existing anxiety disorders.
Self-care practices, getting therapy, and learning to recognize and avoid triggers can help individuals mitigate symptoms of their anxiety disorder from appearing. Joining support groups for tips, resources, and aid can also be beneficial.
Are They Treatable?
Diagnosing and treating anxiety disorders is now a well-established specialization among mental health professionals. These conditions are treatable if people experiencing them reach out for help. The main barriers to treatment include a lack of awareness of symptoms and social stigma around mental illnesses.
Anxiety disorder diagnosis begins with specially designed interview and assessment tools. Health professionals will gather reported symptoms, including the duration and severity of each one, along with family history and other markers of the individual’s experience and contributing factors. They will discuss how these symptoms interfere with daily functioning. Health experts will also observe a person’s verbal and non-verbal communication during this interview session to make a comprehensive evaluation.
Because anxiety disorders are so complex, it can take time for health professionals to develop a robust and effective treatment plan. Usually, this plan will include medications to ease certain symptoms and therapies to help restore daily functioning. Some common medications include benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and beta-blockers. People seeking treatment through medication should be patient as they try out different medications and dosages. It often takes a long time to find the right match.
Therapy for Anxiety Disorders
The most common therapy for treating anxiety disorders is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). A trained therapist will teach clients how to recognize patterns of triggering thoughts and anxious behaviors. Then they will work closely with the recovering individual to address them. CBT may also incorporate other holistic means of stress management, such as mindfulness meditation.
Another common psychotherapy is known as exposure therapy. Exposure therapy focuses on coping with the fears behind an anxiety disorder. This is a well-established treatment method for people with PTSD. A therapist will present some triggering but safe stimuli and help the individual build up resilience.
Among the many co-occurring mental health disorders with addiction, anxiety disorders ranks among the top. Are they preventable? How can you recover from both addiction and anxiety disorders at the same time? How long will this take? What are the risks of relapse for people with dual diagnosis of addiction and anxiety disorders? If you wrestle with any of these questions, Laguna Shores Recovery can help. Not only does our team know dual diagnosis and treatment, but we have also had a lot of success in helping people achieve long-term recovery. We make personalized treatment plans for you so that both conditions can be treated effectively. Call (866) 774-1532 to begin this hopeful journey with us.