An anxiety disorder causes intense feelings of panic and fear. These feelings may arise for no apparent reason. And they tend to recur again and again. They may prevent you from coping with life and cause you great distress. As a result, you may avoid anything that triggers your fear. In extreme cases, you may never leave the house.
Anxiety disorders tend to run in families. For some people, childhood abuse or neglect may play a role. For others, stressful life events or trauma may trigger anxiety disorders. Anxiety can trigger low self-esteem and poor coping skills.
Common anxiety disorders:
Panic disorder: This causes an intense fear of being in danger.
Phobias: These are extreme fears of certain objects, places, or events.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder: This causes you to have unwanted thoughts. You also may perform certain actions over and over.
Post traumatic stress disorder: This occurs in people who have survived a terrible ordeal. It can cause nightmares and flashbacks about the event.
Generalized anxiety disorder: This causes constant worry that can greatly disrupt your life.
Anxiety disorders may cause other symptoms, such as:
- Obsessive thoughts you can’t control
- Constant nightmares or painful thoughts of the past
- Nausea, sweating, and muscle tension
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
Treating anxiety disorders with medication:
An anxiety disorder can make you feel nervous or apprehensive, even without a clear reason. Certain anxiety disorders can cause intense feelings of fear or panic. You may even have physical symptoms, such as a racing heartbeat or dizziness. If you have these feelings, you don’t have to suffer anymore. Treatment to help you overcome your fears will likely include therapy (also called counseling). Medication may also be prescribed to help control your symptoms.
Certain medications may be prescribed to help control your symptoms. As a result, you may feel less anxious. You may also feel able to move forward with therapy. At first, medications and dosages may need to be adjusted to find what works best for you. Try to be patient. Tell your health care provider how a medication makes you feel. This way, you can work together to find the treatment that’s best for you. Keep in mind that medications can have side effects. Talk to your provider about any side effects that are bothering you. Changing the dose or type of medication may help. Don’t stop taking medication on your own because it can cause symptoms to come back.
This medication eases symptoms and helps you relax. Your health care provider will explain when and how to use it. It may be prescribed for use before situations that makes you anxious. Or, you may be told to take it on a regular schedule. Anti-anxiety medication may make you feel a little sleepy or “out of it.” Don’t drive a car or operate machinery while on this medication, until you know how it affects you.
This kind of medication is often used to treat anxiety, even if you aren’t depressed. An antidepressant helps balance out brain chemicals. This helps keep anxiety under control. This medication is taken on a schedule. It takes a few weeks to start working. If you don’t notice a change at first, you may just need more time. But if you don’t notice results after the first few weeks, tell your provider.
Treating anxiety with therapy:
If you have an anxiety disorder, you don’t have to suffer anymore. Treatment is available. Therapy (also called counseling) is often a helpful treatment for anxiety disorders. With therapy, a specially trained professional (therapist) helps you face and learn to manage your anxiety. Therapy can be short-term or long-term depending on your needs. In some cases, medication may also be prescribed with therapy. It may take time before you notice how much therapy is helping, but stick with it. With therapy, you can feel better.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches you to manage anxiety. It does this by helping you understand how you think and act when you’re anxious. Research has shown CBT to be a very effective treatment for anxiety disorders. How CBT is run is almost like a class. It involves homework and activities to build skills that teach you to cope with anxiety step by step. It can be done in a group or one-on-one, and often takes place for a set number of sessions. CBT has two main parts:
Other forms of therapy
- Cognitive therapy helps you identify the negative, irrational thoughts that occur with your anxiety. You’ll learn to replace these with more positive, realistic thoughts.
- Behavioral therapy helps you change how you react to anxiety. You’ll learn coping skills and methods for relaxing to help you better deal with anxiety.
Other therapy methods may work better for you than CBT. Or, you may move from CBT to another form of therapy as your treatment needs change. This may mean meeting with a therapist by yourself or in a group. Therapy can also help you work through problems in your life, such as drug or alcohol dependence, that may be making your anxiety worse.
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