What is an Anxiety Disorder?
An anxiety disorder results from chronic or intense fear and worry that does not subside. The frequency and intensity of anxiety can be overwhelming and may interfere with daily functioning. Fortunately, the majority of people with an anxiety disorder improve considerably by getting effective treatment. Learning about anxiety disorders can help you understand what you are living with. Stress is a normal physical and psychological reaction to any event that requires a response. When you sense a threat we all experience a “fight-or-flight” reaction, otherwise known as a stress response.
The stress reaction is a protective reaction to keep you safe. It helps you stay focused, alert, and ready for action. In emergency situations, such a reaction can save your life by giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, by running away, fighting or slamming on the brakes to avoid an accident.
Good stress can help you rise to meet demands. Good stress can keep you on focused on a presentation at work, sharpen your concentration when you’re attempting the game-winning free throw, or drive you to study for an exam when you’d rather be watching TV.
While environmental stressors can be helpful up to a point, too much stress for too long is not healthy. For example, constant worry over your job, school, health or family may actually drain your energy and your ability to perform well. This bad stress can causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.
What is Anxiety?
The American Psychological Association describes the major anxiety disorders as follows:
What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder? A generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by recurring fears or worries, such as about health or finances, and they often have a persistent sense that something bad is just about to happen. The reason for the intense feelings of anxiety may be difficult to identify. But the fears and worries are very real and often keep individuals from concentrating on daily tasks.
What is Panic Disorder? Panic disorder is a specific type of anxiety disorder that involves sudden, intense and unprovoked feelings of terror and dread. People who suffer from this type of anxiety disorder generally develop strong fears about when and where their next panic attack will occur, and they often restrict their activities as a result.
What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? Obsessive compulsive disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by persistent, uncontrollable and unwanted feelings or thoughts (obsessions) and routines or rituals (compulsions) in which individuals engage to try to prevent or rid themselves of these thoughts. Examples of common compulsions include washing hands or cleaning house excessively for fear of germs, or checking work repeatedly for errors.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Post traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is the result of severe physical or emotional trauma such as from a natural disaster, serious accident, crime or threat to life. Thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns become seriously affected by reminders of the event, sometimes months or even years after the traumatic experience. Post traumatic stress disorder may be acute, which means experienced shortly after the traumatic event, or delayed, in which case the symptoms do not occur for at least six months after the trauma. However, post traumatic stress disorcer symptoms may occur any time following the trauma.
A related anxiety disorder involves phobias, or intense fears, about certain objects or situations. Specific phobias may involve the avoidance of people, places and things associated with the traumatic event.
As you can see, the answer to the question, “What is an anxiety disorder” is not an easy one and is highly individualized. However, learning about anxiety disorders is an important step to learning how to cope with anxiety.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is a common and highly treatable disorder. The most commonly used treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy, psychiatric medications, or a combination of the two. Both treatments have been proven to be effective in reducing anxiety and in chronic, severe or incapacitating anxiety, combined treatment is often the best. Once identified, anxiety disorders can almost always be successfully treated by psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. If this combination has not worked, or your anxiety disorder is getting worse and interfering with daily functioning, it is probably time to try a more intensive treatment program to treat your anxiety.
Where Treatment for Anxiety Disorders Occur
Whether the type of treatment is psychotherapy and/or medication, most therapy for anxiety disorders occurs on an outpatient basis. Hospitalization is now reserved for only the most severe, unsafe cases. This has resulted in a significant gap between traditional outpatient therapy, which usually occurs for one hour per week, and the 24 hour care provided in the hospital. Fortunately, there are now Intensive Outpatient Programs that have proven to be effective in the treatment of severe, chronic or debilitating anxiety disorders. These programs provide services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an outpatient setting. Mental Health Resources specializes in providing an Intensive Outpatient Program for anxiety disorders. Call now to schedule an assessment to determine if our program can help you.