What are anxiety disorders and how are they be treated?

There are several types of anxiety disorders that a person may experience, which may cause any level of emotional discomfort and, in some cases, may become an obstacle to accomplishing daily tasks necessary for living. For example, the fear of being trapped in a public space where help may not be available, characteristic of Agoraphobia, may cause someone to become social isolated over time as a result of avoiding public spaces. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) lists seven other anxiety disorders, including:

  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Selective Mutism
  • Specific Phobia
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Substance/Medication-induced Anxiety Disorder

Some of these disorders may be more recognizable to you than others such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder characterized by uncontrollable worry about a number of situations and Panic disorder, which involves surges of intense emotion often accompanied by body sensations like heart palpitations, dizziness, and sweating. While each of the disorders listed above have trait symptoms unique to the specific disorder, they are all unified by intense worry and extreme focus on anxiety-related thoughts. For example, people suffering from anxiety may have rigid thoughts about the future that they can’t seem to get out of their heads such as: “What if I have a serious medical condition and die?” “What if I’m rejected?” “I’m a complete failure!” As such, first-line treatment for any anxiety disorder necessarily involves addressing these types of distorted thoughts with tools and techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a heavily researched type of talk therapy proven useful in working with these types of thinking errors. A psychotherapist trained in CBT will help you work through your anxiety by teaching you how to identify and challenge thoughts that typically trigger feelings of anxiety. CBT sessions are designed to help you develop the skills to successfully build resilience to acute anxiety in about 12-14 sessions.  Depending upon the severity of your anxiety symptoms, your CBT therapist may also recommend that you schedule a medication evaluation by a medical doctor to assess whether adding a psychotropic medication to your treatment plan may further help feel better!

I am a trained CBT-trained psychotherapist and having been using it to help hundreds of people successfully work through their anxiety over the 22 years I have been practicing in the field of behavioral health. Please feel free to call or e-mail me if you have any questions about CBT and how we might work together to resolve your anxiety-related problems.

Written by Tony Madril, LCSW, BCD

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