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Anxiety disorders are, unfortunately, quite common. Millions of Americans and people worldwide experience them every year; even more are likely to experience them at least once in their lives. They are potentially debilitating, ranging from mild anxiety to powerful panic attacks and gripping phobias. Unfortunately, they are also rather misunderstood – despite the growing body of scientific literature around them.

At Archstone Behavioral Health, we are proud to practice the most extensive treatment methods for anxiety Lantana FL has to offer. We have encountered anxiety disorders professionally and in our close circles, and are thus deeply invested in their treatment. Whether you or your loved one are at that stage of your journey or are simply looking for information on them, we’re here to help.

What is anxiety?

In everyday language, when we refer to “anxiety” we typically refer to a feeling of unease. This emotion may include worry, tension, or fear, and have physical representations such as increased blood pressure or insomnia.

Everyday language also often sees interchangeable use of “anxiety” and “stress”. More precisely, we identify “stress” as anxiety with an external source, a stressor that causes it. Whereas “stress” refers to a response to external factors, “anxiety” refers to unprovoked unease.

Both are factors in what the DSM-V classifies as anxiety disorders. This disorder class includes:

  1. Separation Anxiety Disorder
  2. Selective mutism
  3. Specific phobias
  4. Social Anxiety Disorder (previously known as social phobia)
  5. Panic disorder
  6. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  7. Agoraphobia
  8. Substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder
  9. Anxiety disorder due to another medical condition
  10. Other specified anxiety disorder
  11. Unspecified anxiety disorder

In combination, these disorders are among the most common mental disorders today. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) identifies them as “the most prevalent psychiatric disorders”, as 7.3% of all people worldwide experience them. Among them, the most common are:

  • Specific phobias – 10.3%
  • Panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia) – 6.0%
  • Social Anxiety Disorder – 2.7%
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder – 2.2%

With the exception of specific phobias, these are the ones we most typically refer to as “anxiety” – with GAD being the most commonly identified. However, these are all different anxiety disorders, and each requires a different anxiety treatment plan.

A stressed woman holding her head as she works on a laptop.
Everyday stressors like work deadlines may cause temporary anxiety, but persisting anxiety may signify a disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

GAD, as the name implies, is the most general anxiety disorder. The DSM-5 criteria for GAD are:

  • Excessive anxiety and worry, occurring more days than not for at least six months.
  • The individual finds it difficult to control the worry.
  • Anxiety is associated with at least 3 of 6 symptoms, with at least some being present more days than not over the past six months.

These six symptoms are:

  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge;
  • Being easily fatigued;
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank;
  • Irritability;
  • Muscle tension;
  • Sleep disturbance.

Finally, as with all anxiety diagnoses and mental disorder diagnoses:

  • The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress and impair functioning.
  • The disturbance is not attributable to other medical conditions, medications, or substances.
  • Another mental disorder does not explain the disturbance better.

Understandably, non-professionals may easily misdiagnose GAD or mistake it for another anxiety disorder. As such, please remember to consult a mental health professional if you or your loved ones suspect any such condition.

A depressed black man in deep thoughts sitting on a bed.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder often features excessive feelings of worry, which may overlap with depression.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Unlike GAD, Social Anxiety Disorder is highly specific. True to its name, it involves persistent anxiety about social situations.

Specifically, for a Social Anxiety Disorder diagnosis, the patient must:

  • Have a marked, persistent fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which others may judge them.
  • The fear must involve thoughts of humiliation, embarrassment, rejection, or offensiveness.
  • The symptoms must persist for six or more months.

In addition, all 4 of the following symptoms must be present:

  • The same social situations nearly always trigger anxiety or fear.
  • The patient actively avoids these situations.
  • The anxiety or fear is out of proportion to the actual threat, considering normal sociocultural factors.
  • The anxiety, fear, and/or avoidance cause significant distress or greatly impair social or occupational functioning.

And finally:

  • The anxiety and fear must not be attributable to other medical conditions, medications, or substances.
  • The anxiety and fear must not be more correctly characterized as another anxiety disorder or another mental disorder.

Due to the nature of this anxiety disorder, it is arguably the easiest to misdiagnose. It is therefore important to not treat introversion, social isolation, and other factors as de facto signs of Social Anxiety Disorder – but only as possible warning signs to look into.

A depressed black woman sitting on a bed as she holds her head.
Social Anxiety Disorder can significantly impact functioning, as the individual fears specific social interactions.

Panic Disorder

Finally, Panic Disorder is mainly identified through the symptom of panic attacks. However, they are only a feature of it, and the patient must meet more specific criteria than only experiencing them.

Specifically, the individual must be experiencing recurrent and unexpected panic attacks, during which at least 4 of the following symptoms are present:

  • Palpitation, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate,
  • Sweating,
  • Trembling or shaking,
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering,
  • Feelings of choking,
  • Chest pain or discomfort,
  • Nausea or abdominal distress,
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint,
  • Chills or heat sensations,
  • Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations),
  • Derealization (feeling of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself),
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”,
  • Fear of dying.

In addition, at least one of the attacks is followed by at least one month of:

  • Persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks or their consequences, or
  • A significant maladaptive change in behavior related to the attacks.

Finally, the panic attacks and anxiety symptoms must:

  • Not be attributable to other medical conditions, medications, or substances.
  • Not be better explained by another mental disorder.

It is important not to self-diagnose Panic Disorder if one experiences a panic attack. Panic attacks can also be caused by other stressors and may subside over time. However, they constitute warning signs, so we strongly advise you to consult mental health professionals if you experience one.

A close-up of a woman having a panic attack in a room.
Panic Disorder features recurrent panic attacks, but panic attacks are not the only symptom to look for.

Mental disorders associated with anxiety disorders

Due to their symptoms, anxiety disorders are often associated with other mental disorders. Among others, the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) pinpoints the following associated mental disorders:

Any mental disorder may co-occur with other disorders. In these cases, anxiety treatment must follow a holistic, specialized mental health treatment program that can address all present disorders.

Anxiety treatment; medication and psychotherapy

Anxiety disorders, like most mental disorders, are not curable. They are highly treatable, however, and respond well to two main types of treatment; medication and psychotherapy.

Naturally, how well each case responds to a given treatment depends on an array of factors, including:

  • Disorder duration and severity
  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Other conditions and associated medication limitations

For this reason, mental health professionals must first thoroughly assess each case. They will then approach treatment reservedly, opting for other medications and psychotherapeutic methods if the initial ones don’t suffice.

Medications appropriate for anxiety treatment

As WebMD notes, medications for anxiety disorders often overlap with those for depressive disorders. Specifically, depending on the case and always under your doctor’s or psychiatrist’s guidance, such medications may include:

  • Antidepressants (SSRIs and SNRIs), such as escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), duloxetine (Cymbalta), and venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Bupropion, another type of antidepressant best suited for chronic anxiety
  • Other antidepressants, including tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax) and clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Buspirone (BuSpar), an anti-anxiety drug sometimes used to treat chronic anxiety

There are also off-label medications, such as beta-blockers, anticonvulsants, and antipsychotics that professionals may recommend using to treat anxiety.

A close-up of a person’s hand picking one of two pills offered by a doctor.
An array of medications fit for anxiety treatment exists, which you should thoroughly explore with professional guidance.

Behavioral therapies appropriate for anxiety treatment

In addition to, or instead of, medication, psychotherapy may be appropriate to treat anxiety. In the former case, NCBI confirms they improve traditional pharmacotherapy significantly:

“Efficacious behavioral treatments exist, and conditions for which efficacious medications exist can be treated with combinations of behavioral and pharmacological treatments that have even greater potency than either type of treatment alone.”

In the latter case, NCBI also confirms that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is demonstrably effective. Indeed, individuals may respond to behavioral therapies well enough to suffice for treatment, especially in milder cases.

Toward these ends, at Archstone Behavioral Health we offer the following psychotherapy methods fit to treat anxiety:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – the golden standard of behavioral therapy, fit to treat an array of anxiety disorders
  • Exposure Therapy (ET) – a set of CBT methods used to modify the pathological fear structure of patients
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – a type of CBT focused on uprooting negative thoughts, fit to treat anxiety as well as depression and related disorders
  • Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) – a versatile and established type of psychotherapy, often effective in treating anxiety and common co-occurring disorders and symptoms like depression, insomnia, and aggression
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – a type of therapy specifically developed to treat PTSD, EMDR can treat the effects of traumatic recollections and best caters to co-occurrences of anxiety disorders and PTSD

As our mission mandates, we explore these and other therapeutic options incrementally, and always with each individual case’s needs in mind.

An illustration of a psychotherapy room featuring a red couch.
Psychotherapy, and particularly CBT, is a highly effective tool for anxiety treatment which we are proud to offer.

Archstone Recovery is here for you

Anxiety disorders are very common, and come in various forms. They impact individuals in different ways, but will typically get in the way of a fulfilling everyday life. In recent years they’re thankfully losing their past social stigma, and appropriate anxiety treatment practices continue to evolve.

It is, of course, important to not self-diagnose, precisely because of their range of forms and symptoms. Whether you choose to seek our help or that of other mental health professionals, we strongly encourage you to seek a professional diagnosis.

If you believe we’re the right choice for you or your loves ones, or if you simply need more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. As the mental health professionals for anxiety Lantana FL continues to trust over the years, we promise you nothing short of absolute discretion and empathetic professionalism.

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