Anxiety and Panic Disorders
Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. One may experience it when faced with an unexpected problem at work, before taking an important test, or before making an important decision. However, anxiety disorders involve considerably more than temporary apprehension or fear. For those with this mental health issue, the feelings don’t cease and can even grow worse over time. Symptoms can interfere with daily tasks, including work, school, and relationships.
Anxiety disorders include phobias and panic disorders, as well as a generalized anxiety disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Individuals with GAD display excessive anxiety or worrying about various things, such as personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday life tasks, most days over a six-month period. These feelings of fear and nervousness can negatively impact areas of their lives, such as social interactions, work, and relationships.
Symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder include:
- Feeling restless, on edge, or tense
- Tire easily
- Having trouble concentrating; the mind goes blank
- Muscle tension
- Feelings of worry difficult to control
- Sleep problems, such as inability to fall or stay asleep, restlessness, and insufficient sleep
A person with panic disorder suffers from frequent unanticipated panic attacks. Panic attacks are intense bouts of fear which come on rapidly and reach their peak within a few minutes. An attack may occur unexpectedly or respond to a trigger, such as a fearful situation or object.
During a panic attack, people may experience the following symptoms:
- Heart palpitations, an accelerated heart rate, or a pounding heartbeat can occur.
- Trembling (or shaking)
- Feelings of shortness of breath, choking or smothering
- Feelings of impending disaster
- Feelings of not having any control.
People with panic disorder often worry when the next attack will occur and attempt to prevent them by avoiding specific situations, behaviors, or places they associate with panic attacks. The anxiety of panic attacks and the effort put into preventing attacks can cause significant problems in a variety of areas of a person’s life.
An extreme fear of—or aversion to—certain things or situations is referred to as a phobia. Although it can be natural to be anxious in some circumstances, phobias are not proportional to the danger posed by an object or a situation.
Individuals with a phobia may experience:
- Excessive or irrational fear of coming into contact with the feared object or situation
- Avoid the feared object or situation by taking active steps
- Immediately feel intense anxiety upon encountering the feared situation or object.
- Endure situations and objects that cannot be avoided with intense anxiety
Here are some examples of phobias and phobia-related disorders:
Specific or Simple Phobias
People who experience a specific phobia experience an intense fear of, or intense anxiety over, certain situations or objects. Examples of specific phobias include the fear of:
- Animals, such as dogs, snakes, or spiders
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation anxiety disorder is a fear of being separated from those to whom they are attached and an underlying fear that something detrimental will happen to them once they are separated. This fear of separation leads them to avoid being alone and to avoid being separated from their attachment figures. Individuals who suffer from separation anxiety disorder may experience nightmares about being separated from attachment figures or may experience physical symptoms when separation occurs or is expected.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder, previously called social phobia) is characterized by an intense fear of situations involving social interaction or public performance. They worry that the behavior associated with their disorder will be observed negatively by others, resulting in a feeling of embarrassment. Often, people with this social disorder altogether avoid social situations because of this worry. It can arise in a wide range of situations, such as the workplace or the classroom.
Those who have agoraphobia will have an extreme fear of two or more of the following situations:
- Enclosed spaces
- Open spaces
- Being alone outside of the home
- Being in a crowd or standing inline
- Taking public transportation
People who suffer from agoraphobia tend to avoid these situations in part because they believe that they might not be able to leave if they have a panic attack or another embarrassing experience. A person can become housebound in extreme cases.
Co-occurring Anxiety Disorders and Substance Use Disorders
Anxiety disorders of any type can lead to a co-occurring substance use disorder. Self-medication is one of the factors that someone with this disorder develops a substance use disorder. Often, individuals suffering from one of these issues attempt to self-medicate their symptoms with drugs or alcohol, serving as a temporary escape from negative thoughts or as a short-term coping mechanism. However, long-term use of drugs and alcohol can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety.
For anxiety sufferers, withdrawal symptoms may be more pronounced and include higher levels of nervousness, agitation, restlessness, insomnia, irritability, and obsessive fears.
Integrated Treatment Is Key for Complex Co-occurring Disorders
Integrated treatment is a holistic approach that provides all of the therapeutic resources required to heal an individual physically, psychologically, and spiritually. There is no single cause of addiction, but co-occurring mental health disorders may increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder — and vice versa. Every person is unique. Some mental health issues are not apparent until after addiction sets in; then, mental health disorders are made worse or exacerbated by substance use. Sometimes a mental health issue may precede the onset of substance use.
A comprehensive treatment for people with co-occurring disorders including anxiety should include:
- Psychiatric services and ongoing care
- Medical care (including medication, when appropriate)
- Evidence-based therapies
- Case management
- Family programming and education
- Life skills training
- Continuing care planning
Every patient deserves to receive an individualized treatment plan. At Origins, treatment plans are designed with a person’s total well-being in mind: body, mind, and spirit.
Origins provides comprehensive behavioral health assessments to each patient to ensure that co-occurring mental health disorders and substance use disorders are identified and treated.
Sessions with their primary therapists and detailed clinical interviews lay the groundwork for an individual treatment plan for people with anxiety and other disorders. The treatment of co-occurring disorders must take place simultaneously, in the same location, and by the same treatment team to be effective. We offer co-occurring disorders treatment by highly trained professionals in our multidisciplinary, medically intensive program. Our treatment teams treat our patients in terms of their physical and mental well-being, as well as their spiritual and psychological needs. Our highly trained staff — including medical professionals, licensed therapists, and psychiatrists — meet every day to discuss each patient’s cases and develop solutions. This model of integrated, specialized treatment has been shown to improve outcomes, as well as improve quality of life.
Co-occurring disorders can aggravate each other, which can make successful treatment difficult. In Florida, our health psychology department, Origins Center for Brain Recovery, provides specialized, evidence-based therapy interventions to address brain health. CBR addresses the link between addiction and mental health disorders and provides treatment for both conditions simultaneously, providing our patients with a better chance at lasting recovery.
Learn more about Origins Center for Brain Recovery here.
At the Center for Brain Recovery, we provide intensive psychological testing such as:
- Personality Inventory for DSM-5—Brief Form (PID-5-BF)
- CNS VS (Central Nervous System Vital Signs)
- MMPI-2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2)
- MCMI (Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory)
People Can and Do Recover
A cure for any mental health disorder, including addiction and anxiety does not exist, but many individuals succeed in leading incredible lives filled with hope and courage. Many research-based therapies and treatment interventions have proven effective in treating individuals with co-occurring disorders. Personalized, integrated, intensive treatment is the key. Individuals with co-occurring disorders are able to recover with long-term support and therapeutic interventions.
Origins recognizes that co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders are interrelated and require concurrent treatment. Recovery consists of mental, physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being.