In order to effectively treat anxiety disorders, it is critical to work with a mental health therapist that can blend the most empirically validated treatments with a deep understanding of your personal experience with anxiety. Anxiety can manifest differently for all of us and the number of diagnoses that fall under the umbrella of anxiety is vast; including, but not limited to: panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. There is no generic, one size fits all approach to anxiety.
Identifying Anxiety Disorders
The most effective approach to treating an anxiety disorder requires first identifying the accurate diagnosis and understanding the roots of the symptoms. Learning about the type of anxiety you have will allow you to avoid triggers, prepare for challenging situations and implement the appropriate coping skills in the moment.
Panic disorder is characterized by intense episodes of fear without a clear trigger. Without warning, people with panic disorder can be overcome by a sense of impending doom, a loss of control, and a sudden onset of physical symptoms. This set of symptoms is commonly referred to as a panic attack. It can occur suddenly and without warning.
During panic attacks, people will often feel chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and a rapid heart rate. These symptoms lead some people to falsely believe that they are having a heart attack.
The exact cause of panic disorder is unknown, though there is some evidence that it runs in families. The best anxiety treatments for panic disorder include cognitive-behavioral therapy, narrative therapy, and exposure therapy, which have been proven to reduce the occurrence of panic attacks and help people cope with them when they occur.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
People with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) struggle with repeated thoughts and behaviors that interfere with their everyday life. There are two main categories of symptoms for OCD: obsessions, which are repeated thoughts, images, or urges that cause anxiety, and compulsions, which are repetitive behaviors the person feels compelled to do in an effort to reduce the anxiety associated with their thoughts. People with OCD can have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions, or both.
Typically, the best anxiety treatments for OCD are specialized versions of cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. These treatments can help people challenge their obsessive thoughts, resist compulsions, and regain their quality of life.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is exceedingly common, affecting more than 3 million adults in the United States each year. People with GAD experience persistent worry about everyday problems and situations and may experience several consequences of their frequent anxiety. Oftentimes, they are left feeling fatigued, and they may have trouble concentrating on everyday tasks. They may also have sleep disruptions and muscle tension that last for months.
Fortunately, generalized anxiety disorder is highly treatable. Typical generalized anxiety treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy and narrative therapy. Researchers have found these treatments to be as effective as psychoactive medications.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that is brought on following a single extreme event. People who are exposed to a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, being a victim of violence, or having a near-death experience, will often experience several symptoms of trauma well after the event has taken place.
Common symptoms of PTSD include recurring nightmares, avoidance of certain situations, and extreme responses to non-threatening events. Put simply, the mind of a person with PTSD is left on high alert due to their traumatic experience and cannot return to a natural resting state without help.
Anxiety treatments for PTSD focus on helping people to process and integrate their trauma. Evidence-based treatments include eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and exposure therapy, which can provide tangible relief and help people return to living healthy lives.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation anxiety disorder can affect both children and adults alike. For infants and toddlers, separation anxiety is a normal part of the developmental process, though most will grow out of this anxiety by the age of three. If this experience continues through preschool and causes significant distress, it might be a sign of separation anxiety disorder.
Separation anxiety can affect teenagers and adults as well, and it may interfere with important responsibilities. People of all ages who struggle with separation anxiety disorder feel excessive worry about leaving or being away from loved ones, and they are overcome with fear that something bad will happen to them. As such, they often refuse to be separated from the people they care about the most.
Separation anxiety treatments focus on helping people to manage their fears and respond adaptively to anxiety triggers.
Evidence-Based Anxiety Treatments
Interventions that have been validated in the treatment of anxiety include but are not limited to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, narrative therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). When initiating therapy, be sure your provider has a clear understanding of your specific experience of anxiety. As shown above, the treatment plan for obsessive compulsive disorder will likely be very different from the treatment for panic disorder.
Finding a therapist who is equipped to understand and treat anxiety with a multifaceted approach can substantially improve your chances of recovery. Anxiety disorders frequently overlap, have different presentations, and respond differently to different styles of therapy. As such, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating anxiety, and most people will benefit from a diverse treatment approach.
At Blackhawk Family Development Center, we understand how difficult living with anxiety can be. Our team of licensed therapists, clinicians, and psychologists have dedicated themselves to learning the best ways to help our clients learn the skills to overcome their anxieties using cutting-edge treatments and therapy styles. These tools have been empirically validated to improve anxiety symptoms, and they can help you to achieve recovery and regain control of your life.
Don’t delay seeking treatment any longer — contact Blackhawk Family Development Center today to begin your individualized anxiety treatment and find joy again.