Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety Disorder Treatment

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

An anxiety disorder manifests itself in a variety of ways, differing from person to person in severity, frequency and duration of symptoms.   Many people experience anxiety, for example when anticipating an important job interview or having to make an important decision. When feelings of fear and distress run high and daily activities are avoided for relief, an anxiety disorder may have developed.  About 40 million people in the United States have an anxiety disorder, making it the most common mental health disorder. Many people experience an anxiety disorder before the age of 21. Women are 60 percent more likely than men to develop an anxiety disorder.

Common Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

There are different types of anxiety disorders, so symptoms will depend on the type of anxiety disorder experienced. General symptoms of anxiety disorders include:

Causes of Anxiety Disorder


Many mental illnesses have a genetic component. Anxiety, like depression, can be present in several family members. Some people, for instance, may be more prone to anxiety or have anxious personalities simply because of their genetic makeup. Roughly one in 50 people will suffer a clinical bout of anxiety at some point in their lives. Some people suffer from anxiety on and off during their lives, while others may feel anxious on a more routine basis. Scientists have also determined that twice as many women suffer from anxiety disorders as men. Again, genetics appear to have a role in many of these cases.


Many people understand that stress can affect one’s health in many ways. It can impact cardiovascular health and even cause obesity, weight loss, skin rashes and more. Chronic stress can also impact mental health. Suffering from chronic stress can trigger prolonged anxiety that requires medical treatment. Relationship stress, work stress, or financial stress can impact the onset of an anxiety disorder. People who have developed anxiety may find that they no longer cope with their common stresses as well as they used to. This is a clear-cut sign to seek help from a healthcare provider.

Traumatic Event

While chronic stress can wear down a sufferer’s mental health and resilience, a traumatic event such as the death of a loved one or abuse can make someone more susceptible to anxiety. An accident or some other traumatic event can impact someone’s mental health in ways they may not be aware of, or in ways that may not even become apparent for years. In fact, it can be common for a child who suffered abuse at a young age to develop anxiety disorders as an adult as a result of their early childhood trauma.

Common Anxiety Triggers

Someone who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder or is prone to bouts of anxiety may find that certain triggers can cause them to experience anxiety. Caffeine, for instance, is something people prone to anxiety should avoid. Medications and supplements can also trigger anxiety. In some cases, unexpected changes at work can cause feelings of anxiety and even panic. If you are prone to anxiety, it’s important to understand your triggers so you can learn to avoid them. Extreme anxiety can be debilitating and detract from your quality of life. If you suffer from anxiety, there is help. Both pharmaceutical treatments and psychotherapy can help you manage this condition so that you can enjoy a more worry-free life.

How an Anxiety Disorder Is Diagnosed

The physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder mimic the symptoms of other medical conditions, such as heart or thyroid disease. When an assessment is conducted, a doctor will perform a physical examination, an interview and lab tests to eliminate a medical illness. If an underlying medical condition is ruled out, the doctor will recommend an evaluation by a mental health professional to make a diagnosis.

Many doctors will compare symptoms using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to diagnose an anxiety disorder. A psychological evaluation involves the person describing thoughts, feelings and behaviors. This helps the professional identify a diagnosis and look for any related complications. A mental health professional will look at the intensity and length of symptoms. They will also look for any problems with functioning caused by the symptoms. This information will determine if the symptoms and level of dysfunction indicate a specific anxiety disorder. Since anxiety disorders are typically seen with other mental health problems, like depression or addiction, the diagnosis will be more challenging in these circumstances.

Anxiety Disorder Treatment

It’s important to keep in mind that since there are many types of anxiety disorders, there will be variations in treatment. The two main types of anxiety disorder treatment are therapy and medication.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy used to modify behavioral responses to anxious thoughts and feelings. A type of CBT called exposure response is used for phobias and social anxiety. A person is purposely and gradually exposed to triggers that create an anxious response. The goal is to desensitize the person to these triggers in order to experience less anxiety, while learning coping tools.


Medication helps people manage anxiety disorders. Though there may be side effects, a discussion with a mental health doctor will help a person make a choice as to whether the benefits outweigh the risks. Anti-anxiety medications help control the emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety. Alprazolam (Xanax) is commonly used to treat phobias, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

Family Therapy

The impact of an anxiety disorder affects relationships with family and friends of the person who is dealing with anxiety. Family therapy helps loved ones understand the causes of the anxiety disorder, the symptoms and how communication during recovery helps everyone.

Finding Help

Since there are many different types of anxiety disorders, it’s important to seek help from mental health professionals once the possibility of a medical illness has been eliminated. Left untreated, anxiety disorder can result in social isolation and frequent panic attacks and interfere with everyday living. If you or a loved one is suffering from anxiety disorder, give us a call to learn more about Destination Hope’s mental health program.

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