Anxiety Disorders

It is estimated that 18 percent of American adults are living with an anxiety disorder – or 40 million people, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Anxiety, uncertainty, and fearfulness characterize the many disorders that fall in this classification, including:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Social phobia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Though everyone experiences mild periods of anxiety, those who are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder find that their lives are significantly disrupted due to a crippling fear that can manifest with physical symptoms, including:

  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Panic attacks
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps

When symptoms of anxiety persist for six months or more and continually worsen rather than get better with time, an anxiety disorder may be the diagnosis. Treatment is available and especially when anxiety issues co-occur with substance abuse issues, early treatment is recommended.

Symptom or Disorder?

Anxiety can be a manifestation of another disorder (e.g., paranoid schizophrenia) or it can be a diagnosis unto itself. An intensive evaluation during the initial phase of treatment will help the therapeutic team to ascertain the cause of the disorder and help to identify the root issues underlying the patient’s experience of anxiety. Specified and directed therapeutic intervention will be more effective when the patient has an accurate diagnosis from the start.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Most patients who are living with significant anxiety are also living with a dual diagnosis. One of the most common is a substance abuse disorder due to the effort of the patient to self-manage symptoms that are uncomfortable or difficult for them to handle. Many try to quell social phobia by drinking heavily or deal with phobias by taking sedatives or painkillers prior to facing their fear. When an addiction develops, their anxiety symptoms often increase and detox can be even more difficult for the patient as a result.

When a dual diagnosis of an anxiety disorder and a substance abuse disorder are both in evidence, it is important that the patient undergo a dual diagnosis treatment program that provides intensive care for both disorders simultaneously. In this way, the patient will be sober enough to learn how to manage the anxiety symptoms that may be driving their drug and alcohol abuse issues, which in turn will decrease cravings and the instance of relapse.

Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Anxiety disorders are highly treatable. Most patients undergo a treatment regimen that includes:

  • Medications. Often antidepressants are used, especially in the beginning of treatment to help stabilize the patient. Over time, they may choose to lower their dose or stop taking their medication. If addiction is an issue, anti-anxiety medications may not be indicated due to the risk of abuse.
  • One-on-one therapy. Personal therapy sessions can help patients to explore underlying issues like trauma or abuse and address the current stressors they are facing at home and in daily life that may increase their anxiety levels. Problem-solving is often a focus.
  • Exposure therapy. Facing one’s fear in exposure therapy provides patients with an opportunity to de-sensitize themselves to the situation that induces anxiety in a place that is safe and with the guidance of their therapist.
  • Group therapy. Learning from the successes and challenges of others can be hugely helpful in providing coping skills.

At Constellation Behavioral Health, we provide patients with an intensive therapeutic treatment program to address anxiety issues as well as associated addiction issues. Call us today to learn more about our therapeutic options and dual diagnosis treatment programs.