Everybody experiences anxiety from time to time. But if anxiety interferes with your daily life, you might have an anxiety disorder.
There's a lot of stigma surrounding mental health. That's why it’s important to understand that anxiety disorders are real, serious medical conditions. Just like heart disease or diabetes. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental disorder in the United States. Data shows that about 40 million people in the United States experience symptoms of an anxiety disorder each year, with most developing symptoms before they turn 21. Unfortunately, only about one-third of those people receive treatment for their disorder.
Our skilled team of neurologists at Memphis Neurology, with locations in Germantown, Tennessee, and Southaven, Mississippi understand the intricacies of anxiety disorders. We're committed to helping patients regain control of their lives.
What are anxiety disorders?
The term "anxiety disorder" refers to a group of psychiatric disorders that all involve some kind of extreme fear or worry. They often present with both emotional and physical symptoms. The latter of which may include rapid heartbeat and shallow breathing. Some common disorders are:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
GAD is characterized by persistent and excessive worry. Patients may anticipate disaster and start to fear the worst about everything from money to health, even when there’s no apparent reason for concern. The disorder comes on gradually, with the greatest risk between childhood and middle age.
Panic disorder and panic attacks
People who experience panic disorders develop spontaneous attacks of overwhelming fear. They then become more fearful of a recurring attack, which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. The disorder usually starts in adulthood, though it’s not unheard of in children. About six million adults experience panic attacks in the United States, and it’s twice as common in women as in men.
People who experience specific phobias have a strong, irrational fear when in the presence of specific objects, people, or situations. They work hard to avoid the people and places that cause them distress. They may also be aware the fear doesn’t make any sense. But they feel powerless to stop the panic from occurring, and even thinking about the fear causes them extreme anxiety.
Most phobias arise without warning and may occur in situations that previously caused no discomfort or anxiety.
A number of other anxiety disorders include social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
How are anxiety disorders diagnosed?
Since the physical symptoms of anxiety disorders can be confused with other medical conditions, your doctor will take a detailed medical history, perform a physical examination, and order lab tests.
After ruling out other conditions, he’ll use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to identify the specific anxiety disorder causing your symptoms as well as any other possible disorders involved.
What treatments are available for anxiety disorders?
After your evaluation, your doctor will customize a treatment plan for your specific needs. It may include any or all of the following:
Also known as “talk therapy,” psychotherapy must be tailored to the patient’s specific anxieties and needs to be effective.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT helps patients learn to think, behave, and react to anxiety-producing objects and situations in new, beneficial ways. CBT also helps with learning and practicing social skills, which is extremely important for social anxiety disorder.
Cognitive therapy and exposure therapy are two CBT methods often used, either together or by themselves. Cognitive therapy trains the patient to identify, challenge, and then neutralize unhelpful or distorted thoughts that fuel their disorder.
Exposure therapy has the person physically and emotionally engage in activities they avoid because of the disorder. By confronting the fear, the person can lessen its power over them.
Medication does not “cure” anxiety disorders, but it can help to lessen the intensity of the symptoms. Some medications commonly prescribed are anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines; antidepressants like the SSRIs and the SNRIs; and beta-blockers, which are heart medications used “off-label.” Medication in combination with CBT can prove particularly effective.
Here at Memphis Neurology, we’re committed to your physical and emotional well-being. If you’re suffering from an anxiety disorder, we’ll use all available methods to help you overcome it and regain your life back. Give us a call at either of our locations or book an appointment online today.