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Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Anxiety disorders, which are the most prevalent types of mental health disorders, are generally neither brief nor mild in nature. These illnesses effect nearly 40 million Americans 18 or older and typically last a minimum of six months and usually worsen if left untreated. National healthcare costs resulting from anxiety disorders are in the range of $42 to $45 billion per year and constitute one-third of the annual U.S. mental health bill.

Anxiety Disorders Can Cause:

  1. Significant clinical distress
  2. Substantial impairment of occupational and interpersonal functioning or relationships
  3. Disruption of one’s daily life
  4. A sense of psychological and physical immobilization.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Each phobic illness contains a biological and psychological element. While the most effective anxiety disorder treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy, trained mental health professionals ascertain which anxiety treatment is the most appropriate for their client. Medication is often combined with psychotherapy if anxiety symptoms are severe.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Patients diagnosed with general anxiety disorder are plagued with exaggerated and chronic tension and worry, sometimes for no apparent reason. The most effective treatment for this condition consists of anxiety counseling coupled with a psycho-pharmacologic remedy.

Psychotherapy is intended to diffuse a client’s low-level and continuously-present anxiety. Patients also benefit from relaxation exercises and skills, such deep breathing, with or without the utilization of biofeedback. This technique enables patients to receive visual or audio reactions concerning their body’s physiological symptoms and simultaneously acquire relaxation skills. These skills may be easily learned in a brief therapy time frame.

Studies have shown that patients who practice the skills learned while in session can eliminate anxiety or substantially reduce symptoms and lead productive lives upon completion of the therapy. As anxiety therapy progresses, mental health specialists teach their clients how to relax their muscles and engage them in general imagery techniques. Stress reduction and general coping skills, as well as hypnotherapy, are equally beneficial treatments for patients.

Panic Disorder

Individuals diagnosed with this condition experience sudden and repeated sensations of terror without warning and develop anticipatory anxiety between one episode and the next. Seeking treatment is critical since, left untreated, panic disorder is potentially incapacitating.

By treating the condition at its onset, the likely progression to agoraphobia may be halted. To assist patients in overcoming panic disorder, a tripartite approach comprised of medication, anxiety therapy and education is usually employed. Successful treatment of many individuals afflicted with panic disorder often occurs without prescribing any medication.

Clients are taught imagery and relaxation techniques, which may be applied during panic attacks to lessen the emotional fear and physiological symptoms. Another suitable therapeutic intervention is biofeedback. Although individual counseling, which is usually time-restricted and transpires in less than 12 sessions, is the most commonly-employed modality, group therapy may be as effective for learning relaxation and other skills.

Social Phobia

This is characterized by a persistent fear of embarrassing oneself, being humiliated in the presence of others or being subject to scrutiny on the part of strangers. Exposure to performance or social situations triggers distress or anxiety. Typically, the patient is cognizant of the fact that these fears are irrational or excessive.

Anxiolytics or mild tranquilizers offer great relief of anxiety symptoms and play a significant role in controlling phobic disorders. Tricyclic anti-depressants have also proven to be very effective in treating social phobias and panic attacks.

Social phobics are usually assigned exercises to practice between sessions and benefit greatly from intensive psychodynamic psychotherapy. Another beneficial treatment consists of utilizing the behavioral method of exposure. Implosion, or flooding, which involves exposing the client to a large quantity of phobic material, is also utilized.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Patients with this condition engage in compulsive behavior to relieve the anxiety caused by obsessions. Treatment usually takes the form of cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication.

Specific Phobias

Many individuals experience marked fears that are unreasonable and intense. Therapists often employ modeling techniques to guide clients in tackling anxiety-producing situations. The most commonly-utilized treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy. Other treatment methods proven helpful include relaxation techniques, systematic desensitization, exposure and cognitive restructuring.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD conditions typically follow a traumatic incident which caused tremendous helplessness or terror to the patient. The traumatized individual re-lives the event through thoughts, dreams, perceptions or images. Three psychotherapeutic approaches have been successful in treating acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Successful Treatments of PTSD

  • Prolonged exposure, which consists of asking the victim to envision the traumatic incident while verbally describing it to the psychotherapist
  • Cognitive processing therapy, which blends cognitive restructuring and exposure
  • Stress inoculation training, in which patients are taught different coping skills to assist them in conquering their fears

Other methods include guided self-dialogue and thought-stopping. When utilizing the self-dialogue method, a therapist points out the cognitive distortions in the client’s account of the traumatic event. Through thought-stopping, the patient is taught to stop ruminative thoughts concerning the traumatic event. Trauma victims also benefit from deep breathing exercises and muscle relaxation.