We often feel anxious or worry occasionally, but as those feelings start to impact your everyday living, it could be a sign of an anxiety disorder. An estimated 40 million adults suffer from anxiety disorders in the United States. This serious mental health condition includes panic disorders, phobias, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Anxiety disorders are caused by a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. It is sometimes hard to determine when anxiety is normal or when it becomes a mental health concern.
As the level of your anxiety increases between mild to panic, your body responds differently, causing more intense symptoms.
- Mild forms of anxiety are prevalent in our everyday life, such as waiting for a test result and may include symptoms such as fidgeting, irritability, sweaty palms, or heightened senses. Many people do not realize that mild anxiety can be motivational as it helps you to focus on seeking a solution to the challenge you are facing. Once you work through the moment, the anxiety dissipates quickly.
- Moderate levels of anxiety concentrate more on the stressful situation at hand, such as losing sight of your child at the playground. Racing heartbeats, dry mouth, sweating, stomach pain, or nausea often accompanies moderate anxiety. During these moments, it is common to bite your nails or wring your hands. Once the focus of the anxiety passes, such as finding the child, the symptoms subside.
- The most disruptive and challenging level of anxiety is panic-level anxiety. At the level, anxiety overwhelms your ability to function normally. Traumatic events or extreme life stressors can provoke panic-level anxiety, which creates an inability to reason and distorts perception. At this level, we often have avoidant behavior or other coping alternatives that disrupt our relationships, vocation and overall functioning.
There are some simple strategies that can help alleviate the intensity of anxiety at the lower levels:
- Breathe deeply. Take deep breaths by inhaling and exhaling slowly throughout the day when you are feeling stressed.
- Slowly count to 10, repeat as necessary.
- Give back. Volunteering in your community can help you create a support network and break normal stress cycles.
- Take time to practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, or relax. Stepping back from stress will help you clear your head and reduce your anxiety.
- Get help. Talk to friends and family when you feel overwhelmed. When your anxiety is interfering with your daily functioning, speak to your physician or mental health provider for help.
People with anxiety disorders are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for mental health disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders. Panic-level anxiety can cause severe medical issues such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Also linked to anxiety is high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose. When anxiety reaches the severe or panic level, it can be a sign of an anxiety disorder, which will not go away by itself, but is the most treatable mental health disorder. However, only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. Left untreated, severe levels of anxiety can become chronic and lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts.
Since anxiety disorders have different symptoms, the exact treatment depends on the type of disorder, but the most common treatment is a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help teach people with anxiety new ways of thinking, acting, and reacting to anxiety-inducing situations. At Pasadena Villa, we combine our therapy with social integration, which provides clients hands-on involvement in relevant, real life situations within the community, in real time. Our clinicians act as “Social Mentors,” a constant presence in a therapeutic environment where they observe and interact with our residents in recreational, social, and life strategy activities. Clinicians provide ongoing feedback to help guide the process and assist the resident in meeting their individualized treatment goals. The use of social integration allows us to provide accurate and effective customized treatment programs that help residents assimilate back into everyday life and regain control of their lives.
Pasadena Villa is here to help if you or a loved one has questions regarding anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions. Call us at 407-574-5190 or complete our contact form to help with the next steps. Pasadena Villa currently offers treatment at two residential locations in both Orlando, Florida and Knoxville, Tennessee, and outpatient services in Raleigh, North Carolina.