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A woman in her late twenties was looking forward to meeting a group of friends for dinner. The women had been friends since high school but had since drifted apart. The upcoming dinner was the first time since high school that the entire group would be together again.

Anxiety can rob you of lifeWhen the night of the dinner arrived, she remembered taking extra time selecting her outfit, applying makeup, and styling her hair to get just the right look. She talked excitedly with her husband about the dinner and how much she was looking forward to seeing all her old friends again.

And yet, when she and her husband pulled up to the restaurant, she couldn’t get out of the car. Crippling anxiety overcame her, and she could not bear the thought of even walking in the front door of the restaurant, let alone socializing for an evening. Her husband tried to help her overcome her anxiety, reminding her of how much she was looking forward to seeing her group of friends. But it was all for naught. Her anxiety had won again. Sadly, they drove away from the restaurant, leaving her friends behind to enjoy the evening without her. (Actual patient story, name withheld for privacy).

Anxiety is a thief. It can rob your life, stealing one event or one opportunity at a time. Anxiety often prevents you from enjoying life to its fullest, taking advantage of new opportunities, and accomplishing life goals. For some people, anxiety becomes a virtual prison, trapping them with mental bars rather than physical ones.

What is Anxiety?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety disorders amplify the body’s normal reaction to stress, such as feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, into excessive fear or anxiety. Because stress is part of everyday life, an anxiety disorder creates a significant impact on everyday life situations by inducing a heightened sense of fear or anxiety onto common situations. This can include workplace encounters, school, personal relationships, and even enjoyable activities that induce some level of stress. (Source)

Types of Anxiety Disorder

There are several types of anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias. Listed from the most common:

  • Specific phobias are the most common anxiety disorder, impacting between 8 to 12 percent of adults at any given time. Specific phobias are an excessive fear of a specific thing, such as flying or public speaking.
  • Social anxiety disorder is an extreme fear or anxiety of being embarrassed, rejected, or belittled in a social situation. People with social anxiety disorder typically avoid social situations altogether, where possible. Unavoidable social situations are endured with high anxiety during the event. Around 7 percent of adults experience social anxiety disorder.
  • Panic disorder is characterized by recurring panic attacks which often have physical symptoms such as pounding heart, sweating, trembling, chest pain, or shortness of breath. Panic disorder affects 2 to 3 percent of the population.
  • Agoraphobia is the excessive fear of leaving a secure environment, such as one’s own home, or the fear of entering a situation which may be difficult to escape from, such as public transportation. One aspect of agoraphobia is the excessive fear of becoming overwhelmed by anxiety in a situation where that would become embarrassing. People suffering from agoraphobia often avoid many common situations and may avoid leaving their home altogether. Between 1 to 3 percent of people suffer from agoraphobia.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder is a persistent and excessive worry that interferes with normal activities. The worry often focuses on specific things such as job responsibilities, chores, appointments, or family members. This persistent worry can cause physical symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, sleeping issues, or difficulty concentrating. Two percent of adults suffer from generalized anxiety disorder.

Self-Care for Anxiety Disorder

There are several self-care techniques that help cope with anxiety disorder and its symptoms. These self-care practices are highly encouraged for those suffering from anxiety of any type, either by themselves or combined with professional treatment:

  • Stay physically active and engage in exercise
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine
  • Practice meditation and mindfulness
  • Talk with a close friend or family member
  • Educate yourself about anxiety disorder, particularly the type of anxiety disorder you suffer from
  • Write in a journal

Professional Treatment for Anxiety Disorder

Fortunately, there are several professional treatments available for anxiety disorder when self-care options are simply not enough.

Therapy

Psychotherapy is often recommended for people dealing with anxiety. Working with a mental health provider, patients learn strategies to understand and better manage anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common form of psychotherapy chosen for patients with anxiety disorders. CBT helps patients recognize problematic patterns and behaviors and then develop strategies to change them before they escalate into an anxiety episode.

Medication

Patients dealing with anxiety may also be prescribed medication to help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and make the disorder easier to manage.

Antidepressants for Anxiety

Antidepressants are not prescribed solely for depression; they also help with anxiety disorders. Antidepressants improve the way your brain uses the positive brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine, to reduce stress and improve mood.

Anti-anxiety Medication

Some medications, such as benzodiazepines, target anxiety directly, helping to decrease levels of anxiety, panic, and worry. One of the main drawbacks to anti-anxiety medications is that patients develop a tolerance to the medication, making them less effective over time.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

TMS treats anxiety by improving the function of neural pathways in the brain. TMS is a safe, effective treatment delivered in a psychiatrist’s office and is used to treat mental disorders like depression and anxiety. Over the course of a series of treatments, the brain begins to develop new, healthy pathways that allow healthy brain function once again.

Clinical trials are currently underway to receive FDA approval for TMS with anxiety as a primary diagnosis. The FDA has issued its approval for TMS to treat anxiety in depression, however. If you are interested in TMS to treat anxiety, it is important to discuss with your healthcare provider all symptoms you may be experiencing for both anxiety and depression so your provider can make an accurate diagnosis.

Remember the young woman at the beginning of this article who suffered from anxiety? She chose TMS as a treatment option and reports that it completely changed her life for the better, allowing her to engage in social activities once again.

Where to Find Help for Anxiety in Utah

In Utah, patients can receive a diagnosis and appropriate treatment for anxiety at Ampelis Health, with locations in Highland (Utah County) and South Ogden. Call Ampelis Health today at 435-776-5909 to find the anxiety treatment that will bring you long-lasting relief.

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