For those of you who don’t know, anxiety is your body’s natural response to not coping with stress. It is a feeling of apprehension or fear about what’s to come – going to a job interview, the first day of college, or even giving a presentation may cause many people to feel nervous and fearful.
But if your feelings related to anxiety are intense, last longer than six months, and are meddling with your life, you may be going through an anxiety disorder. Any one of these factors must be resolved immediately, as it can result in other, more dangerous health issues.
In this post, we list the essentials of anxiety therapy in Chicago so that you can help yourself or a dear one battling this intangible and challenging condition.
What is Anxiety Disorder?
It is normal to feel anxious about starting a new job, moving to a new place, or taking a test. This form of anxiety may be unpleasant, but it also motivates you to work harder and do a job better. Note that ordinary anxiety comes and goes and doesn’t interfere with your everyday life.
On the contrary, in an anxiety disorder, the feeling of apprehension or fear may be with you all the time. It’s extreme and even debilitating sometimes.
This form of anxiety may stop you from doing things that you otherwise enjoy and rob you of happiness. It may also prevent you from crossing the street, entering an elevator, or even leaving your home in severe cases. If anxiety treatment is not provided, it gets worse over time.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is a significant component of numerous disorders. These include:
- Phobia – extreme fear of a specific situation, object, or activity
- Panic disorder – experiencing recurrent panic attacks at random times.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – recurring irrational feelings and thoughts that lead you to do repeated, specific behaviors
- Social anxiety disorder – severe fear of being judged by others in social settings
- Separation anxiety disorder – the fear of being away from loved ones or home
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – anxiety resulting due to a traumatic event
- Illness anxiety disorder – formerly known as hypochondria, anxiety about your health
Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety feels different for every person experiencing it. Feelings can range from a racing heart to butterflies in the stomach. You may usually feel out of control like there’s a disconnect between your body and mind.
A person can experience anxiety through panic attacks, nightmares, and painful memories or thoughts that you cannot control. You may experience a general feeling of worry and fear or fear of a specific event or place.
Some of the general anxiety symptoms involve:
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty in falling asleep or insomnia
- Trouble concentrating
Remember that your anxiety symptoms may be entirely different from somebody else’s. That is why it is vital to know all the ways anxiety can transpire itself. If you need help, there are many anxiety clinics and anxiety support groups in Chicago.
What is an Anxiety Attack?
Anxiety is a feeling of extreme and overwhelming apprehension, distress, worry, or fear. For several people, attack attacks shape slowly. It may even exacerbate as a stressful or traumatic event approach.
Anxiety attacks can vary significantly, and symptoms might diverge among individuals. Because many symptoms of anxiety do not transpire in everybody, they can change over time.
However, some common symptoms of an anxiety and panic attack involve:
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Dry mouth
- Chills or hot flashes
- Apprehension and worry
- Numbness or tingling
The symptoms of a panic and anxiety attack are similar but remember they aren’t the same thing.
Causes of Anxiety Disorder
Some common reasons for anxiety disorders are:
- Brain chemistry – Some studies insinuate that anxiety disorders may be linked to flawed or faulty circuits in the brain that controls emotions and fear.
- Genetics – Anxiety disorders can be inherited through genes.
- Environmental stress – This encompasses any stressful event you’ve lived or seen previously in your life. Life events typically linked to an anxiety disorder involve the death of a loved one, childhood abuse, and neglect, witnessing violence, or being attacked.
- Medical conditions – Some lung, thyroid, or heart conditions can build symptoms analogous to anxiety disorders or make anxiety symptoms even worse. It is essential to perform a complete physical exam to rule out any other medical conditions when consulting your doctor about anxiety.
- Drug misuse or withdrawal – Particular drugs might be taken to decrease or hide specific anxiety symptoms. Anxiety usually goes hand in hand with substance and alcohol use.
Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis
A single test cannot diagnose an anxiety disorder. Instead, anxiety diagnosis entails a lengthy process of mental health evaluations, physical examinations, and psychological questionnaires.
Doctors might conduct a physical exam, such as urine or blood tests, to rule out any underlying medical conditions that can potentially contribute to symptoms you are experiencing.
Numerous anxiety scales and tests are also utilized to assess the level of anxiety you are experiencing.
Treatments for Anxiety
Once you have been appropriately diagnosed with anxiety, you can explore anxiety treatment options with your doctor. For instance, medical treatment might not be necessary for some people; rather, lifestyle changes can be enough to deal with most symptoms.
However, in severe or moderate cases, medical treatment can help you overcome symptoms to lead a more controllable everyday life.
Anxiety treatment generally falls into two categories: medication and psychotherapy. Consulting with a psychologist or therapist can help you learn about useful tools and strategies that can help you cope with anxiety whenever it occurs.
On the other hand, medications generally used to treat anxiety involve sedatives and antidepressants. They work to prevent anxiety episodes, balance brain chemistry, and control severe symptoms of the disorder.
How do Therapists Treat Anxiety?
Therapists usually use psychotherapy and medication to treat anxiety. Psychotherapy is a collaborative process where patients and psychologists work together in an anxiety and panic treatment center to identify particular concerns and develop concrete techniques and skills for coping with anxiety.
Patients can anticipate practicing their newly acquired techniques and skills outside of sessions to manage anxiety in circumstances that may make them uncomfortable. Nonetheless, therapists should not push patients into such situations until they are confident they have the skills to confront their fears effectively.
Therapists typically use several other approaches to treat anxiety disorders apart from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), such as ‘group psychotherapy‘– it generally includes several individuals suffering from an anxiety disorder. It can be useful for both treating anxiety and offering support to patients. If you are in need of an anxiety support group or mental health counselor in Chicago, please contact Chicago Rehab Center.
Another technique used by therapists is ‘family psychotherapy,’ which allows family members to understand their loved one’s anxiety and learn how to interact with them that don’t reinforce anxious habits or conduct. Family therapy is beneficial for adolescents and children suffering from anxiety disorders.
With the right approach, anxiety is very much treatable. Most anxiety patients successfully eliminate or reduce symptoms after a few months of psychotherapy. Some patients notice improvement after just a few sessions.
What Therapy is Best for Anxiety Treatment?
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy are the leading approaches for treating different kinds of anxiety. Each treatment or multiple therapy techniques can be used to treat a single anxiety disorder type or various types simultaneously. Therapy sessions can be conducted individually or in groups with people who share similar anxiety problems. The therapy sessions’ crux is to reduce anxiety levels, calm one’s mind, and ultimately overcome fears.
CBT for Anxiety Treatment
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most extensively used forms of treatment conducted for anxiety disorders. Research proves that CBT stands as the most effective method in treating social anxiety disorder, phobias, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, among many other anxiety conditions.
CBT helps individuals to address negative patterns and distortions in the way they regard themselves and others. It consists of two main components:
- Cognitive therapy – is the study of how cognitions or negative thoughts can contribute to anxiety.
- Behavior therapy – is the study of how one behaves and reacts in anxiety-triggering situations.
CBT is based on the groundwork that our thoughts affect the way we feel and not external events. In simpler words, it’s not the problem/situation that worries you; it’s the way you look at it or perceive it.
For instance, imagine that you have been invited to a party. Consider three ways of thinking about the invitation and how those thoughts will influence your emotions.
Thought #1: I never know what to do or say at parties. I will make a fool out of myself I go.
Emotions: Sad, anxious.
Thought #2: I love going out and meeting new people. The party will be great!
Emotions: Excited, happy.
Thought #3: Parties are not my cup of tea. I prefer watching a movie.
You can see how one event can lead to totally different emotions and feelings in other people, making it dependent on our attitudes, expectations, and beliefs.
People going through an anxiety disorder will fuel negative ways of thinking and emotions. The objective of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety is to recognize and correct these negative beliefs and thoughts. The concept behind CBT is that if you alter the way you think, you will be successful in changing the way you feel.
Exposure Therapy for Anxiety Treatment
Since anxiety is not a pleasing sensation, naturally, anyone would try to evade it. One of the common ways people with anxiety do this is by navigating clear through circumstances that make them feel anxious or trigger anxiety.
For example, if you are afraid of heights, you may drive an hour out of your way just to avoid crossing a long bridge. Similarly, if the thought of giving a public speech leaves your stomach in knots, you may skip your best friend’s wedding to avoid giving a toast.
Apart from the inconvenience aspect, the issue with evading your anxieties is that you never receive the chance to overcome them. Dodging your terrors usually makes them more terrifying.
As the name implies, exposure therapy exposes you to the objects or situations you fear the most. The concept behind exposure therapy is that you will feel a growing sense of control over the scenario through recurrent exposures, and eventually, your anxiety will taper.
Exposure therapy is done in two ways: Your therapist might ask you to imagine the undesirable scenario or confront it in real life. This therapy can be used individually or may be performed alongside cognitive behavioral therapy.
Instead of facing your greatest fear right away, which can usually be traumatizing, exposure therapy generally begins with a scenario that is only mildly intimidating and moves upwards from there. This step-by-step approach is known as systematic desensitization. Systematic desensitization helps you to progressively challenge your fears, master skills for controlling anxiety and panic and builds confidence.
Below you can see an example of systematic desensitization in exposure therapy:
Step #1: Look at images of airplanes.
Step #2: Watch a movie of an aircraft in flight.
Step #3: Watch airplanes take off in real.
Step #4: Book an airplane ticket.
Step #5: Pack a bag for your flight.
Step #6: Drive to the airport for your flight.
Step #7: Check in to the flight.
Step #8: Wait for boarding.
Step #9: Get on the airplane.
Step #10: Take the flight.
Additionally, systematic desensitization comprises of three parts:
- Generating a step-by-step list
- Learning relaxation skills
- Working through the steps
Should You Go to a Therapist for Anxiety?
If you are suffering from severe anxiety and feel that it interferes with your everyday life, it is best to visit a therapist for advice and treatment. There are numerous anxiety and panic treatment centers in Chicago that can help you combat this problem.
Therapists are experienced and qualified professionals who use multiple anxiety-controlling tools and techniques to make them feel better. Moreover, you can also go to anxiety support groups in Chicago.
Natural Ways to Reduce Anxiety
Lifestyle changes can often be an effective and successful way to relieve some of the anxiety and stress you may cope with within your day-to-day life. Most natural ways to reduce anxiety involve caring for your body, eliminating harmful activities, and participating in healthy ones.
Some examples of natural remedies to reduce anxiety are:
- Get enough sleep
- Stay active and exercise
- Avoid alcohol
- Eat a healthy diet
- Quit smoking
- Avoid caffeine
These lifestyle changes can positively help you to reduce several symptoms of anxiety. Try each and see which one works best for you.
Additionally, some studies indicate that the foods you eat may also have a favorable impact on your brain if you experience anxiety frequently.
These foods involve:
- Green tea
- Dark chocolate
Anxiety/Panic Disorder and Alcohol
Many times, when you are feeling anxious, you may decide to have a glass of alcohol to calm your nerves and jitteriness. After all, alcohol is a sedative, and it depresses your central nervous system’s activity, which in turn makes you feel relaxed.
In a social situation, this might relax and soothe you in the short term, but ultimately, it is not the best solution or treatment for your anxiety.
Many individuals with anxiety and panic disorders end up regularly abusing drugs and alcohol to feel better. It might help them feel better for a while, but it can lead to addiction and dependency in the long run.
In many scenarios, it might be crucial to treat a drug or alcohol problem first before the anxiety disorder is addressed. Long-term or chronic use of alcohol can eventually make the condition worse.
Anxiety and Panic Disorder Can be Treated
Anxiety disorders can be effectively treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Some individuals who have mild anxiety disorders, or a phobia of something they can easily evade, opt to live with the unpleasant condition and avoid treatments.
However, it is essential to understand that anxiety and panic disorder can be treated, even in severe cases. Although anxiety usually does not disappear entirely, you can learn to manage it and live a healthy and happy life effectively.
If you are searching for anxiety therapy, Chicago Rehab Center is here to help.
Reviewed by Dr. Beth Dunlap
Dr. Beth Dunlap, a board-certified addiction medicine and family medicine physician, is the medical director at CRC Institute, where she is responsible for overseeing all the integrated medical services at the Institute. Beth completed medical school, residency, and fellowship at Northwestern University, where she continues to serve on the faculty as a member of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She has extensive experience in addiction medicine at all levels of care, and her clinical interests include integrated primary care and addiction medicine, harm reduction, and medication-assisted treatment.