Most people will experience anxiety at various times in everyday life. Many will feel anxious, leading to difficult conversations or approaching a daunting or stress-inducing situation. This is perfectly natural. However, an individual with an anxiety disorder will have repeated episodes of panic attacks, extreme agitation, and distress. Such is the severity that a person may be unable to carry out seemingly run-of-the-mill tasks such as showering, shopping or even walking into an office. If left untreated, an anxiety disorder can sabotage the sufferer’s personal, professional, and social life and ability to function effectively.
American Psychiatric Association writes: “Anxiety is a normal stress reaction and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives.” The author concludes that treatment is possible: “But anxiety disorders are treatable, and several effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.”
We have listed some of the anxiety disorders most associated with clients we have successfully treated:
Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
Social anxiety disorder is often minimised or wrongly labelled ‘shyness’.Social anxiety disorder is an intense, sometimes overwhelming fear of social engagements or events, and it can impede social integration at school, college, university, and the workplace. Considering many promotions are often associated with likeability and confidence, one can see how untreated social anxiety disorder can have costly repercussions. Here are some of the symptoms:
- Feeling stressed at the prospect of meeting people socially or in the workplace
- Compulsively worrying about striking up a conversation with someone new in person, online or over the phone
- Intense fear of participating in activities which require confidence and being at ease socially(fear of blushing, sweating, or having a panic attack)
- Random panic attacks because of feeling anxious leading up to a stressful situation or event
- Feelings of discomfort walking into a crowded space such as a shopping mall or a busy restaurant
A specific phobia is an intense, persistent, irrational fear of a situation, location, object, or person. The overwhelming feelings are disproportionate to the actual danger. A specific phobia can be, in some instances, debilitating. Here are a few examples:
- Someone previously bitten or traumatised by a dog in childhood may avoid visiting family and friends who own a dog
- A person may avoid visiting the dentist because of the fear of needles and drilling
- An individual may avoid swimming in the sea or even regularly bathing because of a fear of water
- An individual may avoid necessary medical procedures due to a phobia of needles or blood
General anxiety disorder (GAD)
While most individuals experience anxiety occasionally, GAD is more persistent and sometimes constant. The sufferer will find it hard to stop feeling anxious or worrying, even when life is seemingly straightforward or non-eventful. Here are some of the symptoms associated with GAD:
- Persistent feelings of uneasiness and stress
- Sense of impending doom
- Sleep deprivation
- Heart palpitations
- Unexpected bouts of perspiration
A panic disorder is the cause of intense anxiety and fear, which can be debilitating and seriously impede the ability to function normally. It can strike rapidly and out of the blue, lasting from a few minutes to up to an hour. Someone without a panic disorder may have a panic attack as a natural response to a dangerous situation. However, an individual with a panic disorder will likely have a panic attack in a seemingly routine situation, such as being stuck in traffic, on a plane, or in a lift. The DSM-5 Criteria clearly states that a panic disorder is: “An abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes.” This disorder is also connected to fearing a loss of being “in control”.
Here are some of these symptoms:
- Chills, sweating or dizziness
- Palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate
- Feeling of choking
- Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
- Shaking or trembling
- A sense that one is about to die or feeling disconnected from the body
- Derealisation (feelings of unreality)
- Chest pain or difficulty breathing
- Pins and needles/numbness in fingers and toes
An individual with agoraphobia will be uncomfortable in or fear situations where escape might be difficult or feel that help wouldn’t be available if things were to go wrong. They maybe terrified of being trapped in an enclosed environment such as a lift for any length of time (reaching the twentieth floor of a high-rise will seem to last an eternity). Being in a packed stadium or sports arena could be equally daunting. Travelling (even in a securely owned private jet) may be challenging for someone with agoraphobia. In extreme cases, sufferers will find it difficult to leave their homes or safe environment. There is often an overlap with panic disorder. The symptoms include:
- Intense sweating
- Dry mouth
- Rapid heartbeat
Sometimes confused with agoraphobia, claustrophobia is specific phobia involving a specific persistent, intense fear of confined/small spaces. It is a relatively common phobia affecting millions of people (after all, it’s entirely rational to fear being trapped in any given situation), but this tips over into a disorder when the extreme anxiety caused by it starts to prevent the sufferer from living their life effectively.
Separation anxiety disorder (SAD)
Separation anxiety is a normal stage of development for infants and toddlers. By and large, children will outgrow separation anxiety by the time they are three. However, a diagnosis may be given if a child experiences prolonged anxiety during separation and/or includes panic attacks while at nursery or school. It can be highly distressing for a child with a separation anxiety disorder when their parent(s) or carer leaves them with another family member or at nursery or school. Child Mind Institute writes: “Separation anxiety disorder is a mental health disorder that causes children to become extremely upset when separated from parents or caregivers. They worry that something bad will happen to their parents during the separation.”
Although separation anxiety disorder is most commonly associated with early childhood, adult separation anxiety has been recognised since the 1990s. The symptoms are similar to those of childhood SAD and may include the following:
- Extreme anxiety and fear when separated from significant attachment figures
- Avoidance being alone
- Irrational fears over the safety of loved ones
A surprisingly high percentage of sufferers of separation anxiety will experience their first symptoms in adulthood.
How to overcome anxiety
At Addcounsel, we recognise that individuals respond differently to treatment for anxiety, so we create a highly individualised programme for your individual needs. Here are some of the most effective ways to overcome anxiety:
Daily yoga and mindfulness
Thich Nhat Hanh once said: “Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not return to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.” For thousands of years, individuals have found relief from stress and anxiety through mindfulness and yoga. The data concerning mindfulness improving mental health, particularly reducing anxiety symptoms, has gathered momentum in the last decade. From unicorn CEOs to mindfulness practices have been integrated into many influential institutions worldwide. Harvard Health Publishing (Harvard Medical School) states that meditation can help to diminish anxiety and stop it from becoming overwhelming.
Various yoga practices, such as hatha and pranayama (breath control), can have favourable results in managing an anxiety disorder. The ancient yoga practice, pranayama, has been incorporated into many stress reduction programmes and has also been shown to help people with mild hypertension to reduce blood pressure.
Prescribed medication may be necessary for some individuals.
For some, prescribed medication will undoubtedly lessen the debilitating effects of a chronic anxiety disorder. Combining the appropriate medication and mindfulness/yoga can be very effective. A short-term prescription of calming medication such as diazepam (Valium) and long-term treatments such as sertraline (Zoloft) are sometimes necessary. Addcounsel recognises the importance of approaching each patient individually with a personalised approach when you check into one of our discreet rehabilitation centres. Our world-class multidisciplinary team and health specialists will work with you at every stage as you take steps to address an anxiety disorder.
Mindful walking can enhance mental and emotional health.
Walking is a simple and highly therapeutic way to relieve some of the distressing symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Connecting with nature is an excellent way for someone new to mindfulness to access moments of tranquillity and return to the present. For instance, the quietness of a forest or even a park may create a feeling of serenity in someone who has been quietly suffering from an anxiety disorder for any time.To fully benefit from walking, a light mindfulness practice can be integrated. Utilising all the senses will make it easier to access the present moment and feel serene. For example, it is suggested to bring one’s attention to every step, grounded in mindfulness.
Anxiety treatment with Addcounsel takes place in an intimate, one-to-one. Your comfort and privacy are our priorities. Our world-leading therapy services, paired with targeted pharmaceutical intervention, can help you to liberate yourself from anxiety and regain control of your life. Please get in touch with us now to talk with our team.