Anxiety disorder is the general term encompassing a number of specific disorders, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias.
Each of these disorders can be debilitating, and there is hope to move beyond the paralysis that comes to the sufferer from any of the specific anxiety disorders!
Characterized by feelings of physical distress, panic attacks can cause heart palpitations, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, tingling, shaking, stomach upset, trouble swallowing or a tight throat, sweating, and a host of other symptoms which trigger the sympathetic nervous system’s fight or flight response. Our bodies are designed to trigger the fight or flight mechanism during high stress situations when increased adrenaline is needed for immediate danger. We are not designed to function in day to day situations in this way.
Panic disorder typically develops in early adulthood, with the median age of onset 24 years old, but the disorder can begin at any age throughout adulthood.
About one in three people with panic disorder develops agoraphobia, a condition in which the individual becomes afraid of being in any place or situation where escape might be difficult or help unavailable in the event of a panic attack.
OCD – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD, is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Repetitive behaviors such as handwashing, counting, checking, or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. Performing these so-called “rituals,” however, provides only temporary relief, and not performing them markedly increases anxiety.
Approximately 2.2 million American adults age 18 and older, or about 1.0 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have OCD.
The first symptoms of OCD often begin during childhood or adolescence, however, the median age of onset is 19. OCD tendencies are sometimes noted in a person who may learn effective ways of managing their compulsion. Nonetheless, the compulsion toward a specific behavior or ritual still has a level of control over this person; effective, non-medication treatment is available to help overcome these tendencies.
PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD affects more than 7.7 million American adults over the age of 18; approximately 3.5 percent of adults suffer from the effects of PTSD. Have you experienced or witnessed an event in which you expected a serious injury or even death to occur? Has this resulted in any of the following: you are not sleeping well; you keep re-living the experience; you feel vigilant about your safety, jumpy, anxious, and/or have mood swings. These are the common symptoms of PTSD. It is estimated that more than 20% of veterans returning from war, including WW II, Vietnam, and Iraq/Afghanistan. Additionally, victims of natural or human-caused disasters, terrorism, crime, or survivors of sexual trauma commonly experience these symptoms. These ongoing problems are the brain’s way of coping with salient events long after these events have ended.
Approximately 7.7 million American adults age 18 and older, or about 3.5 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have PTSD. This can be a debilitating anxiety disorder, and the long-term effects of untreated PTSD manifest in ongoing and worsening physical and mental health issues.
GAD – Generalized Anxiety Disorder
People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) tend to feel pressured, worried, and restless. Often people with this problem think about one responsibility after another and are often distracted from enjoyable activities by intrusive thoughts about what they “should” be doing. Although different suffers may have many different worries that paralyze them, there is often a unifying theme to the worrying with someone suffering from GAD, such as a fear of failure, or approval.
Approximately 6.8 million American adults, or about 3.1 percent of people age 18 and over, suffer with GAD. It can begin at any age, though the median age of onset is 31 years old.
Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder, is an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. Approximately 15 million American adults age 18 and over, or about 6.8 percent of people, struggle with social phobia. Social phobia begins in childhood or adolescence, typically around 13 years of age.
Agoraphobia involves intense fear and anxiety of any place or situation where escape might be difficult, leading to avoidance of situations such as being alone outside of the home, traveling in a car, bus, or airplane, or being in a crowded area. Approximately 1.8 million American adults age 18 and over have agoraphobia without a history of panic disorder. The median age of onset of agoraphobia is 20 years of age.
Specific phobia involves marked and persistent fear and avoidance of a specific object or situation. Approximately 19.2 million American adults age 18 and older, or about 8.7 percent of people have some type of specific phobia. Specific phobia typically begins in childhood; the median age of onset is seven years.
An Integrated Approach to Wellness:
Regardless of the anxiety disorder one suffers from, there is help for the condition! At Dallas Brain & Wellness Institute, our goal is to work with each client to reduce or eliminate symptoms related to anxiety disorders. We utilize neurofeedback, altering the brainwaves to bring them back into a normal state. Additionally, through Christian counseling, we address related behaviors and patterns that have developed in thoughts and actions related to the anxiety disorder. In cases where client is currently on medication, as the brain heals and we effectively work through related thought and behavior patterns, we work closely with the client’s physician to reduce and/or eliminate medications. As the client nears the end of treatment, we move from counseling to Hemispheric life coaching. The client is able to look to the future making balanced, healthy decisions from a place of hope, healing, and wellness!
Written by: Dr. Stephanie Golder