Anxiety Disorders and Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Everyone experiences bouts of anxiety. However, not everyone experiences anxiety that persists for months and interferes with every aspect of their daily lives. These individuals are most likely dealing with an anxiety disorder.
An anxiety disorder is a mental health condition primarily defined by feelings of intense anxiety, fear and dread. A wide range of biological and environmental influences determines if a person develops an anxiety disorder.
There is a lot of misinformation about anxiety disorders in the public square despite the fact they are the most common mental illness diagnosed in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 40 million Americans aged 18 and older are currently dealing with an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are just like any other chronic illness in that their symptoms can be managed with time, patience and treatment. Read on to learn more about the most common anxiety disorders, their symptoms and how they can interact with other forms of mental illness.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Patients afflicted with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) experience a continuous state of excessive worry, tension and stress over periods lasting six months or greater. One of the most common aspects of generalized anxiety disorder is a tendency to assume the worst in every situation, even if there is little evidence to support this conclusion. This exaggerated worry can make it difficult to concentrate and communicate with others.
Additional symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:
- Chronic muscle tension
- Sleep problems
- Unending worry
- Loss of focus
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is characterized by intense anxiety and apprehension during social situations. While it’s common for many to feel uncomfortable around new people, those afflicted with social anxiety disorder experience debilitating physical symptoms when they are placed in unfamiliar social settings. This anxiety disorder can hinder success at work and school or bring down relationships.
The unpredictable symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:
- Intense fear of rejection by others
- Trembling or shaking around strangers
- Nausea in social settings
- Excessive sweating in social settings
- Racing thoughts in social settings
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty making and keeping friends
The symptoms of panic disorder mimic those of life-threatening medical conditions, such as heart attack. These symptoms occur chronically and unexpectedly, making it difficult for those afflicted to manage their disorder. In fact, many people with panic disorders experience additional anxiety between episodes because they cannot predict when the next occurrence will show up.
The reoccurring symptoms associated with panic disorder include:
- Feeling of powerlessness between episodes
- Avoidance of potential episode triggers
- Unexpected episodes of intense fear
- Shortness of breath
- Nagging feelings of deep dread
- Excessive sweating
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Moving past a traumatic experience is no easy feat. In fact, there are many cases where emotions experienced during trauma continue to feel as vivid as they did in the moment, even years after the fact.
Patients who experience this phenomenon are diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Natural disasters, serious injuries, military combat and sexual assault are just a few of the traumatic experiences that may haunt an individual for months or years in the form of PTSD.
When triggered by a related stimuli, those afflicted with PTSD can experience any of the following symptoms:
- Extreme detachment from friends and family
- Suicidal thoughts
- Substance abuse
- Chronic panic attacks
- Increased aggression
- Trouble sleeping
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) patients experience chronic, unwanted obsessions and compulsions that prevent them from living out their daily lives. Examples of compulsive behaviors performed by those afflicted with OCD include uncontrollable counting and cleaning. These behaviors are actually performed in order to distract the individual from overwhelming anxiety, but they can only provide short-term relief.
Other obsessions and compulsions experienced by those dealing with OCD include:
- Chronic irrational doubt
- Constant worrying about others
- Repeated checking of locks, doors and switches
- Obsessing over small trinkets
- Obsessing over symmetry and arrangement
- Routine mental conversations
- Excessive cleaning sessions
Certain phobias, such as arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), are familiar concepts thanks to depictions these conditions in films and television. Phobias are far from fiction, however.
Many individuals experience debilitating bouts of anxiety when they encounter the object or situation related to their phobia. For some, their fear and anxiety is related to a benign object or situation. In other cases, phobias are experienced in specific social or public settings. Though phobias can be treated, they are also difficult to predict because they vary from person to person.
Anxiety Disorders and Addiction Treatment
Individuals suffering from an anxiety disorder must deal with all kinds of unwanted distractions and disturbances while trying to live their daily lives. Dealing with an anxiety disorder becomes even more difficult when the individual is also dealing with drug or alcohol addiction.
Because addiction is a mental disorder itself, those who experience co-occurring disorders are known as “dual diagnosis” patients. In cases like these, the support of both physicians and psychiatrists goes a long way toward helping patients overcome both of their mental health problems.
You can learn more about recovering from anxiety disorders and dual diagnosis by reaching out to The Treatment Center of the Palm Beach. Our board-certified staff of health experts have extensive experience in treating patients with co-occurring disorders. Learn more about how we can help by calling anytime, even on holidays.