While all of us suffer from anxiety from time to time, for those with an anxiety disorder, these troubling thoughts and feelings greatly interfere with daily life and reduce the quality of life. The good news is that anxiety can be treated, and an anxiety psychiatrist can help. Here are a few important facts about anxiety and your treatment options.
1. Anxiety Disorders Are Common
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness about 20% of all adults in the United States and about 7% of children suffer from some type of anxiety disorder, and this is the most common mental health issue in our country. Millions of Americans suffer from anxiety, and many never seek treatment, which is a shame, because there are treatment options that can greatly reduce the symptoms of anxiety and help a person live a happier, healthier life.
2. Chronic Anxiety Is A Cause For Concern
We’ve all been a bit nervous before a big event or perhaps a school exam or perhaps the first time flying in an airplane. Sometimes anxiety is a normal response to a perilous situation, alerting us to danger. Sometimes we even feel a bit of anxiety when going through a positive change, such as taking on a new job position or moving into a new home.
For people with an anxiety disorder, however, these anxious feelings can be far more severe and not necessarily connected with a specific event. Some people with anxiety, feel anxious and worried throughout any given day, even if there is no specific event or reason behind the anxiety. Many people with an anxiety disorder might dread an event, but the anxiety doesn’t simply disappear once that event is over or they might avoid the event entirely because of the fear and anxiety.
People with an anxiety disorder often feel anxious for no particular reason, not associated with any upcoming event or task. Even if the anxiety is associated with a specific event, it tends to be a much higher level of anxiety than a person without an anxiety disorder would experience. Worries and fears are constant, or chronic, and affect daily life, interfering with work, school and personal relationships.
As an anxiety psychiatrist, I find that many people don’t realize that chronic anxiety is not just a normal way of life. However, if worries and fears are keeping you from enjoying life, an anxiety disorder could be the culprit, and there are resources available to help you manage this anxiety.
3. Symptoms Can Be Emotional & Physical
Anxiety disorders can cause a wide range of symptoms. For instance, you might find that you have difficulty breathing, a faster heartbeat and even hyperventilate. These are common symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Some people feel nervous or tense or have difficulty focusing or concentrating on daily tasks due to worry and anxiety.
Physical responses include sweating or having an upset stomach or even severe gastrointestinal distress. Most people with an anxiety disorder often feel tired and weak and have trouble sleeping. In many cases, people with anxiety will avoid circumstances that tend to trigger an anxious response, such as social events, flying, going to a medical doctor, etc.
4. There Are Several Types of Anxiety Disorders
The American Psychiatric Association recognizes several different types of anxiety disorders. Some individuals will be diagnosed with one of these disorders or perhaps more than one anxiety disorder, depending on their symptoms.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder – With this disorder, a person tends to suffer from consistent feelings of worry and anxiety that interfere with daily life. They may suffer from both physical and emotional symptoms and often tire easily and have difficulty concentrating and sleeping. These worries typically aren’t focused on one specific event, but rather worries and anxiety about many things, big and small.
Social Anxiety Disorder – Individuals with this type of anxiety disorder tend to focus most of their fears and worries on social situations. Those with social anxiety might avoid meeting new people, attending social and family events or even interacting with salespeople and cashiers. They might fear going to school or going to work, and even when they still manage to handle social interactions, they do so with a tremendous amount of anxiety.
Panic Disorder – People with a panic disorder will experience extreme feelings of fear and physical symptoms that include shortness of breath, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, trembling, feelings of numbness and often gastrointestinal pain or distress. These are intense episodes where a person feels an almost complete lack of control, and sometimes they literally occur completely unexpectedly and not necessarily related to a specific event. If you have experienced recurrent “panic attacks,” this may indicate that you have panic disorder.
Agoraphobia – When we think about agoraphobia, it’s not uncommon that you might think about a person that is afraid to leave their home. While this can be one manifestation of agoraphobia, in some cases, a person can leave their home, but they have very intense fear when leaving this perceived “safe” space.
People with agoraphobia typically are afraid of crowded places and often a person will develop agoraphobia after suffering from panic attacks in a public setting. Staying in their home, therefore, often seems like the safest option, but, of course, this severely limits their ability to live a fulfilling life.
Specific Phobias – When a person develops an intense fear about an object, animal or situation, this could be classified as a phobia. With agoraphobia, which is considered separately from specific phobias, the fear is usually very broad with intense fears surrounding public areas or crowded areas.
With a specific phobia, the fear is focused on one specific issue or object, such as an intense fear of heights or perhaps of dogs or spiders or even a fear of flowers or trees or choking. In general, the person is irrationally fearful about something with very little real danger.
For instance, of course, a person could choke on a piece of food, but a person with a true phobia of choking might only eat a liquid diet or avoid many types of foods. Often, a person with a phobia will become preoccupied with feelings of fear about this object, even when they are not presently confronted with the object.
Separation Anxiety – This tends to be more common in children but can occur in adults. This is a type of anxiety where a person feels an irrational level of fear when separated from a specific person or persons.
While it’s common for a person, especially a child, to experience some anxiety about separating from a parent, especially the first few times this occurs, a person with separation anxiety will experience extreme distress and fear. The person might feel consumed with worry about losing this person or even suffer from nightmares about becoming separated from the person.
5. OCD & PTSD Are In Their Own Category
While people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder do suffer from a great deal of worry, fear and anxiety, these two disorders are no longer classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as anxiety disorders.
Of course, just because these aren’t listed as anxiety disorders doesn’t mean that they don’t cause anxiety or that an anxiety psychiatrist cannot help. As a psychiatrist, we are trained to diagnose and provide treatment for a wide range of mental health disorders, including all types of anxiety disorders as well as OCD and PTSD.
6. Many People Have Co-Occurring Disorders
In many cases, a person will have an anxiety disorder as well as another type of mental health disorder. A person could suffer from a panic disorder and PTSD, for example, or perhaps an anxiety disorder and an eating disorder. It isn’t uncommon for people with anxiety disorders to also suffer from depression.
As an anxiety psychiatrist, my job is to take a deep dive and discover all of the issues a patient is facing and why. In some cases, an anxiety disorder could be exacerbated or caused by a physical condition or even a medication that a person is taking. In other cases, a past trauma might be a contributing factor.
A person also might develop an anxiety disorder because they also have a substance use disorder, such as drug addiction. Genetics often play a part, so if your parent or grandparent suffered from anxiety, you might be more likely to have an anxiety disorder.
Your psychiatrist should look at all factors that could cause an anxiety disorder including co-occurring disorders. Once we determine the correct diagnosis for a patient, we can design a treatment plan that addresses all of the issues the patient faces and not just the anxiety.
7. There Are Many Treatment Options
As an anxiety psychiatrist, my focus is on diagnosis and providing treatment options. In some cases, this might include medication, which I can prescribe. However, medication is not the only option we would consider.
Often, cognitive behavioral therapy is the best way to manage an anxiety disorder. This type of therapy helps you build strategies and skills to help you alleviate and deal with symptoms. Often learning these skills boosts a person’s confidence and allows them to handle fearful situations with greater ease.
In some cases, a combination of medication and therapy is recommended. There are several anti-anxiety medications and even some antidepressants that can help relieve feelings of anxiety and improve one’s quality of life. Typically, we do recommend that you also undergo psychotherapy, as well, so that you also have strategies to help you through stressful situations.
Often, if a person has co-occurring disorders, we will work with a variety of therapy types and possibly a combination of medications. Alternative treatments such as ketamine treatments, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) might be options, especially for patients with treatment-resistant depression or PTSD in addition to an anxiety disorder.
No matter what type of mental health disorder you have, a quality psychiatrist should be able to help. Whether you find someone advertised as a depression psychiatrist or bipolar psychiatrist or ADHD psychiatrist, they should have the skills to help you with anxiety disorders as well as any other co-occurring disorders you may have.
Do You Need An “Anxiety Psychiatrist Near Me?”
So often, when we search the internet, we add the words “near me” to the search, such as “anxiety psychiatrist near me.” Obviously, everyone wants a psychiatric provider conveniently close to their home but opting for a telepsychiatry service can be the best option.
Not only does this allow you the freedom to find the best doctor match for your needs and personality, but you also have the freedom of being able to meet with your doctor from just about anywhere on the planet as long as you have an internet connection.
Whether you want a local psychiatrist or a virtual psychiatrist, I can help. As a psychiatrist in Thousand Oaks, I can serve patients in Newbury Park, Westlake Village, Calabasas, Simi Valley, Agoura Hills and Camarillo, but if you live outside of these areas, I am always happy to meet virtually to help you find solutions for any mental health issues.
If you need an anxiety psychiatrist or need treatment for depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, substance use disorders or perhaps co-occurring disorders, please contact us today. I will provide you with a thorough evaluation and design a treatment plan that can greatly improve the quality of your life. Psychiatric disorders are not a weakness, they are biological diseases that we can treat, so get in contact with us as soon as possible to set up an appointment.
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Dr Jesalva is a psychiatrist. He is in private practice in Thousand Oaks, CA since 1989. He successfully treats very challenging patients with varying co-occurring disorders with medications.