Although common, anxiety can lead to serious impairment in your everyday life. Anxiety can be as mild as a flutter in your stomach or as severe as an anxiety attack, but it is always an uncomfortable experience. Keep reading to learn more about what causes anxiety, and what you can do to resolve your anxiety symptoms.
Different Types of Anxiety
Understanding the different types of anxiety is a critical first step toward resolving your symptoms. There are several mental health disorders that all fall under the umbrella of anxiety disorders, and each may have different causes and symptoms.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety disorder describes a condition where people can feel intense and overwhelming anxiety for nearly any reason. Unlike the other anxiety disorders, there is no singular focus of anxiety but rather a tendency toward anxiety in nearly any situation.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
People living with social anxiety disorder often have a difficult time in public or social situations. You might feel paralyzed by the thought of speaking in public, fear judgment from others at a party, or be overly self-conscious. As a result, many people with SAD avoid many common social situations or activities.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety characterized by frequent and debilitating panic attacks. During these attacks, people can feel out of breath, have elevated heart rates, and may even think they are having a heart attack. Panic attacks are an intense fear response, often when there is no danger or clear cause.
A phobia is an irrational and uncontrollable fear about a specific situation, object, or activity. For example, some people are intensely afraid of flying, spiders, or enclosed spaces.
As you might expect, the cause of anxiety can vary dramatically between different types of anxiety disorders. Additionally, specific anxiety treatments may be better suited to treat certain types of anxiety.
While each type of anxiety disorder has a slightly different set of symptoms, some commonalities can help you determine whether you’re experiencing an anxiety disorder. Anxiety has both physical and psychological symptoms, and you may experience one more intensely than the other.
- Some of the most common anxiety symptoms include:
- Excessive worry or fear
- Feeling like your thoughts are racing out of control
- Difficulty concentrating
- A feeling of impending doom
- Profuse sweating
- Feeling like your heart is beating out of your chest
- Sleep problems
Experiencing these symptoms regularly may indicate an underlying anxiety disorder, particularly if they happen often, regularly, and disrupt your everyday life.
Common Anxiety-Provoking Situations
By understanding the different kinds of anxiety and the common symptoms, you can begin to look at specific causes of anxiety. These differ dramatically between individuals, but certain situations are more likely to provoke anxiety than others.
By far, the most common anxiety-provoking situations are when you are under direct scrutiny from others. This is particularly true for people with social anxiety disorder, but it’s a common cause of anxiety for people with panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder as well. This could include situations such as:
- Job interviews
- Public speaking
- Meetings at work
- Performance reviews
- Performing for others
Other situations can lead to anxiety as well, particularly for people with generalized anxiety disorder. Health concerns, stressful life events, and major life changes are all common sources of anxiety.
For people with specific phobias, the source of anxiety is typically highly localized. A person with arachnophobia, for instance, may rarely experience anxiety in their everyday life but become crippled by fear when a spider is seen in the house.
The Neural Basis of Anxiety
Another way of looking at the cause of anxiety is looking within the brain itself. Anxiety is, fundamentally, an exaggerated fear response and has roots within the amygdala and prefrontal cortex.
Among other functions, the amygdala is associated with the fight-or-flight response. The amygdala plays a key role in activating the sympathetic nervous system, which can cause a spike in adrenaline, hyperventilation, and a shift in blood pressure toward the heart and lungs.
People with anxiety disorders have elevated activity within the amygdala, which causes an overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system. This causes a cascade of physiological changes that parallel the symptoms of anxiety.
How to Deal With Anxiety
Certain people can learn to cope with their anxiety through lifestyle changes, such as starting exercise routines, mindfulness meditation, or avoiding specific situations that cause them anxiety. But for most people with anxiety disorders, lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough to put an end to anxiety symptoms.
Thankfully, researchers and clinicians have studied the treatment of anxiety for decades, and several evidence-based treatment methods can help people achieve recovery.
Starting treatment at a specialized mental health provider can not only help you cope with anxiety in the moment but also resolve the underlying causes of anxiety, allowing you to live a healthier and happier life in mental health recovery.
Traditional Anxiety Treatment Options
Conventional methods for anxiety treatment revolve around two main treatment methodologies — anxiety therapy and anxiety medications.
Talk therapy has long been an effective method of helping people resolve their anxiety symptoms and work toward achieving recovery. Several different therapeutic styles have proven themselves to be beneficial in the treatment of anxiety disorders, including:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Acceptance and commitment therapy
- Interpersonal therapy
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing
While each therapeutic style may differ, they all help people change the way they think about anxiety-provoking situations and teach actionable strategies that can help in the event of an anxiety attack or stressful situation.
Certain medications can treat anxiety disorders as well. While several medication options are available for the treatment of anxiety, they generally fall into three main categories:
- Benzodiazepines: Medications such as Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin all belong to the category of benzodiazepines. Some are fast-acting anxiety relievers, while others provide long-term relief. While these medications are highly effective, they carry some risk of misuse or addiction and treat the symptoms rather than the cause.
- Antidepressants: Many antidepressant medications are used to treat anxiety as well. Unlike benzodiazepines, these medications can create lasting changes that prevent anxiety from occurring in the first place. Antidepressants are typically taken daily and are generally less prone to misuse.
- Beta-blockers: These are often used off-label to treat the physical symptoms of anxiety. They can help calm the sympathetic nervous system, preventing the symptoms of sweating, racing heartbeats, or tremors.
Starting anxiety medication typically involves meeting with a psychiatrist to begin medication management. Your psychiatrist will work with you to determine which medications can best treat your symptoms and help you adjust the dosage and timing for maximum results.
Novel Anxiety Treatment Options
While anxiety therapy and medications can help a great number of people achieve recovery, they don’t always work for everyone. Thankfully, there have been great advancements in innovative treatment methods for treating anxiety disorders, and these novel treatment methods are available for your anxiety treatment at Plus by APN.
Ketamine-assisted therapy (KAT) is an innovative approach to accelerating the therapy process. In traditional therapy, there are several barriers to people achieving recovery from anxiety disorders. Most commonly, people are anxious to speak with a therapist, which can paradoxically interfere with anxiety treatment.
Traditional talk therapy takes time to build trust, gain insight, and reach the point where recovery can happen. By administering a small dose of ketamine, a dissociative psychedelic, people can rapidly break through these barriers and accelerate the healing process.
KAT follows three simple stages. First, you meet with your treatment team, who can walk you through the treatment process and tell you what to expect.
Then comes the ketamine session, where ketamine is administered, and a therapist guides you through the experience. The ketamine session typically lasts about two hours.
Finally, our team follows up with you to see how your symptoms have improved after treatment and provide continued support. Most people experience a dramatic improvement after a single session, but repeated sessions can further solidify your treatment progress.
Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) is an anxiety treatment approach that directly targets regions of the brain associated with anxiety. dTMS begins with a meticulous brain scan, locating underactive regions of the brain that are implicated in anxiety disorders.
Using powerful magnets attached to a cap, dTMS can provide brief electric impulses deep into underactive brain regions. These brief impulses help aid the brain’s recovery process, forging new neuronal pathways that can reduce the symptoms of anxiety. While the stimulation reaches deep into the brain, dTMS is completely non-invasive.
Neurofeedback is an approach that provides real-time brain information to help you understand and control your brain’s state.
Similar to dTMS, neurofeedback uses a specialized cap that captures information about specific brain waves. This information is displayed on a screen, and with specific training, you can learn to regulate your brain activity.
In the context of anxiety treatment, this means learning strategies to control a more stimulated brain state and induce more relaxing and calming states. Neurofeedback training can provide substantial benefits for people living with an anxiety disorder.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a way to help your brain and body accelerate the healing process. In HBOT, clients enter a highly oxygenated chamber, which can drastically increase the available oxygen within their bloodstream.
Oxygen is one of the primary building blocks for cell growth and repair, helping your brain create new neural pathways during anxiety treatment. HBOT can be used as a direct treatment for anxiety for people who have experienced some type of brain damage or used in conjunction with other treatments to accelerate the healing process.
Stellate Ganglion Blocks
The stellate ganglion is a bundle of nerves in the neck that plays a key role in the sympathetic nervous system. A stellate ganglion block provides a local anesthetic to this bundle of nerves, which can result in substantial improvements in several of the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Essentially, a stellate ganglion block impedes the signals from your brain from reaching the rest of your body. While this doesn’t improve the psychological symptoms of anxiety directly, a reduction in physical symptoms can keep your psychological symptoms from getting worse.
Start Treatment at Plus by APN
At Plus by APN, our team is dedicated to providing the best in both conventional and innovative anxiety treatments. To get started with the best evidence-based anxiety treatments, contact our team by calling 424.644.6486 or filling out our confidential online contact form.
- “Anxiety Disorders.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders. Accessed 23 Dec. 2023.
- Lynch, James H et al. “Stellate Ganglion Block Reduces Anxiety Symptoms by Half: A Case Series of 285 Patients.” Journal of personalized medicine vol. 13,6 958. 6 Jun. 2023, doi:10.3390/jpm13060958