Anxiety is a normal part of life. It’s natural to feel anxious before taking a test, when making an important decision (like whether to move to a new city), or when faced with a life stressor like a loved one being sick.
Anxiety disorders are more than just occasional anxiety. Someone with an anxiety disorder experiences very little or no relief from the anxiety -- in other words, it doesn't go away even after the test, the decision has been made, or the loved one has recovered.
This kind of anxiety can interfere with daily life, including your professional performance, schoolwork, or relationships. It’s also important to know that many of those who suffer from anxiety also suffer from depression. In fact, close to half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety. (ADAA)
How do you know you need treatment for anxiety?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. They affect 40 million adults 18 and older, or close to one in five people every year. If you suffer from anxiety, know that you’re not alone.
Fortunately, anxiety disorders are very treatable. It’s important to get treated for anxiety, particularly since those with anxiety disorders are 6 times more likely to get hospitalized for a psychiatric disorder.
The most common anxiety disorders are:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) (experiencing excessive anxiety or worry for months or years)
- Panic Disorder (PD) (having “panic attacks”)
- Social Anxiety Disorder (feeling extremely anxious around other people, especially when meeting new people)
- Specific Phobias (i.e. arachnophobia, the fear of spiders; and claustrophobia, the fear of confined spaces)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
While several of these disorders have differing symptoms, if you’ve been experiencing symptoms like these in an ongoing fashion, you may need treatment for anxiety:
- Frequently feeling wound-up or restless
- Getting tired easily
- Having trouble concentrating
- Experiencing muscle tension (especially TMJ)
- Having trouble sleeping (either falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing poor sleep quality)
- Having panic attacks
- Feeling terrified other people will judge you
- Feeling extremely self-conscious in front of others (especially of being humiliated or rejected)
What is an anxiety treatment center?
An anxiety disorder can be debilitating. If you can’t be around people without experiencing extreme anxiety, for example, you can’t attend normal work functions or parties or have the kind of human connection that nourishes you. Life is often painful, and sometimes your loved ones won’t even know you’re in pain, or how to help.
Anxiety treatment facilities have programs that are designed specifically for those suffering from anxiety disorders. They create supportive environments within which to explore the reason for the anxiety, and how to manage it so you can have a full and productive life.
Why go to a treatment center that treats anxiety specifically?
First, anxiety treatment facilities are experienced in the various ways to treat anxiety that work, including therapy (psychotherapy as well as group therapy), pharmaceutical medications, and relaxation techniques to give you concrete ways to help self-soothe.
Second, the staff and therapists at anxiety treatment centers are familiar with the issues specific to those facing anxiety. These mental health professionals are attuned to the needs and desires of those with anxiety, so they can make the process of recovery easier and more comfortable.
Similarly, attending an anxiety treatment center means you’ll be around others going through the same thing as you. It can be hard to describe a panic attack to someone who has never experienced one; at an anxiety treatment center, you’ll be able to connect with others who just “get” it. This is particularly important if you’ve been surrounded by friends or family who you’ve felt misunderstood by, or who you’ve felt you’ve let down because of your anxiety. In order to heal, you must be around others who know what’s happening for you and how to help.
Finally, many anxiety-specific programs will focus on exercises and ways you can self-soothe, or calm yourself down naturally. This includes lifestyle changes like stress reduction, exercise, and meditation.
What else does an anxiety-specific program offer?
In general, anxiety disorders are treated with a combination of therapy and medication. The two most popular forms of therapy for anxiety are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).
The premise of CBT is that your mood is correlated with how you think. In CBT, the therapist and client work together to explore the client’s thoughts and triggers. They work to change (aka rewire) negative thought patterns, with a focus on the present. Why a person thinks the way they do is less important than how to create new, productive ways of coping and thinking.
DBT is a support-oriented therapy that helps the client identify their own personal strengths and build them up, so they feel better and more capable to handle their emotions and needs. It addresses thoughts that can make life difficult (i.e. “I have to be perfect at everything”), and helps create new thought patterns that are more realistic and comforting (i.e. “I don’t have to be perfect for people to love me”).
In addition to talk therapy, you may be prescribed anti-anxiety medications to help you manage your symptoms while you work on creating new thought patterns. There are a number of pharmaceutical medications that can help with anxiety. The most popular include Xanax or Niravam (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Valium (diazepam).
Finally, since treating anxiety disorders has much to do with learning how to manage anxiety skillfully, a number of programs include holistic components to help create self-soothing patterns. This can include yoga therapy, art therapy, and animal therapies like Equine-Assisted Therapy, which can help you find healthier outlets for anxiety.
What happens during treatment?
If you attend an inpatient rehab anxiety treatment center, you stay at the facility for as long as the program takes (usually 30, 60, or 90 days). First you undergo medical tests and evaluation (intake), and then you begin the therapeutic part of the program.
Many anxiety rehab centers will include both individual and group therapy sessions, where you learn to identify the root causes of anxiety and how to address it. You develop new coping strategies, bond with others facing similar difficulties, and begin creating a new life for yourself where you feel more grounded and peaceful.