Anxiety is something we all feel from time to time. It’s normal to feel anxiety symptoms like apprehension or nervousness when faced with a difficult situation at work, school or home. An anxiety disorder, however, is quite different. A true anxiety disorder is a brain disease – more precisely a dysregulation of the brain’s inhibitory chemical messengers. Anxiety disorders can paralyze the sufferer with constant fear and worry. There are actually a number of anxiety disorders, including: panic attacks, social anxiety disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. These conditions are characterized by feelings of fear, apprehension and panic; obsessive, ruminative thoughts; distressing intrusive thoughts and/or nightmares related to a past traumatic experience, difficulty sleeping, and counting or checking rituals.
Clinical studies suggest a correlation between anxiety disorders and dysfunction in the amygdala, a part of the brain involved in attaching emotional resonance to events occurring in a person’s environment. Also, a low level of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) a neurotransmitter that inhibits energy in the brain seems to contribute to heightened anxiety. The use of alcohol has also been shown to reduce GABA in the brain, making it harder for alcohol users to naturally calm their anxiety.
Anxiety disorder treatment at Cottonwood is multifaceted and includes looking at the whole person, not just the symptoms. Cottonwood’s board certified medical director is experienced in using non-addictive mood-regulating medications to reduce anxiety. Our counselors know the therapeutic approaches that those who suffer from anxiety disorders and panic attacks respond to best. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works especially well with patients, helping them to identify and change specific thoughts or patterns of thinking that tend to exacerbate their anxiety or undermine their ability to self-soothe.
As with other mood disorders that we treat in our co-occurring disorders treatment program, we know that the proper diet and regular exercise can have a powerful effect on reducing anxiety and the frequency of panic attacks or anxiety attacks by influencing the biological component of anxiety disorders. Exercise puts a healthy amount of stress on the nervous system. For anxious people, this is a good thing, since stressing brain circuitry results in increased growth and durability.
If you are interested in learning more about anxiety treatment, anxiety disorders and panic attack treatment at Cottonwood, please contact us.