If you’re constantly experiencing anxiety, it might be time for anxiety treatment. Feeling anxious or scared when something is either mentally or physically terrifying is a common response among young adults. In fact, it’s perfectly normal and is often referred to as the fight-or-flight response –– a physiological reaction that is triggered by the release of hormones that prepare the body to either stay and deal with a threat or to run away to safety. But there’s a huge difference between having bouts of anxiety from time to time and having a full-blown anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States:
- Approximately 40 million American adults — roughly 18% of the population — have an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- An estimated 31.9% of adolescents ages 13-18 have any type of anxiety disorder
- Nearly one-half of individuals diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder
- Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment of any kind
Tasks that seem simple to most people, can be impossible for those with anxiety. Tasks such as going to the grocery store, going into crowded areas, or simply showing up for a class or for work. Being a young adult, trying to find your way in the world is hard enough. Trying to navigate that while battling anxiety, is altogether frightening.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Up to about 9% of people will develop Generalized Anxiety Disorder in their lifetime, with women twice as likely as men. The following symptoms tend to be chronic, lasting at least six months and can interfere with a person’s daily activities:
- Excessive & unrealistic worrying, with inability to control it
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Easily startled or scared
- Difficulty concentrating or the mind goes blank
- Sweaty palms, shaking, and rapid heartbeat
Panic disorder typically first occurs in the late teens or early adulthood and is characterized by feelings of intense fear that begin suddenly, often with no warning.
Common symptoms include:
- “Racing” heart
- Chest pains & difficulty breathing
- Feeling weak, faint, or dizzy
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers
- Sense of terror, or impending doom or death
- Feeling sweaty or having chills
- Feeling a loss of control
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
The National Institute of Mental Health defines OCD as a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, recurring thoughts or compulsions that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over, even when they are deemed excessive. The symptoms can be so severe that they interfere with work, school, and personal relationships.
Examples of compulsions:
- Spending a lot of time washing or cleaning for fear of contamination or dirt
- Needing things orderly and symmetrical
- Excessive double-checking of things, such as light switches, appliances, and locks
- Counting, tapping, repeating certain words
Examples of obsessions:
- Fear of losing control and harming yourself or others
- Intrusive sexually explicit or violent thoughts and images
- Excessive attention to something considered lucky or unlucky
Social Anxiety Disorder
Typically beginning in the early to mid-teens, social anxiety disorder affects approximately 15 million American adults and is the second most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder following specific phobia.
Common symptoms include:
- Intensely worrying about social situations
- Avoiding meeting new people or trying to blend into the background to not be noticed
- Needing alcohol or drugs to face a social situation
- Worrying about acting or appearing visibly anxious
Anxiety and addiction often go hand-in-hand. This is typically because many young adults use mind-altering substances as a way to self-medicate the symptoms of undiagnosed anxiety. Mental and substance use disorders share some underlying causes, including changes in brain composition, genetic vulnerabilities, and early exposure to stress or trauma.
Mental health problems can sometimes lead to alcohol or drug use. Conversely, some people who struggle with addiction find that a mental health problem may arise from the misuse of substances as a form of self-medication.
Some of the most common substances that go along with anxiety are as follows:
- Prescription sleep aids
- ADHD medications
- Prescription painkillers
An anxiety disorder can be managed in many ways, including medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of medication and therapy.
Medications for Anxiety
SSRI Antidepressants → the most commonly prescribed drugs for panic and offer fewer side effects than the tricyclic antidepressants (i.e., earlier class of antidepressants)
- Prozac (fluoxetine)
- Zoloft (sertraline)
- Paxil (paroxetine)
- Lexapro (escitalopram)
- Celexa (citalopram)
Benzodiazepines → fast-acting tranquilizers that calm the body by binding with GABA receptors
- Xanax (alprazolam)
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Valium (diazepam)
- Ativan (lorazepam)
Buspirone → mild tranquilizer that acts on serotonin receptors and causes less sedation than benzodiazepines
While there are many different types of therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for anxiety is one of the most widely-used, highly-effective, and lasting techniques. This is because therapy — unlike anxiety medication — treats more than just the symptoms of the problem.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on identifying, understanding, and changing thought patterns, conscious and unconscious beliefs, attitudes, and, ultimately, behavior. Depending on the individual and the severity of the anxiety, benefits can be seen as soon as 12 to 16 weeks.
Cognitive-behavioral techniques can help young adults:
- Challenge inaccurate or negative thinking
- Distinguish between facts and irrational thoughts
- See a situation from a different perspective
- Understand how past experience can affect present feelings and beliefs
- Increase self-confidence and willpower
- Establish healthy, attainable goals
When a young adult is struggling with anxiety as well as a substance use disorder, it can feel debilitating. It’s important to know that these feelings never have to be experienced alone. There is always hope.
Utilizing a blend of medication, psychotherapy, peer group counseling, family counseling, life skills, educational guidance, and vocational assistance, the therapeutic support team at Launch Centers teaches young adults how to treat anxiety disorders and addiction combined. We help our clients leave treatment with the necessary tools to face the world, enabling them to be unhindered by the roadblocks anxiety creates.