When Anxious Becomes Anxiety
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia), and other specific phobias. Some people have panic attacks. If you’re experiencing such anxiety or panic, you know the deep toll it can take on your mind and body.
Anxiety disorder symptoms can be both emotional and physical. According to the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
, or DSM-5
—a reference commonly used by mental health professionals in the US—these symptoms might include:
- Excessive worry
- A feeling of impending doom
- Inability to concentrate
- Tense muscles
- Avoiding feared things or places
What causes anxiety disorders? The exact cause is not fully known, but research suggests that anxiety disorders stem from several sources including genetics, brain chemistry, and the impact of trauma or other adverse experiences. In addition to being a symptom that may be worth treating, anxiety is also a signal—like the check engine light in a car—indicating that something is wrong elsewhere. Often anxiety is a signal about psychological conflict that may be outside your awareness, but worth trying to understand.
Fortunately for many people, with appropriate treatment, anxiety disorders can be understood and managed, bringing relief from the mental and physical stresses they cause and resolving underlying psychological conflicts through self-knowledge.
Our Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
At the Austen Riggs Center, we have successfully helped many patients with anxiety disorders of all types, especially when they co-occur with other disorders and become difficult to treat or “treatment-resistant.” In fact, we are known as the place “where treatment-resistant patients become people taking charge of their lives.”
Anxiety disorders, like other mental illnesses, arise from a complex and highly personal interplay of biology, social stress, and psychological factors. At Riggs, the whole person is the focus of the treatment, not simply discrete symptoms. We work with you as a person with your own unique life story and your own problems and strengths.
Our treatment approach centers on intensive psychodynamic psychotherapy four times a week with a doctoral-level therapist, exploring your lived experiences to identify patterns and the potential impact of losses or other adverse experiences that may be outside your awareness but that influence your decision making. Through this deeper self-understanding, you can be freer to make better choices.
To augment regular psychotherapy sessions, medication is usually part of the treatment for anxiety disorders at Riggs. We have been trailblazers in developing what we call psychodynamic psychopharmacology, a way of using medications for their biochemical benefit, while also carefully attending to the impact of their meanings to the patient and to the doctor.
Family is often part of the social context in which symptoms of anxiety disorders may emerge. So an important part of every treatment at Riggs is family evaluation—with family treatment
offered when indicated.
In addition to therapy and medications, our open setting with its Therapeutic Community Program
mobilizes the powerful potential of social learning through interactions with peers—a profound opportunity to learn about aspects of ourselves that we cannot see but that others can help us see and address.