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Anxiety Disorder Treatment in St. Charles, IL

Anxiety — The Most Common of All Psychiatric Disorders

Dr. Langner provides anxiety disorder treatment in St. Charles, IL. First, one must know what anxiety disorder is and how it starts to understand better preventing and treating this kind of disorder. Dr. Langner is a trusted mental health therapist and will help us know what anxiety disorder is.

Anxiety is central to the human condition. Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders. Anxiety is central to all psychiatric disorders. It is central to human life.   

What is anxiety? It is related to fear. Fear is a response to some specific threat, like a tiger or tornado. Man is the only animal that can see into the future, who knows he will one day die. As a result, everything becomes an object of danger. To paraphrase, Shakespeare said anxiety makes us die a thousand deaths before we die.

Yet, anxiety is needed for survival. Life is dangerous. Anxiety is a biological necessity, as real as other biological necessities such as blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is somewhat arbitrarily defined as 120/80. Two standard deviations to the right on the bell-shaped curve and you have hypertension, somewhat arbitrarily defined as 140/90, a clinical entity that can be dangerous. Two standard deviations to the left, and you have hypotension.

There is no comparable metric for anxiety, but there is a normal degree of anxiety needed for survival. Two standard deviations to the right, and anxiety can become a clinical entity and can be crippling. Two standard deviations to the left, which is rare, and you have someone like Alfred E. Neuman, from Mad comics, who says, "What? I worry?" Alfred had better worry a little.  

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard states, "Whoever is educated by anxiety is educated by possibility." According to David Barlow, a leading anxiety researcher, without anxiety, "The performance of athletes, entertainers, executives, artisans, and students would suffer; creativity would diminish; crops might not be planted. And we would all achieve that idyllic state long sought after in our fast-paced society of wiling away our lives under a shade tree. This would be as deadly for the species as nuclear war."

Barlow's reference to the power of the atom is apt. Anxiety, like the atom, can be a source of enormous energy, but, like anything powerful, can harm or help us. Anxiety fuels human achievement, it fuels life, but it can lay waste to our psyche if out of control. I have a patient who wakes up every morning flooded with anxiety, too weak to get out of bed because of uncontrollable vomiting. Another patient has night terrors from which he wakes up drenched in sweat, too afraid to sleep.

It must be recognized that these disorders are medical conditions. Advanced technology will demonstrate that these disorders are caused by pathological changes in the brain, probably in the amygdala circuit. This technology has already demonstrated that PTSD is related to pathological changes in the hippocampus. Such knowledge will be helpful not just in the treatment of anxiety disorders, but in demonstrating that the patient suffers from a medical condition, not a character weakness.

There are, luckily, effective medications for the treatment of anxiety disorders, such as the serotonin reuptake inhibitors and especially the benzodiazepines. The benzodiazepines are controlled substances — and can be abused — so they must be used on an as-needed basis as much as possible. They must be used in the context of a therapeutic relation designed to help the patient develop coping skills. It is comforting to know that if all else fails, the patient has effective medication that allows him to relax and be more creative in developing ways to cope, which makes him stronger. Then there is the therapeutic bond. The patient need not go it alone.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Symptoms of anxiety disorders include restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge, fatigue, inability to concentrate, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances. Anxiety can come out in dreams, such as falling or being chased or threatened. Sometimes it presents as a vague feeling of dread. Anxiety can lead to depression. Chronic anxiety is corrosive. Weeks, months, years, or a lifetime of chronic anxiety probably depletes critical neurotransmitters, leading to depression. The person gives up. Life is too hard. He/she develops symptoms of depression, such as feelings of emptiness, meaninglessness, helplessness, hopelessness, anhedonia (i.e., incapacity for pleasure), fatigue, or sometimes suicidal ideation. Anxiety/depression and dread/despair can often be seen as opposite sides of the same coin.

Fear/anxiety is related to the amygdala circuit, which, in the words of amygdala researcher Joseph LeDoux, "Detects threats and orchestrates defensive responses to help keep the organism alive and well." These sub-cortical amygdala circuits are connected to higher cerebral areas of the brain, where these perceived threats create feelings of fear and anxiety. Environmental and genetic factors cause anxiety. Environmental factors include a toxic childhood, traumatic events later in life, and the stress of living. Some people are predisposed to dread/despair because of genetic factors. This does not mean they are weak. Such people are not just more sensitive to the pain inherent in life; they are often more sensitive to the beauty inherent in life and that we must search to find. Many of the gems of humanity, people who have advanced the cause of the human race and enriched our lives — such as the Buddha, Lincoln, Gandhi, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Tolstoy — fall into this category. They were able to transform dread and despair into glorious works of creation.

Just as the treatment of blood pressure is multi-determined by changes in lifestyle, diet, exercise, or medication, so is the treatment of anxiety disorders. The challenge is to move anxiety further to the left on the bell-shaped curve.

It is important to recognize that feelings like anxiety and depression are not necessarily our enemy to be beaten into submission with psychotropic medication. Like dreams, in Freud's words, they can be used as royal roads to the unconscious. Feelings of dread/despair take us to the core of the self and can teach us about who we are and how we live.

If you are experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, it is best to consult clinics that offer mental health services. Always remember that prevention is better than cure.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Also called: ADHD, Attention Deficit Disorder

ADHD Cartoon

Symptoms include limited attention and hyperactivity.
People may experience:
Behavioral: aggression, excitability, fidgeting, hyperactivity, impulsivity, irritability, lack of restraint, or persistent repetition of words or actions
Cognitive: absent-mindedness, difficulty focusing, forgetfulness, problem paying attention, or short attention span
Mood: anger, anxiety, boredom, excitement, or mood swings
Also common: depression or learning disability

Depression & Other Disorders

Information coming soon...