Anxiety Disorder

According to the 2008-2012 Mental Health Surveillance Study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 12.9 million adults over the age of 18 had one or more anxiety disorders within the past year. Anxiety disorders differ from the normal symptoms of anxiety as the associated worry and fear, lasting six months or more, do not go away on their own and can get worse over time.

While the symptoms of each disorder vary, the most common symptoms of anxiety disorders include intense anxiety, fear and worry about a specific object or situation. People with anxiety disorder have both physical and psychological symptoms. In the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), there are several different anxiety disorders, including:

Generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is chronic, unsubstantiated worry, fear and concern about normal, everyday problems regarding work and school performance, finances and health, which is difficult to control. People with GAD may have difficulty sleeping and concentrating, which can lead to fatigue, muscle tension, restlessness, irritability and edginess.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder consists of frequent and unexpected panic attacks, or the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort. The most severe discomfort associated with panic attacks often occurs within several minutes and subsides within 20 minutes. People with recurrent panic attacks often make trips to the emergency room or doctor because their symptoms closely resemble those of life-threatening heart problems and other illnesses.

People with panic attacks experience four or more of the following symptoms:

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • palpitations or rapid heartbeat
  • nausea or abdominal discomfort
  • feeling faint, dizzy or lightheaded
  • difficulty sleeping
  • muscle tension
  • trembling
  • numbness or tingling sensations
  • feelings of choking or difficulty swallowing
  • chills, hot flashes or sweating
  • sense of things being unreal
  • fear of losing control or going crazy
  • feelings of imminent danger or doom
  • need to escape or flee


Agoraphobia can develop in people who have panic attacks when they begin to fear situations that may lead to another panic attack. However, agoraphobia may also occur without the presence of panic disorder. People with agoraphobia have anxiety about using public transportation, being in open spaces or enclosed places, standing in line, being in a crowd or being outside of the home alone. Due to the intense fear associated with agoraphobia, some people may even avoid leaving their homes.

Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety disorder (i.e., social phobia) is characterized by intense anxiety regarding social situations or performing in front of other people in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny or judgment by others. People may avoid social situations entirely due to the intense anxiety and distress they feel in social situations, where they may be observed or have to perform in front of others.

Specific phobias

Specific phobias are characterized by a fear of specific objects or situations such as dogs, spiders, insects, snakes, germs, heights, thunder, driving, elevators, public transportation, flying, dental or medical procedures and elevators. The feared object almost always provokes immediate fear or anxiety. People with phobias actively avoid feared objects or situations or endure them with intense fear or anxiety.

Causes of anxiety

Anxiety is linked to underlying mental disorders or medical conditions such as thyroid problems, heart disease, substance abuse and withdrawal (e.g., alcohol) and diabetes. Anxiety can also be a side effect of certain medications or drugs such as stimulant medications. Functional neuroimaging, or brain imaging, studies have found substantial evidence for the specific brain regions related to anxiety, including the amygdala (emotion), the insula (somatic and visceral information from the body) and the hippocampus (memory), which suggest that the presence of anxiety disorders alters the functioning of brain regions responsible for emotional experience, processing and learning. Researchers contend that negative emotional reactivity triggers the learned experience of anxiety in the brain.

Sovereign Health of Florida

The chronic, irrational and excessive feelings of panic, fear and uneasiness cause people with anxiety disorders much distress and can significantly impair the ability to function in their daily lives. Sovereign Health of Florida provides individualized behavioral treatment for people with mental disorders such as anxiety, as well as for those affected by substance abuse and co-occurring disorders.

Our expert clinicians provide thorough medical, psychological and psychiatric assessments to rule out any co-occurring medical or psychiatric conditions, to develop a comprehensive, individualized treatment plan specific to the patient’s specific needs and to determine the patient’s need for medication. Patients receive individual psychotherapy and group therapy as well as other evidence-based therapy approaches and interventions for treating anxiety disorders including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), psychoeducational groups, mindfulness and solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT).

Another key component of our treatment programs is brain wellness. We employ innovative approaches such as neurofeedback, which teaches patients to utilize their natural feedback instincts to improve their cognitive functioning through a computer program called BrainPaint.  Cognitive techniques have demonstrated great promise in the treatment of anxiety, as these techniques harness the patient’s capacity to form stronger neural connections in the brain.

If you would like more information about the treatment options available for anxiety disorders, please call our 24/7 helpline to speak to a member of our admissions team.

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