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What is anxiety?

Anxiety occurs when your mind and body react to stressful situations. These situations can be related to dangerous or unfamiliar conditions and are accompanied by uneasy feelings or dread and distress.

Anxiety symptoms include:

  • Excessive worrying about getting sick
  • Anticipation and uncertainty about the future
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors or twitches
  • Rapid or pounding heartbeat
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Feeling tense or jumpy
  • Anticipating the worst
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Rapid breathing
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Panic attacks

Feeling stressed or anxious from time to time is a normal part of life. But if you experience any of the above symptoms persistently, our mental health specialists can help you find a treatment that works best for you.

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Anxiety disorders

If your anxiety symptoms are persistent and interfere with your daily life, you may have an anxiety disorder. There are several types of anxiety disorders, including:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): This panic disorder is characterized by excessive and persistent worry. Common sources of GAD include concerns over money, work, family and health.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Also called “social phobia,” social anxiety disorder causes a persistent feeling of being watched and judged by others that affects your daily life and activities.
  • Panic disorder: Panic disorder often causes panic attacks, which are characterized by feelings of fear that can last for several minutes or longer when there is no real threat of danger.
  • Phobias: A phobia is characterized by a persistent and intense fear of a particular object or situation. Common phobias include agoraphobia (fear of situations where escaping is difficult), arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and acrophobia (fear of heights).
  • Separation anxiety: This panic disorder occurs when you’re afraid of being separated from home, a person, group or pet, beyond what’s considered normal for a person’s developmental age.

Anxiety risk factors

While anyone can develop anxiety or an anxiety disorder, certain risk factors can increase your chance of developing anxiety. These include:

  • History of mental health disorders: Having other existing mental health disorders can increase a person’s risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
  • Trauma: Living through a traumatic event can cause a person to develop an anxiety disorder.
  • Substance misuse: For those who misuse alcohol or illegal drugs, the risk of developing an anxiety disorder is increased.
  • Abuse: Physical or sexual abuse, especially in childhood, can lead to the development of anxiety disorders.
  • Other causes: Genetics, excessive stress and other medical conditions can lead to the development of panic disorders over time. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and medical history.

Diagnosing anxiety

Our team is experienced in diagnosing anxiety disorders through tests that may include:

  • Psychological exam: Your primary care provider can determine whether your anxiety may need further treatment and refer you for a psychological exam. During this exam, you’ll talk with a psychologist about your feelings and behaviors to diagnose your anxiety disorder or mental health condition.
  • Blood tests: These tests can help your doctor rule out other medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, which can cause similar symptoms to anxiety.

Treatments for anxiety

Our dedicated and highly trained team of psychiatry and behavioral health specialists can help diagnose and find a treatment for your anxiety disorder. Our team may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • Therapy - Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, has been proven to help people with anxiety disorders. In talk therapy, you’ll work with a therapist who will create a treatment plan around your specific anxiety disorder. Some examples of therapy used to treat anxiety include:
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common form of talk therapy. This form of therapy will teach you different ways of thinking, acting and reacting to situations that cause anxiety.
    • Exposure therapy is a form of CBT that focuses on confronting fears in order to overcome them. This form of therapy is often used alongside relaxation exercises and imagery.

    Your therapist or doctor may also recommend you attend a support group. In a support group, you can share your symptoms, stories and achievements with others who also have anxiety disorders. Many people find these groups extremely helpful as they navigate through their treatment journey.

  • Medication - Your doctor may prescribe a type of medicine to help ease your anxiety symptoms. These may include:
    • Anti-anxiety medication: Also known as benzodiazepines, these medications help relieve the symptoms of anxiety.
    • Antidepressants: If an anxiety disorder causes feelings of depression, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant.
    • Beta blockers: If your anxiety symptoms include a racing heart, trembling or shaking, beta blockers can help you relax during an anxiety attack.

Psychiatry and behavioral health at Geisinger

The psychiatry and behavioral health professionals offer support and services that can help you overcome mental health conditions or addiction. We offer:

  • Coordinated care and treatment: By working with medical care teams and those with heart conditions or cancer, our team can spot conditions, such as depression, that can be easy to miss. We work alongside medical providers to connect you with the treatments you need most.
  • Support from an entire team: When you come to Geisinger, you’ll be supported by a team, including social workers and case managers, who work together throughout your care and are dedicated to helping your treatment stay on track.
  • Geisinger Health Plan member resources: Geisinger Health Plan members, log in to your health plan account at any time and access educational information, including behavioral health resources, to help you take charge of your health.
  • Telemedicine appointments: When in-person appointments aren't possible or necessary, telemedicine appointments will connect you with your behavioral health doctor virtually. Virtual appointments help you get the care you need, when you need it, in a way that's more convenient for you.
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