Anxiety and Panic Disorders
Believe it or not, hormone imbalances are a major cause of anxiety and panic in men and women.
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To learn more about how Dr. Goldstone can help with your anxiety or panic disorder please call the office to schedule a free consultation today.
Anxiety is an emotion everyone feels at times; it is associated with worry, stress or panic. It is common to get anxious before taking a test, making an important decision, or going to see a doctor. Feelings of anxiety in such contexts are typically temporary and brief. An anxiety disorder, however, presents with much more severe and persistent feelings of worry, fear, and stress. These feelings are so powerful that they not only interfere with daily activities and relationships, but manifest with (often severe) physical symptoms. More than 3 million people are treated each year for a wide array of anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorder is the most common psychiatric illness among both children and adults.
At Southern California Center for Anti-Aging, one of our goals is rid you of excessive stress and anxiety and to learn ways to self-soothe and maintain psychological balance. Dr. Goldstone is well aware of the body-mind connection, and always approaches you as a whole person. For this reason, all of her treatment methods are designed to improve your mental, as well as your physical, health.
Feelings of anxiety or panic without an apparent or reasonable cause can be very troubling and frightening. Although anxiety andpanic disorders can occur for different reasons, when hormones are out of balance uncomfortable symptoms related to anxiety can develop. Some of these symptoms are: worry, intense fear, agitation, irritability, nervousness, irrational thoughts, and fear of losing control. These symptoms can be accompanied by a number of physical signs, including fight or flight reactions such as: pounding heart, palpitations rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, nausea, hot or cold flashes, chest pain, numb hands and feet, sweating, lightheadedness, shakiness, choking sensation, increased blood pressure and muscle tension.
Hormonal changes have been associated with heightened anxiety. There is an increase in anxiety and frequency of panic attacks during PMS, post-childbirth, perimenopause and menopause and andropause. Women with low progesterone levels and men with low testosterone are prone to anxiety. Estrogen helps to stimulate the production and transportation of serotonin around the body, and prevents its break down. Therefore, when estrogen levels are low serotonin is low and an unstable mood and anxiety can develop.
Stress plays a key role in the onset and aggravation of anxiety due to the alteration of hormone levels. Higher stress causes a rush of cortisol, adrenaline, and other chemicals into the bloodstream to prepare the body to fight or flee danger. The fight or flight response triggers the physiological changes associated with anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat, slowing digestion, shunting blood flow to major muscle groups as well as giving the body a burst of energy and strength. Cortisol and adrenaline both interfere with the synthesis of the calming, relaxation neurotransmitter and serotonin. Lack of sleep, poor nutrition, minimal exercise, stimulant usage, and negative thought patterns can also cause excessive cortisol release that may eventually result in anxiety in both men and women.
What are the different types of anxiety disorders?
There are several types of anxiety disorders recognized by medical professionals, including:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: This disorder is characterized by overwhelming, chronic and excessive worry that occurs with little to no provocation. it may be a constant, underlying sense of nervousness during everyday circumstances and situations. Rather than being sudden and episodic, it can be experienced as generalized, perpetual discomfort.
- Panic Attacks: During panic attacks an individual suffers sudden symptoms of fear, dread or terror with little to no warning. Patients with panic disorder can experience frequent panic attacks, presenting with a great variety of physical symptoms, including heart palpitations, difficulty taking a deep breath, and a feeling of impending death. Sometimes such attacks are traceable to an incident or memory, but they frequently seem to appear out of the blue.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: Many people are plagued by feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness, insecurity and worry in social situations. This disorder is also known as social phobia. Affected individuals may fear being judged, ridiculed, or ostracized in social situations so strongly that they avoid social situations altogether.
- Specific phobias: Individuals can have irrational fears of just about anything. Some common phobias are fear of heights, spiders, and closed spaces, but phobias can also be highly idiosyncratic. It is entirely possible for an individual to experience terror when confronted with a particular animal, object, form of transportation, or natural phenomenon. Depending upon the individual’s particular circumstances (place of residence, occupation, relationships) such a phobia may be more or less restrictive or even debilitating, and more or less obvious to others.
What are the symptoms of an anxiety disorder?
A great variety of physical symptoms may result from anxiety disorders. As a matter of fact, patients are often brought to emergency rooms with symptoms of heart attacks, strokes, or other severe ailments, only to be diagnosed with panic attacks or severe anxiety. It is easy to see how the symptoms below, which may occur in varying combinations, can be mistaken for those of a traumatic physical event:
- Irrational panic or fear
- Agitation and/or wakefulness
- Shortness of breath, chest tightness
- Sweaty or numb palms and/or feet
- Feeling very hot or very cold
- Heart palpitations
- Nausea, cramps or diarrhea
- Severe headache or dizziness
- Muscle tension or pain
- Dry mouth
- Feeling of impending death
Although an overactive thyroid gland will more often trigger bodily symptoms that are similar to panic symptoms, occasionally an underactive thyroid gland (Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis) has been associated with anxiety and panic attacks as well.
How is an anxiety disorder diagnosed?
As noted, anxiety disorders present physical symptoms that can often be confused with other medical conditions. If you are experiencing symptoms and are unsure of whether the underlying cause is illness or anxiety, you should always have a physical exam performed by a doctor to rule out any indication of physical illness. When you visit the Southern California Center for Anti-Aging, you have the advantage of consulting with Dr. Goldstone, who is a board certified physician as well as an anti-aging specialist. In addition to being fully prepared to differentiate the underlying causes of your symptoms, both through physical examination and taking a thorough medical and psychological history (including the duration, severity, and triggers of your anxiety symptoms), she is also able to prescribe hormones and/or supplements that may be helpful to you, and to refer you to a mental healthcare professional if she feels it is necessary.
How is an anxiety disorder treated?
Treatment depends on the type of anxiety disorder diagnosed. Many people experience anxiety or worsened anxiety due to declining hormones which start around age 30 in both men and women. After doing a thorough evaluation of your situation, Dr. Goldstone may prescribe lifestyle changes, such as an appropriate nutritional plan or diet if you are overweight, stress reduction, and increased exercise. She will also prescribe hormone balancing/ replacement (if your hormones are deficient/ unbalanced), and specific supplements and vitamins. These changes she normally recommends will undoubtedly improve your mental health and sense of general well-being. If Dr. Goldstone diagnoses you with a serious anxiety disorder, she may refer you to a mental healthcare specialist such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor; however, this is quite rare.
In addition to lifestyle changes, other methods of treatment for anxiety disorders include:
- Antidepressants or anxiety-reducing medications
- Psychotherapy: “talk-therapy” to develop coping strategies
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: to develop self-awareness and change thought and behavior patterns
- Relaxation therapy: relaxation or meditation techniques
There is no cure for anxiety disorders, though many symptoms do abate with appropriate treatment. Dr. Goldstone will custom design a program for you which will be sure to help with your symptoms.
The treatment options made available can be successful in reducing symptoms and creating coping strategies. Many individuals will find improvement in their condition through dedication and a willingness to help themselves cope and change, as well as through use of prescribed medication and relaxation techniques. The first step in relaxing may be consulting with Dr. Goldstone. In addition to being a first-rate physician and anti-aging specialist, she is a very good listener.
For more information on successful treatment of anxiety and panic disorders please contact us today!