Life is full of challenges and new experiences and feeling anxious is often a natural part of life. Whether you are facing an upcoming test, a job interview, or an important life event, an intense feeling of nervousness can be common. However, if anxiety persists or returns long after a stressful event, or if you suffer from chronic feelings of fear or paranoia, you may be dealing with an anxiety disorder.
How Common Are Anxiety Disorders?
Chronic anxiety disorders are quiet common, with the WHO (2017) estimating the global number of people suffering from different types of anxiety at over 260 million. While anxiety disorders (and other kinds of mental illness) vary from person to person, they can often be categorized among the following types:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)– A persistent form of anxiety that can last upwards of 6 months if not longer. Symptoms may also include feeling fatigued, restlessness or issues concentrating. (NIMH, 2018)
Panic Disorder– Those suffering from a panic disorder are subject to recurring panic attacks that can be sudden and unexpected or caused by an emotional trigger.
Phobia Related Anxiety– Shown by a person’s severe anxiety, fear or aversion to a specific object or situation.
Social Anxiety Disorder– A severe fear, anxiousness or aversion to social situations or performances that is rooted in the belief that others will look down upon or feel negatively towards the afflicted.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)– Occurs in an individual who experiences a severe trauma or life-changing event. Often found amongst veterans or victims of sexual assault, those suffering from PTSD may suffer from flashbacks, paranoia, or anxiety attacks for years. (VA 2021)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder– “A common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.” (NIMH, 2019)
How is Anxiety treated?
Two of the most common ways in which therapeutic professionals go about treating anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and medication.
A therapeutic treatment program headed by a therapist or mental health specialist. One popular form of this is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which attempts to help a patient “rewire” the brain to reduce levels of anxiety and achieve inner wellness. (NIMH 2018)
Using medication, such as anti-depressants or a benzodiazepine, to help relieve symptoms. However, these medications have a number of downsides: some of them can be highly addictive, it may take time to find a dosage subtle for a specific patient (AAC 2021), they are often ineffective, many take several weeks before effects are noticeable, and many people have to try multiple types before finding relief. (NCBI, 2017)
In the search for new forms of treatment, a variety of research groups and companies are now looking into the efficacy of psychedelic medicines as a way of treating not only the symptoms, but the direct causes of an anxiety disorder.
Psilocybin is a psychoactive compound found in some species of mushrooms. Taken while in the presence of a trained therapist and under specific therapeutic protocols, a patient is given a specific dose of psilocybin. The patient then undergoes a therapeutic experience that may be self-directed with a therapist available for support if needed, or the therapist may take a more active role and deliver therapies such as CBT. Clinical trials of this process show patients having a significant drop in their anxiety, which persists for months after undergoing treatment. (NCBI 2017)
MDMA is a psychoactive drug that has been shown to be able to induce feelings of safety and social connectedness. These effects allow the patient to encounter anxiety-provoking stimuli or memories they would normally avoid. In conjunction with psychotherapy, research has already started to show that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is effective for healing PTSD. (MAPS, 2021)
Mindleap Health is committed to helping people manage their mental and emotional health and provides access to psychedelic integration therapy training specialists through our platform. However, we can’t offer medical advice and we don’t encourage illegal activities. Our community places trust in us – and we view that responsibility with reverence. Please speak to a health care provider if you have any medical concerns and always exercise caution and care.
American Addiction Centers (n.d.). Benzodiazepine addiction: symptoms & signs of dependence. American Addiction Centers.https://americanaddictioncenters.org/benzodiazepine/symptoms-and-signs
Bandelow, B., Michaelis, S., Wedekind, D., (2017). Treatment of anxiety disorders. National Center for Biotechnology Information. idoi: 10.31887/DCNS.2017.19.2/bbandelow
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic (2018). A multi-site phase 3 study of MDMA- assisted psychotherapy for PTSD (MAPP1). https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03537014
National Institute of Mental Health (2017). Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders
World Health Organization (2017). Depression. World Health Organization who.int/publications/i/item/depression-global-health-estimates
This article was written by Luke Williams, Jr. Producer at Mindleap.