What are anxiety disorders?
Everyone feels anxiety from time to time. In fact, anxiety can help us perform better in some situations. Anxiety (or levels of fear) represents the body's natural "fight, flight, freeze" response, like a built-in alarm system. This system (which manifests in the form of a variety of symptoms) is meant to warn us of danger.
But for those who suffer from an anxiety disorder, anxiety becomes a powerful internal dictator that makes it difficult to perform certain tasks or handle everyday situations.
Anxiety can make people behave in ways they know are irrational, but which they feel powerless to change. For some people, anxiety makes having a "normal" life seem almost impossible.
The National Institute of Mental Health identifies anxiety disorders as the most common mental health problem in the U.S., affecting more than 19 million Americans.
As many as 25% of American adults will be affected by a debilitating anxiety problem in their lifetime, and that percentage continues to rise along with the ever-increasing stress of modern life. More than 80 million prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications are written each year in the U.S.
Fortunately, with proper intervention, anxiety disorders are among the most treatable health conditions.
Only people who have had an anxiety disorder can understand how difficult it is to manage. While families and friends may be well meaning, they don't truly understand exactly what the sufferer is going through. In addition to state-of-the-art treatment, the Panic/Anxiety/Recovery Center (PARC) can provide support, reassurance and even family education.
Essential to successful treatment is your commitment to change. As the saying goes, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten."
Anxiety treatment begins with a detailed evaluation
A clinician will evaluate the nature of your anxiety problem and its severity. Then a treatment plan is designed to produce results that will best meet your needs. Treatment plans vary from person to person.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Many people respond well to short-term cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps patients learn to change their way of thinking, certain behaviors and lifestyle choices. Some patients take medication in combination with CBT.
Group therapy for treatment of anxiety disorders
Depending on the individual primary diagnosis, some of our clients participate in homogenous, specialized group therapy treatment programs that meet for approximately 20 consecutive weeks. Group size averages between eight and 12 people, all sharing a common problem.
The support of others who are "in the same boat" is proven to be significantly helpful for anxiety sufferers. (Family members are also welcome to support clients by attending group sessions.) Our highly specialized treatment programs are designed around the latest research findings, offering solutions that are proven effective for treatment of anxiety disorders.
"It was such a relief to know that I was not the only person who had panic disorder and that I finally could get the help I really needed."
We empower you with tools and education
All treatment plans at PARC have a singular common component: learning. Our staff will teach you how to manage anxiety and reduce its intensity, frequency and duration by more effectively handling particular situations that may arouse anxiety or irrational behavior, and by responding differently to anxiety "triggers."
Comprehensive cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders focuses on:
- Acceptance of having an anxiety disorder and commitment to recovery
- Education covering the causes of various anxiety conditions and symptoms
- Teaching specific relaxation response techniques to reduce both the emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety
- Learning to change the thought processes that compound and contribute to the discomfort of panic and anxiety
- Behavioral strategies to reduce avoidance and other maladaptive behaviors in gradual, manageable steps
- Lifestyle changes to enhance self-esteem, and assertiveness in order to return to a normal living pattern
"Homework"—including reading materials related to your disorder, new skills to practice, gradual exposure to anxiety-provoking situations, and simple record-keeping of your progress--is an important element for successful recovery.
Intensive treatment option
Our intensive treatment option is available for those who might benefit from a more condensed treatment approach. This option is similar to our traditional program, but is conducted over a period of five to seven days. Follow-up sessions are provided in person or on the phone.
For those who live outside the Chicago area or are unable to come to our offices, PARC provides services over the telephone and online. As with our other program options, we offer a comprehensive CBT approach with a "personal touch," regardless of your distance from our physical offices. Motivation--and your willingness to do the work involved--are the primary keys to success. While weekly sessions are recommended, we can customize sessions based on your availability and schedule.
Coexisting conditions for anxiety disorders
The National Institutes of Health suggest patients be carefully evaluated for other coexisting disorders. For example, it's not unusual for someone with social anxiety to have a fair amount of general anxiety or even panic attacks, or someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder to also have another anxiety disorder. In addition, depression, substance abuse and a variety of other physical symptoms are very common.