Anxiety is the most common mental disorder in the US.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), an estimated 40 million adults are affected by anxiety.
According to a 2020 ADAA study, 31% of all adults will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their life.
In 2017 the World Health Organization estimated that 264 million adults worldwide have anxiety, with a 63%-to-37% female-male breakdown.
Though generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects 6.8 million adults in the US, less than half are receiving treatment.
Anxiety is your body and brain’s response to stress, worry, fear, and uncertainty. Anxiety disorder—a medical condition in which you feel a disproportionate amount of anxiety—affects millions of Americans. Severe anxiety disorder symptoms can make it feel impossible to live a normal, everyday life.
Anxiety disorders come in many different forms. GAD, for example, is a severe ongoing anxiety disorder that causes excessive and often paralyzing worry about everyday issues and situations. Agoraphobia and other phobias, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are anxiety disorders characterized by specific triggers and situations.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – Severe and chronic anxiety regarding your normal, everyday life
- Panic Disorder – An anxiety disorder characterized by frequent and unexpected panic attempts and constant worry about how to avoid them
- Phobias – A strong, irrational fear of something, such as cramped or wide-open spaces, certain animals and insects, or natural phenomena that severely impacts your life
- Social Anxiety Disorder – A phobia specifically of being in social situations
- Separation Anxiety Disorder – A fear of being separated from caregivers and family, especially seen in children
- Obsessive – Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – A fixation on stress-inducing thoughts and urges and ritualistic behavior
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – An anxiety reaction to past or ongoing traumatic events that lead to anxiety and depression symptoms
Anxiety can be caused by medical issues as well, such as thyroid disease, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disorders, withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, or irritable bowel syndrome. Side effects from medication can also cause anxiety.
The many different forms of anxiety disorders generally share a common pool of symptoms, but each disorder presents itself differently in different situations.
There are some commonalities between symptoms of anxiety and symptoms of depression, especially for certain anxiety disorders. However, what separates the two conditions is that anxiety is primarily defined by an excessive feeling of worry, whereas depression is primarily defined by excessive feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. Anxiety disorders can sometimes be comorbid with depressive disorders and other mental health disorders.
GAD is the most common anxiety disorder, characterized by chronic feelings of anxiety with little to no apparent triggers. Symptoms may include:
- Feeling restless or edgy
- Frequent fatigue
- Difficulty focusing and concentrating
- Excessive and uncontrollable worrying
Frequent panic attacks, characterized by a sudden sense of impending doom or danger, a pounding or racing heart, sweating and chills, weakness, dizziness, or chest pains, characterize panic disorder. Panic attacks can be triggered by stress, pre-existing health conditions, certain medications or substances, or reminders of traumatic experiences, among other things.
Common symptoms of social anxiety disorder include excessive fear of situations in which you may be judged, excessive self-consciousness about embarrassment or humiliation, or excessive concern about causing offense.
While separation anxiety disorder is more commonly seen in children, it can also occur in adults. Symptoms may include excessive stress and extreme or severe emotional reactions before and during separation from family, caregivers, or loved ones.
OCD is characterized by obsessions—repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause undue anxiety and stress—that typically manifest as a fear of germs and uncleanliness as well as the compulsion to arrange objects in a specific manner. Guilt, panic attacks, depression, and food aversion are common symptoms.
PTSD is commonly experienced as vivid and involuntary flashbacks to a traumatic event, intense and intrusive thoughts, nightmares, panic attacks and distress induced by triggers that act as literal or symbolic reminders of the event. Compulsive avoidance of triggering situations, behavioral changes, and mood swings are common symptoms.
Anxiety and TMS Therapy
There are many treatment options for anxiety disorders. Therapy and counseling, often heavily involving cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), are common treatment options for anxiety, often paired with medications such as SSRIs and SNRIs that directly influence brain chemistry.
The severity and manifestation of anxiety disorder varies heavily from person to person, and a treatment that is effective for one patient may have little positive effect for another. One other option for treating severe anxiety disorders, if therapy and medication prove ineffective, is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a non-drug treatment commonly used for depression that involves the use of focused magnetic pulses to stimulate the brain.
What is TMS Therapy for Anxiety?
TMS stands for transcranial magnetic stimulation, a non-invasive, non-drug therapy commonly used to treat depression. TMS is a form of brain stimulation therapy that, much like an MRI, generates short magnetic pulses.
These magnetic pulses stimulate the area of the brain associated with mood regulation. By stimulating the brain, TMS therapy induces neuroplasticity, which helps the brain reorganize itself.
TMS uses a magnetic coil to generate pulsed, concentrated magnetic fields of the same type and strength as an MRI machine and apply them to the left prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain involved with mood regulation.
The magnetic fields produced by TMS therapy only penetrate 2-4 centimeters into the brain, where they produce very small electrical currents to stimulate the brain and release neurotransmitters. The aim is to use magnetic pulses to remedy the chemical imbalance in your brain that acts as the root cause for your anxiety disorder.
After extensive research into TMS provided by NeuroStar, Drs. Charles Devine, M.D. and Tory Noonan, M.D. decided that TMS therapy was the logical progression in providing their patients with the best solution to major depression, and TMS has demonstrated similar effectiveness for anxiety disorders as well.
TMS is noninvasive, painless, and has no systemic side effects, unlike other treatments for anxiety. A treatment session, performed in our office under the supervision of a licensed psychiatrist, takes about 19 minutes. Sessions require no medications or surgery, no anesthesia, and have no undesirable effects on cognition. Studies suggest that it takes about five sessions at minimum to begin improving anxiety symptoms long-term, with most people seeing dramatic improvement after four to six weeks of daily sessions.
TMS therapy for anxiety can either be used on its own or in conjunction with other treatments if counseling and medication on their own have proven ineffective.
When medications and psychotherapy prove unsuccessful for treating anxiety disorders, TMS can provide new hope. You might be a good candidate for TMS anxiety treatment if you have been unsuccessful with one or more anti-anxiety medications, have experienced negative side effects from medications, or are medically unable to take anti-anxiety medications for one reason or another.
- Have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder
- Have exhausted all other possible treatments
- Meet the physical criteria to be a TMS candidate
Then TMS may be just the solution for your anxiety disorder.
How to Treat Anxiety Without Meds
Medication is often used alongside therapy to treat anxiety disorders, especially when therapy alone is insufficient. SSRIs and SNRIs are designed to alter your brain chemistry and correct the chemical imbalances that cause anxiety disorders. However, these medications mainly circulate through the bloodstream on their way to the brain, and so they affect the entire body. SSRIs and SNRIs can have unwanted side effects, including weight gain or weight loss, sexual dysfunction, stomach issues, nausea, and fatigue.
While anxiety medication works well for many patients, for some patients, adverse reactions to anti-anxiety medication, inability to tolerate their side effects, or a lack of effectiveness means that using drugs to treat anxiety disorder may not be an option. Pregnant patients also have good reasons to avoid medications throughout pregnancy.
When medication does not work or is not available, TMS often proves especially effective in treating anxiety disorders and bringing lasting relief and peace of mind to people with anxiety conditions.
People with General or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) experience severe and chronic anxiety regarding their normal, everyday life, often with no apparent anxiety triggers. Hallmarks of GAD include persistent worrying about things outside of one’s control, overthinking and dwelling on worst-case scenarios, an inability to relax or concentrate, and feeling irrationally threatened by non-threatening events and situations. Physical symptoms may include fatigue, nervousness, irritability, muscle tension, or fatigue.
Anxiety on its own can be a symptom of many conditions, but GAD is a condition all of its own. GAD is the result of an inability of the brain to produce certain chemicals. This condition can run in one’s family, and can often develop as a result of external stressors or traumatic events.
Anxiety is the most common mental disorder. According to the ADAA, 40 million adults in the US have anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders can vary widely in severity from person to person. Severe anxiety disorder can be so debilitating that it makes functioning in day-to-day society all but impossible.
Anxiety is not curable. However, it can be treated in order to reduce the severity of its symptoms and enable patients to manage their anxiety. Common treatments for anxiety disorder include cognitive behavioral therapy and medications such as SSRIs, SNRIs, benzodiazepines, and tricyclic antidepressants. If these two methods prove ineffective, TMS is also a powerful treatment method for anxiety disorder.