Find caring, effective outpatient treatment for anxiety disorders.

The pressures of everyday life can cause us to feel unsettled from time to time. It is normal to experience some level of worry and anxiety, especially when you’re moving through a period of change or recovering from a significant loss such as the death of a loved one. However, if anxious feelings consume a large share of your day for weeks or months at a time, even when there are no obvious causes, you may be suffering from a form of anxiety that is far more serious.


Dr. Marcia Nickow, PSY.D., CADC, CGP, Clinical Director and Organizational Advisor at SunCloud Health on how mood disorders are often manifestations of trauma.


Anxiety is an emotion that causes feelings of tension and worry that may not go away easily. People who live with an anxiety disorder usually struggle with recurring thoughts that fill their minds, making it harder for them to cope with everyday tasks and challenges.

Anxiety may cause you to avoid certain situations out of fear or worry that you won’t know how to handle yourself. When you are feeling especially anxious, you may have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.

Anxiety is not a single disorder. Instead, it is an umbrella term for different patterns that millions of people face. These disorders include:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which causes people to feel anxious most of the time. This disorder can cause exaggerated feelings of tension and worry, even when there is no apparent cause.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which involves constant and unwanted thoughts (known as obsessions) that trigger repetitive behaviors (compulsions). For example, people with OCD may worry about germs and feel driven to wash their hands over and over again. Other repetitive behaviors may include counting, checking or cleaning with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. Unfortunately, these rituals only provide temporary relief – and many people feel even more anxious afterward.

Panic Disorder, which involves frequent, unexpected episodes of intense fear that cause physical symptoms such as chest pain, racing heart, shortness of breath, dizziness or abdominal distress.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can develop after someone has suffered a terrifying event or ordeal such as rape, assault, abuse, accidents, natural disasters or military combat. Any near-death experience can trigger PTSD, and people who have suffered harmful treatment over long periods of time may also develop the disorder.

Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder, which involves overwhelming anxiety and self-consciousness in everyday social situations. Social phobia can be limited to just one type of situation, such as a fear of speaking with others in formal or informal settings, or eating and drinking in front of others. In its most severe form, social anxiety can be so broad that a person suffers anytime they are around other people.


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Each of the anxiety disorders described above can cause a unique set of symptoms. However, there are many signs that are common to most anxiety disorders. You or someone you care about may be struggling with an anxiety disorder if:

  • You often feel nervous, restless or tense
  • You have a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • You have an increased heart rate
  • You often breathe very rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • You experience spells of sweating or trembling
  • You often feel weak or tired
  • You have trouble concentrating or thinking about anything besides the worries that occupy your mind
  • You have trouble sleeping
  • You have digestive problems (also known as gastrointestinal or GI distress)
  • You find it very difficult to control your worried feelings
  • You feel the urge to avoid people, things and situations that trigger anxiety


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Mental health experts are not sure exactly how anxiety disorders develop. Traumatic life events appear to trigger these disorders in people who are already prone to anxiety. Inherited traits may also be a factor for many people.

For some, anxiety may be linked to an underlying health issue. In fact, anxiety is often among the first signs of physical illness. Medical problems that can cause severe anxiety include:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Breathing disorders such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma
  • Drug misuse or withdrawal
  • Withdrawal from alcohol or other medications, including anti-anxiety medications
  • Chronic pain or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Rare tumors that can trigger a fight-or-flight reaction

Medications themselves can cause you to feel anxiety. If you began feeling more worried and anxious after starting a course of prescription drugs, be sure to discuss it with your doctor.

Your anxiety may be caused by an underlying medical condition if:

  • You don’t have any blood relatives with an anxiety disorder
  • You didn’t have an anxiety disorder as a child
  • You don’t avoid certain things or situations because of anxiety
  • You have a sudden occurrence of anxiety that seems unrelated to life events and you have no previous history of anxiety

Known risk factors for anxiety include:

  • Trauma. Children who endured abuse or trauma or witnessed traumatic events are at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder later in life. Adults who experience a traumatic event also can develop anxiety disorders such as PTSD.
  • Stress due to an illness. Having a serious health condition can cause significant worry about issues such as your treatment and your future.
  • Stress buildup. A big event or a buildup of smaller life stresses may trigger excessive anxiety — for example, a death in the family, work stress or ongoing worry about finances.
  • Personality. People with certain personality types are more prone to anxiety disorders than others.
  • Other mental health disorders. People with other mental health disorders such as depression often also have an anxiety disorder.
  • Having blood relatives with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can run in families.
  • Drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse or withdrawal can trigger anxiety or make it worse.


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Having an anxiety disorder does much more than make you worry. It can also cause other complications that threaten your health and happiness. For example, anxiety disorders can lead to:

  • Depression and other mood disorders (dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders)
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • Digestive or bowel problems
  • Headaches and chronic pain
  • Social isolation
  • Work or school struggles
  • Poor quality of life
  • Higher risks of self-harm and suicide


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At SunCloud Health, we know that no two people living with anxiety disorders are exactly the same. We follow a highly personalized approach that sees you as a whole individual with a unique life story. You will always be treated as a full partner in your care and work with a team of professionals who are fully focused on helping you recover.

After reviewing your situation and needs, our mental health experts will seek to define what kind of anxiety disorder you may be facing. Based on what we learn, we will recommend an integrated care plan that may include:

Psychotherapy. Also known as “talk therapy” or counseling, psychotherapy involves working with a professional therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. CBT focuses on teaching you specific skills to improve your symptoms and help you gradually return to the activities you may have avoided because of anxiety. CBT often includes exposure therapy, which helps you gradually face the object or situation that triggers your anxiety. This enables you to build confidence, discovering that you can manage the situation and feel less anxious.

Medications. There are many types of medications that can relieve anxiety symptoms. Your care team may recommend a specific medication based on the type of anxiety disorder you have, taking into account any other physical or mental health issues you are facing.
Certain antidepressants may used to treat anxiety disorders. In other cases, an anti-anxiety medication called buspirone may be prescribed.
In some situations, your care team may recommend sedatives (benzodiazepines) or beta- blockers. Medications of this type are prescribed for short-term relief of anxiety symptoms and are not intended for long-term use.


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The SunCloud Health team provides fully personalized care, beginning with a full review of the issues that surround your feelings of anxiety. We will discuss your situation with you in detail to identify the issues that may be triggering your difficulties. We will get to know you and make sure that you feel heard, respected and involved as a full partner in your own care.

There are many advantages to choosing outpatient treatment for an anxiety disorder. For example:

  • Outpatient care is flexible, allowing you to live at home and follow the daily routines that are familiar to you.
  • It is convenient, offering you the opportunity to continue working, attending school, seeing friends and enjoying the activities you like to do.
  • It is generally more affordable than residential care, which requires you to move to a specialized facility for 24/7 treatment, which can be very expensive.
  • Costs are usually covered by insurance so that your out-of-pocket expenses are more manageable.
  • Outpatient care generally offers you a greater sense of privacy. There’s no need to explain your absence from home, school or work.

When you meet with our anxiety disorder experts, we will answer your questions about residential vs. outpatient care and discuss which mode of treatment will be best for you, based on your unique situation.


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In our experience, medications alone are not the best way to treat anxiety disorders. We recommend an integrated approach with therapies and techniques that have been thoroughly tested and proven to work.

In addition to talk therapy and medication, the SunCloud Health team may recommend:

  • Education that helps you see how anxiety is affecting your body, mind and spirit
  • Group sessions to help you practice healthy interpersonal and relationship skills
  • Family therapy in which your loved ones take part and offer support
  • Ongoing support groups
  • Yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques


Help is one click or call away
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Your journey toward wellness is an ongoing process of growth and insight. As you move into treatment for your anxiety disorder, you will see that the process of recovery does not move in a straight line. There will be challenges along the way – but with the support of your care team, family and friends, you will make steady progress.

Your SunCloud Health care team will walk the road with you, providing ongoing treatment and support to help you achieve a healthy, balanced, satisfying lifestyle. We will provide continuing care and resources to help you live in wellness.


For yourself or someone you know
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Emily Long discusses how patients benefit from an integrative treatment approach and how that contributes to a more effective treatment experience at SunCloud Health.


As an outpatient treatment center with multiple locations in Chicagoland, SunCloud Health is in an ideal position to support you for as long as you agree our services are useful to you. With multiple levels of outpatient care, you may decide to stay connected through one of our aftercare outpatient groups – or you may want to continue seeing one of our individual therapists. We are here to provide continuous, caring support for your recovery journey.

Though we understand fully that you don’t want to spend your life in treatment, we also know from experience that a lifetime commitment to wellness is the foundation of your well-being over the long term. We will work with you to maintain a healthy outlook, which means achieving balance, honesty, and health — physical, emotional and spiritual. Our goal is to create a care plan that you can take with you forever, wherever you may go.


Dr. Marcia Nickow, Psy.D., CADC, CGP shares her thoughts on hope for recovery at SunCloud Health.

Living with depression and anxiety my entire life has been plain and simply just terrible. I have been on a merry go round of medication for decades and I have been diagnosed with just about every “mood disorder” out there. Often, I would turn to some form of self-destructive behavior as a way to deal with my pain and despair, and until recently I felt like this was just the way it was going to be forever. When I came to see Dr. Kim, I felt like I had met the “Dr. House” of Psychiatry (great TV series!). She actually spent countless hours in therapy with me and my family properly diagnosing me for the first time in my life and getting my medication finally on the right track. She is anything but a typical psychiatrist who spends maybe 10 minutes with patients and then runs out. The experience at SunCloud helped me see that, with ongoing support, I can actually live a normal and stable life.

~ SCH patient