Anxiety Disorder: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Overview

Anxiety is a common feeling of nervousness, worry, or unease in human experience. Under certain circumstances, it can heighten a person’s alertness and readiness in the face of challenges. And fear is a strong mental tension to specific items or events. It doesn’t occur normally, but it can be overwhelming and interfere with daily activities.

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental disorders characterized by significant feelings of anxiety and fear. Anxiety is considered a disorder when it:

  • Occurs at inappropriate times
  • Occurs frequently
  • Is so intense and long-lasting that it interferes with a person’s normal activities

Being more common than any other category of psychological disorders, anxiety disorders afflict nearly nine percent of Americans during any six-month period and affect about 15% of adults as a total in the United States.

Significant anxiety can persist for years and begin to feel normal to the person with anxiety. For this and other reasons, anxiety disorders are often not diagnosed or treated.

Types

Anxiety disorders include five types:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder

With chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension even without any external stimulus.

  • Panic disorder

With unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms.

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorders

With recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions) to perform certain kind of “rituals”.

  • Post-traumatic anxiety disorder

With an exposure to terrifying events, including violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.

  • Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder)

With overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.

Causes

Doctors haven’t fully figured out the causes of anxiety disorders, but the following ones may involve:

  • Brain changes

There may exist faulty circuits in the brain that control fear and other emotions.

  • Genetics

Generalized anxiety disorder is six times more common in children who have family members living with this condition.

  • Environment

Environmental issues such as the breakup of a significant relationship, highly stressful living environment or exposure to a life-threatening disaster can bring about anxiety disorders.

  • Drugs

Anxiety can also be caused by the use or discontinuation (withdrawal) of a drug. Drugs that can trigger anxiety include alcohol, simulants (such as amphetamines, caffeine,and cocaine.

Symptoms

It is not uncommon for people with anxiety disorders to have the following symptoms:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having repeated heartbeat
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating and trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping

Diagnosis

If your anxiety is related to your physical health, your primary care provider may:

If your anxiety is so severe that your normal life is interfered, a mental health specialist and other mental health professionals can:

  • Diagnose and treat your mental health conditions
  • Provide counseling (psychotherapy)

Treatment

Treatment varies from one anxiety disorder to another, so it may take some trial and error to discover which treatments work best for you.

  • Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy involves working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. It can be an effective treatment for anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective form focusing on our reactions to the event.

  • Medications

Several types of medications are used to help relieve symptoms, including certain antidepressants, buspirone, sedatives and prescription drugs such as corticalsteroids.

  • Complementary health approaches

Some of the most common approaches for treating anxiety include self-management strategies, stress and relaxation techniques, yoga and aerobic exercise.


Keywords: anxiety disorder; mental illness.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.