Most people experience anxiety, for example, speaking in front of a group can make a person anxious, but that anxiety also motivates to prepare and practice. Driving in heavy traffic is another common source of anxiety, but it helps keep a person alert and cautious to avoid accidents. However, when feelings of intense fear and distress become overwhelming and prevent someone from doing everyday activities, an anxiety disorder may be the cause.
According to the NIH, Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder during any given 12 month period. Meanwhile, approximately 7% of children aged 3-17 experiences with anxiety each year. Women are 60 % more likely than men to suffer from anxiety disorders over their lifetime However, while anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only about one-third of those suffering symptoms seek treatment.
Anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions, each having unique symptoms. However, all anxiety disorders have one thing in common: persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not threatening. People typically experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Feelings of apprehension or dread
- Feeling tense or jumpy
- Restlessness or irritability
- Anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger
- Pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath
- Sweating, tremors and twitches
- Headaches, fatigue and insomnia
- Upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several types of anxiety disorders, each with different symptoms. The most common types of anxiety disorders include:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), also known as chronic anxiety – manifests symptoms such as persistent , chronic, exaggerated worries about everyday life obsessions, restlessness/edginess, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle pain or tension, tremors, insomnia, sweating, nausea, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and rapid heartbeat. This worrying can consume hours each day, making it hard to concentrate or finish daily tasks
Social Anxiety Disorder
More than shyness, this disorder causes intense fear about social interaction, often driven by irrational worries about humiliation (e.g. saying something stupid or not knowing what to say). Someone with social anxiety disorder may not take part in conversations, contribute to class discussions or offer their ideas, and may become isolated. Panic attacks are a common reaction to anticipated or forced social interaction.
Panic disorder is an acute condition, characterized by sudden, repeated “attacks” that often manifest physical symptoms. It is the recurrence of these attacks that define “disorder” as opposed to an isolated incident of a panic attack.
Panic attacks may include a combination of any of these symptoms: rapid heart rate, chest pain, sweating, trembling, difficulty breathing, chills, hot flashes, nausea, dizziness, headache, feeling faint, and trouble swallowing.
These symptoms can occur at any time and may be severe enough to resemble a heart attack. Many people will go to desperate measures to avoid an attack, including social isolation.
Most people tend to avoid certain things or situations that make them uncomfortable or even fearful. But for someone with a phobia, certain places, events or objects create powerful reactions of strong, irrational fear. Most people with specific phobias have several things that can trigger those reactions; to avoid panic, they will work hard to avoid their triggers. Depending on the type and number of triggers, attempts to control fear can take over a person’s life.
Other anxiety disorders include:
- Selective mutism
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder, involving intoxication or withdrawal or medication treatment
While there are no known definitive causes of anxiety disorders, however scientists believe that many factors combine to cause anxiety disorders:
- Genetics: Studies support the evidence that anxiety disorders “run in families,” as some families have a higher-than-average amount of anxiety disorders among relatives.
- Environment, psychological and developmental: a stressful or traumatic event such as abuse, death of a loved one, violence or prolonged illness is often linked to the development of an anxiety disorder.
Physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder can be easily confused with other medical conditions, like heart disease or hyperthyroidism. Therefore, the first step is to see your primary care doctor to make sure there is no physical condition which is causing anxiety symptoms. After ruling out an underlying physical condition with the help of interview, physical examination and lab tests. Using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) a mental or behavioral health professional is able to identify the specific type of anxiety disorder causing symptoms as well as any other possible disorders that may be involved.
Although different anxiety disorder has unique characteristics, most respond well to available treatment modalities. Most effective treatment options consist of medications, psychotherapy and complimentary health approaches. These treatments can be given alone or in combination.
Psychotherapy, including Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), a type of therapy, can help a person learn a different way of thinking, reacting and behaving to help feel less anxious.
Medications, including antianxiety medications and antidepressants. Medications will not cure anxiety disorders, but can give significant relief from symptoms.
Complementary health approaches, including stress and relaxation techniques
Although different anxiety disorder has unique characteristics, most respond well to available treatment modalities. Most effective treatment options consist of medications, psychotherapy, and complementary health approaches. These treatments can be given alone or in combination.
Anxiety disorders can occur along with other mental health conditions, and they can often make related conditions worse.