Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and in some situations can be beneficial. It can warn us of threats and allow us to plan and be alert. Anxiety disorders differ from normal nervousness or anxiety feelings and involve excessive anxiety or fear. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses and almost 30 percent of adults somewhere in their lives are affected. Anxiety disorders are however treatable and several effective treatments are available. Therapy helps many people to live healthy, productive lives.
Anxiety refers to anticipation and is more related to muscle tension and avoidance.
Fear is an emotional response to an immediate threat and is linked to a fight or a flight response–whether to stop fighting or escape from danger.
Anxiety disorders can lead people to try and avoid situations that cause or exacerbate their symptoms. Employment results, school work and personal relationships can be affected.
- In general, fear or anxiety must be out of proportion to the situation or age excessively if a person is to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
- Obstruct your ability to work normally.
There are different types of anxiety disorders, including general anxiety disorders, panic disorders, acute phobia, agoraphobia, syndrome of social anxiety and anxiety disorder of separation.
How widespread are symptoms of anxiety?
In any given year, the median number of American adults with various anxiety disorders is:
- 7 to 9 percent: specific phobia
- 7 percent: social anxiety disorder
- 2 to 3 percent: panic disorder
- 2 percent: agoraphobia
- 2 percent: generalized anxiety disorder
- 1 to 2 percent: separation anxiety disorder
Women are more likely to have anxiety disorders than men.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Generalized Disorder of Anxiety
Generalized anxiety disorder entails constant and intense distress, which affects daily activities. This ongoing concern and anxiety will come with physical symptoms such as restlessness, edge or ease of tiredness, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension or sleeping problems. Concerns often concentrate on everyday activities such as work duties, family health or minor matters such as chores, car repairs or appointments.
The central symptom of panic disorder is frequent panic attacks, an intense mixture of physical and mental pain. Several of these symptoms occur in conjunction during an attack:
- Palpitations, pounding heart or rapid heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Feeling of shortness of breath or smothering sensations
- Chest pain
- Feeling dizzy, light-headed or faint
- Feeling of choking
- Numbness or tingling
- Chills or hot flashes
- Nausea or abdominal pains
- Feeling detached
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
Because of the serious symptoms, most people who have a panic attack may assume that they have a heart attack or other life-threatening condition and go to a hospital ER. Panic attacks such as a reaction to a feared object or unexpected attacks apparently occurring without reason may be expected. The mean age for panic disorder begins is 22-23. Some mental disorders, such as anxiety or PTSD, can lead to panic attacks.
Phobias, Phobia Common
Intense and recurrent fear of a particular object, circumstance or event is a common phobia that is normally not damaging. Patients know that their anxiety is unreasonable, but they are unable to overcome it. Such fears cause such anxiety that some people go to extremes to prevent what they are afraid of. Types show fear of spiders or flying.
Agoraphobia is the fear of escape when it is impossible or embarrassing or if support in the event of panic symptoms is not available. Fear is out of proportion to the current situation and usually lasts six months or longer and causes problems with its service. An agoraphobic person experiences this fear in two or more of the following situations.
- Using public transportation
- To be in open spaces.
- Being in confined areas.
- Just stand or be in a crowd.
- Being alone outside the house.
The person actively avoids the situation, needs a companion or suffers from extreme fear or anxiety. Untreated agoraphobia can become so serious that someone cannot leave the house. A person can be diagnosed with agoraphobia only if fear is severely disturbed or if normal daily activities are seriously affected.
Social Anxiety Disorder (formerly referred to as social phobia)
A person with a social anxiety disorder is very nervous and discomfort about being embarrassed, humiliated, rejected or disregarded in social interactions. People with this disorder will try to avoid the situation or be very nervous. Extreme fear of public speaking, meeting new people, or eating/drinking in public are common examples. Fear or anxiety triggers everyday functioning issues that last for at least six months.
Anxiety Separation Disorder
A person with a separation anxiety disorder is extremely frightened or anxious about separation. The feeling is beyond the age of the person, lasts (for children for at least four weeks and for adults six months) and causes difficulties to function.
A person who suffers from separation anxiety disorder may be continuously worried about losing the person nearest to him or her, may refuse or refuse to leave home or sleep without him or her or maybe divorced by nightmares. Physical pain symptoms sometimes begin in infancy but can lead to symptoms in adulthood.
There are currently unknown causes of anxiety disorders, but a combination of genetic, environmental, psychological and developmental factors is likely. Families can have anxiety disorders that suggest that the disorders can be caused by a combination of genes and environmental stress.
Treatment and diagnosis
The first step is to see your doctor to ensure that the symptoms are not caused by a physical problem. If an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, the best treatment can be done by a mental-health professional. Sadly, many people do not seek help with anxiety disorders. You don’t know that you have a disease that has efficient treatments.
While there are unique features of every anxiety disorder, most respond to two types of treatment: psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” and medication. These treatments can be performed alone or combined. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can help people learn a different way of thinking, reacting and acting to reduce their anxiety. Medicines will not cure anxiety disorders, but can provide substantial symptom relief. The most commonly used medicines are anti-anxiety drugs (usually only short-term prescriptions) and antidepressants. Beta-blockers are sometimes used in heart disease to control anxiety physical symptoms.
Self-help, management, and coping
There are many things people do to deal with and make therapy more successful for symptoms of anxiety disorders. Stress management and meditation techniques can be helpful. Support groups (in-person or online) may share experiences and coping strategies. It can also be helpful to learn more about the nature of a condition to encourage families and friends to better understand. Avoid caffeine that can exacerbate symptoms and check for any drugs with your doctor.