Anxiety: Everything You Need To Know

It is normal to feel anxious. Anxiety is a body’s natural response to stress, danger, and bizarre situations. Many definitions are available for this term. The American psychological association defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure’. Nevertheless, everyone is prone to anxiety due to changes such as moving to a new place, starting a new venture, switching jobs, etc. Constant or frequent anxiety is more severe and can be debilitating. Psychiatrists name it as an anxiety disorder. 

Statistics and Facts

Anxiety disorders are as severe as any other health condition. A person suffering from an anxiety disorder is unable to concentrate and effectively perform daily tasks. 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million (18%) adults of 18 years or older suffer from anxiety disorders each year, making it the most common mental illness in the United States. 

Globally speaking, The World Health Organization (WHO) states 1 in 13 people suffer from anxiety. 

Moreover, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) claims that more women suffer from an anxiety disorder than men.

Normal anxiety vs. Anxiety disorders

Furthermore, if you are feeling anxious occasionally due to financial loss, wedding planning, landing a job, and meeting someone, it is normal. However, in contrast, a constant worry that disturbs daily life and cause considerable distress with physical symptoms like a rise in blood pressure and breathing difficulty could be a sign of anxiety disorder. 

Types of Anxiety Disorders

The following are the types of anxiety disorders:

Generalized anxiety disorder

This is the most common type in which the person suffers from long-lasting anxiety with no particular identified reason. The person is anxious about people, situations, objects, etc. The physical symptoms in this disorder are restlessness, muscle tension, constant fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. 

Panic attack

A panic attack disorder causes unexpected, sudden attacks of fear that usually peak after 10 minutes and can last for hours. Moreover, the person who suffers from panic attacks lives in fear of having another sudden episode. The symptoms of this disorder are very similar to any other life-threatening condition. These symptoms may include breathing difficulty, palpitations, excessive sweating, chest discomfort, dizziness, nausea, trembling, and fear of dying or losing control. Also, panic attacks may or may occur due to a trigger. Panic attack disorder (PD) affects 6 million (2.7%) of the U.S. adult population. 

Specific phobias

This is the type of anxiety disorder triggered by the fear of a particular activity, object, or situation. The person is likely to avoid such things; however, it may trigger uncontrolled anxiety if he/she is exposed to fear. This fear could be from any animal, heights, water, darkness, or any simple object. 

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is the fear scared of places that are difficult to escape in emergencies. It is the most misunderstood type of anxiety disorder. People often confuse agoraphobia with the fear of leaving home; however, it is not just confined to it. A person with agoraphobia may have; fear of using elevators and public transport, airplanes, open or closed spaces, and standing in crowd or lines. If left untreated, this condition can worsen if the person cannot even step outside the house.

Separation anxiety

It is the fear of losing the closed ones. The person who suffers from this type of anxiety disorder is continuously worried about people’s safety to whom they are attached. The trigger for this anxiety is separation from that someone. One may be reluctant to leave or sleep without that person and may have dreams about separation.

Social anxiety disorder

Moreover, if a person is suffering from social anxiety disorder then he/she might feel anxious due to fear of embarrassment and humiliation in a social gathering. He/she is likely to avoid such social interactions or attend them with a great deal of anxiety. Examples include public speaking, stage fright, fear of intimacy, and humiliation. The physical symptoms that are associated with this disorder include palpitations, sweating, and nausea. It is the second most common type of anxiety disorder after GAD and affects nearly 15 million (6.8%) of America’s adult population.

Selective mutism

This is a type of anxiety that some children experience according to which they cannot speak in particular places. For example, a child who is talking and acts entirely normal at home might not speak in school or public.

Causes and Risk Factors of Anxiety Disorder

The causes of anxiety disorder are still unclear; however, scientists believe a combination of factors is responsible. Some of the possible reasons include:

  • Genetics: Anxiety disorders can have a genetic basis and run in families and documented for all types. 
  • Environmental factors: Stress due to family issues, finances, and problematic relationships may also cause anxiety disorders.
  • Brain chemistry: A few studies indicated that anxiety disorders are mainly due to faulty brain chemistry in the brain region responsible for controlling emotions and fear.
  • Certain medical conditions, such as post-surgery stress or some medication’s side effects, can also cause anxiety disorder. 

Diagnosis

If a person has anxiety for no particular reason or faces difficulty controlling fear, he/she must consult a medical health professional. The physician can diagnose the condition by taking into account symptoms, causes, medical history, and family history. The physician will look for one or more of these symptoms for anxiety disorder diagnosis.

Irritability

Muscle tension

Weakness in the body

Sleeping problems

Difficulty concentrating

Restlessness

But these symptoms appear in general anxiety disorder, and if found positive, the doctor further inquires about triggers to precisely diagnose the type. 

Treatment of anxiety disorder

The prevalent symptoms of anxiety disorder can vary from person to person. Hence the treatment is customized according to the symptoms appeared. But, out of the most common psychiatric disorders, only 36.9% of people get treated for anxiety disorders. There are two types of treatments mostly given in combination; Medications and Psychotherapy.

Medications

Numerous medications prescribed by doctors can treat anxiety symptoms. Some of these include; anti-depressants, Bupropion, Beta-blockers, Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics, Anticonvulsants, and Buspirone.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, also called “talk therapy,” is a type of counseling where a person learns to think differently, share feelings, and react differently to certain situations to feel less anxious. Whereas cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that teaches to think positively and behave accordingly. It is the most widely used therapy for anxiety disorders. It works in three steps: first is to identify the negative thoughts. The person pinpoints the triggers and causes of anxiety. Second, challenging negative thoughts. Similarly, people who suffer from anxiety disorders perceive everyday things and activities as dangerous and harmful, but, they learn to challenge this negativity in their minds through CBT. The third and final step is to replace the existing negative thoughts with realistic ones. After identifying and challenging the anxiety-causing ideas, one can finally replace those with accurate, practical, and relatively positive ideas.

Exposure therapy 

The theory behind this therapy is that repeated exposures can reduce the fear of a person to previously caused anxiety. For example, a man who fears heights would take a longer route to avoid a high bridge. Exposure therapy would suggest facing the fear right away with or without CBT.

Other complementary therapies that can help treat anxiety disorder include; exercise, meditation, and hypnosis. Some studies suggest that you can manage anxiety by certain foods such as chamomile, salmon, yogurt, green tea, turmeric, and chocolate. 

Management

You cannot treat anxiety overnight. It is not a quick fix; it requires a lot of effort and commitment. You can manage your symptoms and improve your condition by reducing stress by avoiding situations and people that make you anxious, improving your health by including fruits, vegetables, and teas in your diet. Learning about anxiety and possible outcomes can give you control over emotions and knowledge about your condition. 

Prevention

The risk for developing anxiety disorders can be prevented by; limiting caffeine intake, maintaining a healthy diet, taking adequate sleep, avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and other similar drugs. 

Final thoughts 

Finally, we cannot classify anxiety as a “mental disease.” It is a natural mechanism of our bodies to overcome difficult and potentially dangerous situations by activating the “fight and flight” response. However, it turns into a disorder when the emotions get out of hand and exacerbated via some triggers. 

Anxiety disorders of all kinds are treatable and manageable through proper diagnosis, medication, and psychotherapy. One must learn to manage and cope with the symptoms to live a regular life without constant anxiety.

To sum up, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, following as fitness and daily meditation regime for positivity, can help prevent developing anxiety and anxiety disorders. 

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