Anxiety Disorders and Treatment

Most people experience stress or tension at some point in their lives without adverse effects. Anxiety is a normal part of the brain’s way of coping with everyday pressure. However, persistent anxiety can become a debilitating condition and is far more prevalent than many realize.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over 18% of the adult population of the US is affected by anxiety. That amounts to a staggering 40 million people every year.

  • over 18% of the adult population of the US is affected by anxiety. That amounts to a staggering 40 million people every year. 18% 18%

What is anxiety?

Unlike regular stress, anxiety disorders are characterized by exaggerated and unrelenting fear about situations that should be a part of regular life. 

Reactions to certain triggers are often radical and disproportionate to the situation. Sometimes these fears become so extreme that they rapidly escalate to terror in just a few minutes. These episodes, known as panic attacks, can become debilitating, affecting regular activities. In many instances, the condition may begin in childhood and persist throughout adult life.

The symptoms may become so acute that sufferers might avoid any situation that could trigger an episode, leading to various associated conditions, such as agoraphobia, social anxiety, or separation anxiety. Fortunately, anxiety treatment is within reach, and anxiety symptoms can be effectively managed.

Types of anxiety

Four primary categories have been created to classify BPD. 

These include:

Health-Related Conditions

Some disorders are related to undiagnosed physical health issues that may manifest as psychological problems. In some instances, feelings of nervousness or inexplicable worry may be a precursor to an illness. Conditions that may result in anxiety include heart disease, diabetes, thyroid imbalances, respiratory problems, drug or alcohol abuse, irritable bowel syndrome or chronic pain, and tumors affecting hormone balances. In such cases, should the patient have no prior history of depression or anxiety, it may be wise to consult a doctor to assess the situation.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

This involves a disproportionate worry about events that might be normal routine occurrences. Some may feel that there is no real reason for the fear. The feeling is uncontrollable and may have physical effects. It often coincides with depression or other anxiety disorders.

Agoraphobia

Those who have this condition may have anxieties related to situations or places that cause them to feel trapped or helpless. This could include crowded spaces, confined areas, or, conversely, open spaces. Anxiety can escalate to panic attacks and may initially be triggered by traumatic circumstances associated with a specific situation. The symptoms can eventually extend to encompass other, seemingly unrelated situations. Agoraphobia can cause significant lifestyle restrictions; victims may be so fearful of certain situations that they seek the safety of familiar spaces to the exclusion of all others.

Panic Disorder

Panic attacks can be extreme and overwhelming, to the extent that a person may believe they are having a heart attack. Episodes of intense terror may escalate within minutes, bringing symptoms such as shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and a belief that something terrible is about to happen. In many instances, these are reactions to specific phobias or situations. However, the victim may begin to identify such issues and start to avoid them altogether. This behavior can then result in a more complex disorder such as agoraphobia or generalized anxiety disorder.

Selective Mutism

Often starting in childhood, some children develop a failure to communicate at school, although they’re comfortable talking with family. The phenomenon may eventually extend to other social circumstances, affecting school, work, and social interactions. In some cases, it can continue into adulthood.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Also often associated with children, separation anxiety is a fear of being separated from primary caregivers. Children may fear harm may befall themselves, or that something may happen to their loved one while they’re out of sight.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Some individuals may feel such extreme anxiety or fear in social situations to the extent that they avoid any form of social interaction. This may be the result of feeling negatively judged, or self-consciousness and embarrassment.

Specific Phobias

Some people may experience extreme anxiety when facing a particular situation or object, such as spiders or clowns (although the list is unlimited). Anxiety levels can quickly become panic attacks when confronted by these triggers.

Substance Abuse Anxiety Disorder

Misuse of medications or illegal drugs can provoke feelings of panic and anxiety, either during use or when going through withdrawal.

Other Specified and Unspecified Anxiety Disorders

The issue of anxiety is vast and often difficult to categorize, yet these issues still affect the lives of those who suffer from them. There are numerous unspecified disorders that may not meet the criteria of more recognized conditions, but remain a source of distress.

Symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety can manifest in a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms, including:

What causes anxiety?

There is no single cause for anxiety, and many disorders may be a result of a combination of factors. These may include:

Genetics:

Some families are genetically predisposed to anxiety issues

Brain Chemistry:

Circuitry within the areas of the brain controlling fear and emotion may be dysfunctional

Environmental Stress:

Previous exposure to events such as trauma, childhood abuse or neglect, physical attack, or the death of a loved one may result in overwhelming anxiety.

Stress Build-up:

Exposure to ongoing stress such as work stress, financial issues, or a death in the family, can lead to a build-up of tension that culminates in excessive anxiety.

History of Mental Health Issues:

People who have previously suffered disorders such as depression may be more at risk of developing anxiety.

Low Self-esteem:

Negative self-perceptions may cause people to develop deeper levels of social anxiety disorder.

Drug Abuse or Withdrawal:

Alcohol and drug abuse may often result in a physical reaction that presents as stress and extreme anxiety. In some cases, these drugs may have been used to mask anxiety symptoms, resulting in additional problems related to drug use.

Illness or Chronic Health Issues:

Long-term worry about health or the health of a loved one can result in feelings of anxiety and depression.

Undiagnosed medical conditions:

Some physical conditions, such as heart, lung, and thyroid conditions may manifest as anxiety or stress-related reactions. These require assessment by a medical professional.

Diagnosing anxiety

When anxiety begins to interfere with a person’s work or social life, causes physical health problems, leads to substance abuse, or triggers suicidal thoughts, it is wise to seek professional help.

In diagnosing anxiety issues, a primary health care provider will assess symptoms by looking at the various risk factors at play. They will give a psychological evaluation, discussing thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and how long the issue has been troubling the patient, to gauge the extent of the problem. 

Pre-existing conditions, health problems, and substance abuse would need to be considered since these can complicate diagnosis. Use of medications may be examined, since anxiety may sometimes be a side-effect of some prescription medications.

Many doctors will use the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria in determining the course of treatment that would be appropriate.

Treatment for anxiety

For many sufferers, a primary goal is focusing on how to get rid of anxiety. Fortunately, many symptoms can be controlled through anti-anxiety medications, along with counseling and psychotherapy for long-term help. 

Medications may manage symptoms while providing tools to overcome the underlying issue. Treatments include:

Anti-anxiety medication

After an assessment, a healthcare provider may prescribe a treatment protocol including anxiety medications. Among these are various types of antidepressants, benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, anticonvulsants, and antipsychotics which may either treat the symptoms of the reaction or minimize the severity of the response in the first place.

Psychotherapy

Protocols such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help redevelop coping skills to deal with stressful situations. During counseling, trained mental health specialists discuss various scenarios with the patient, providing insight into motivations, and offering alternative ways of managing reactions. In this way, the patient learns ways to turn thoughts and behaviors into more positive feelings.

Lifestyle Changes

Addressing issues that may be exacerbating anxiety can be supportive in an effective treatment program. A healthy diet, regular sleep, an active lifestyle, and cutting back on caffeine, cigarettes, and alcohol consumption can play a beneficial role in mental health.

Stress management

Anxiety may be controlled by implementing stress management and relaxation techniques such as visualization, meditation, and yoga for relaxation.

Alternative healthcare

Some patients may prefer alternative options to anxiety medication, opting for herbal or homeopathic treatments. It is wise to consult a physician before embarking on any treatment program.

Get help for anxiety

While anxiety issues can be stressful and even debilitating, the good news is that there are effective ways to manage the problem. Get in touch with the Psyclarity Health team to speak to a caring expert on the disorder and regain control of unnecessary fears.

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