Anxiety is the reaction of the mind and body to real or imagined threats and danger. It is a survival reaction. Often anxiety produces physical symptoms of a rapid heartbeat, tense muscles, sweaty hands, queasy stomach, or trembling hands and legs. The flight or flight reaction to danger is caused are caused by the rush of adrenaline in the body. The mind decides whether the threat is real and how person wants to deal fight or fight the danger or to run away from the situation. The symptoms of anxiety often continue long after the incident is over.
Normal anxiety produces mild feeling of anxiety, fear, nervousness, repetitive thoughts, dread, and other uncomfortable emotions Often it is accompanied by physical symptoms too. Many situations can produce anxiety. Socializing, performance in school or work, dating, illness, and traumatic events. Anxiety disorders develop when anxiety levels become too high. These mental health disorders occur when the physical and mental symptoms interfere with daily tasks and functioning.
Anxiety disorders occur in people of all ages. Too much anxiety causes poor concentration, racing thoughts, rapid breathing, panic, trembling, tiredness, insomnia, and avoiding activities that trigger these feelings and symptoms. These disorders often build up over time and sometimes come on suddenly when a person is faced with challenges in life. There are several types of anxiety disorders that can develop.
Type of Anxiety Disorders
Generalized anxiety disorder causes worry over many of life’s issues. Those that suffer from the disorder often expect the worst to happen. When someone in their family drives a car they worry about having an accident or never returning. A good student constantly worries about low grades or failing. This anxiety disorder causes rapid heart beat, nausea, headaches, tiredness, and missing school, work, or social activities. The feeling of the world being out of control and not manageable can be overwhelming.
Panic disorders produce intense physical and emotional symptoms. Often these symptoms occur at the same time. The intense feeling and symptoms causes the person to sometimes go to the emergency room because they think they are having a heart attack or for another serious illness. The symptoms are rapid heart beat, dizziness, feelings of choking, chills, hot flashes, feeling like one is losing control, and dissociation or feeling detached. This is another type of anxiety disorder.
Phobias are fears that develop over a specific situation, object, or activity. It produces a strong and often irrational fear in the person. A fear of insects that causes the person to run out of the room or freeze when they see a spider. It might be fear of tight spaces, that cause them to avoid small rooms and riding on the elevators. It produces excessive fear and panic that the person cannot control. When someone fears dog they will avoid them or hide when they see them. Phobias produce high levels of anxiety in those that have them.
Social phobias are another type of anxiety disorder. Often children or adults with this disorder fear being in social situations. They might fear humiliation, embarrassment, rejection, or not fitting in. This often occurs during the teen years when socializing and development accelerates. They may avoid social situations, eating and drinking in public places, or speaking in front of groups. An extreme form of this disorder is when someone will not speak at all in certain situation. This often occurs with teens or young children.
Separation Anxiety disorder is the fear of being separated from their caregivers, family, or close friends. This occurs in adults and children causing the person to cling to the person by not going out without them or worrying about the person when they are not with them. This can develop in childhood and continue into adulthood. A person with this anxiety disorder might even be attache to a pet. Physical and emotional symptoms of this disorder might be headaches, anxiety, worry, fear when alone, and the need check on another person constantly. It is caused when someone moves away, death of someone close, or traumatic events. It is another anxiety disorder.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is another type of anxiety disorder. The person often has compulsive or repetitive thoughts or performs a task over and over again for no reason. A person might wash their hands several times a day or constantly check the door to see if it is locked. They may be fixated on a thought or idea about someone that is not true. These thoughts can be about violence, sex, germs, hurting themselves, eating, shopping, other people, or their physical appearance. This disorder takes many forms. They may pull their hair, pick at their skin, counting things over and over again. It leads to behaviors and thought that interferes with normal activities.
Obsessive thoughts can be terrifying and cause high levels of anxiety in the person. Many people develop compulsions a behavior or thought pattern that makes them perform something over and over again. They spend their day using this behavior to control the fear and stress they feel. The cycle continues and is hard to change. Common obsession are contamination, intrusive thoughts, religion with overconcern about right and wrong, losing control, and perfectionism.
Post Trauma Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that develops from a traumatic incident that happens to the person once or many times. It can be caused by physical or sexual abuse, car accidents, illness, military combat, bullying, witnessing violence, and from going through natural disaster. Children, teens and adults can develop this disorder. Some symptoms are flashbacks or reliving memories of the trauma, numbness, anxiety, anger, disassociation, depression, easily startled, insomnia, nightmares, poor concentration, and feelings of guilt and shame. The severity and intensity of the disorder varies with each individual.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
Start by seeing your primary doctor or by taking the person with the disorder to have a physical. Make sure that the person does not have an illness causing the symptoms. After the exam, the doctor can refer the patient to a mental health facility or hospital for testing and evaluation. They perform psychological testing and evaluation. The doctors often diagnoses anxiety disorders using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. After this treatment varies from patient to patient.
There are two main methods of treatment for anxiety disorders. They are medication and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy or talk therapy is working with a trained professional that can be technician, social worker, or psychiatrist to talk about the how to cope with the anxiety disorder. Often medications are used in combination with this treatment to reduce and control the symptoms. Doctors will prescribe medications to relieve depression and anxiety for short or long term use depending on the type of anxiety disorder treated.
Cognitive behavioral therapy often is used to treat anxiety disorders and learn new ways of coping. The person may have to record their thoughts in a journal and go out and confront their fears. It may involve visiting a dog shelter to reduce their fear of dogs or going into a store to ask for change. CBT therapists are licensed to perform this therapy and often use other types of therapy with it. There is another form of CBT where patients look at opposing beliefs and ideas and learn to accept them.
Exposure therapy uses computer simulated exercises or virtual reality to expose patients to fears with the goal of reducing or change their reaction. Group therapy is another treatment where patients talk with others with similar problems. These groups are lead by trained professionals and often teach social skills. Other treatments that might be used for different type of panic disorder are hypnosis, EMDR or rapid eye movement treatment, meditation, and breathing.
Those with anxiety disorders often make lifestyle changes that help control their symptoms. Eating a healthy diet, a regular exercise routine, reducing alcohol, learning to relax using yoga or meditation, and getting enough sleep are some change that help. Sticking with their treatment plan and taking their medications as prescribed helps with anxiety disorder. Some anxiety disorders only require short term medical help and others require years of medication and therapy.