Overview

Anxiety can cause excessive, persistent, and severe worry and fear in everyday life. This can often be described as a series of panic attacks, sudden episodes of extreme fear that escalate quickly to a point.

Anxiety can interfere with your daily activities, make them challenging to manage, and last for a while. You may try to avoid certain places and situations to avoid these feelings. These symptoms can begin in childhood and teen years and may continue into adulthood.

Is Anxiety a Disorder ?

Anxiety disorders can include generalized and social anxiety disorder (social anxiety phobia), specific phobias, separation anxiety disorder, and other forms such as social anxiety disorder. Multiple anxiety disorders can be present. Sometimes anxiety is caused by a medical condition that requires treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

These are some common signs and symptoms of anxiety:

  • Feeling anxious, restless, or tense
  • A feeling of imminent danger, panic, or doom
  • An increased heart rate
  • Breathing fast (hyperventilation).
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Problems concentrating on or thinking about other things than the current worry
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Having GI (gastrointestinal) problems
  • Controlling worry is difficult
  • Avoiding situations that can trigger anxiety

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) An anxiety disorder where you avoid situations or places that could cause panic or make you feel helpless or trapped.

Anxiety disorder caused by a medical condition can include symptoms of panic or intense anxiety that are directly related to a physical problem.

An anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent, excessive anxiety and worries about events or activities – even routine, everyday issues. It is hard to control and can cause stress unrelated to the actual situation. It can occur alongside other anxiety disorders and depression.

Panic disorder is a series of episodes that cause panic attacks and intense fear or anxiety. These episodes can last for several minutes. Feelings of imminent doom, anxiety, panic attacks, and chest pain (heart palpitations) can occur. Panic attacks can lead to anxiety about what might happen again or avoid situations that have already occurred.

Selective Mutism refers to a persistent failure by children to speak in certain situations (e.g., school), even though they can communicate in other settings, such at home or with family members. It can impact school, work, and social functioning.

Separation anxiety disorder A childhood disorder that causes excessive stress and is related to separation from parents and other people with parental roles.

High levels of anxiety and fear characterize social anxiety disorder (social phobia). It can lead to social dread, embarrassment, self-consciousness, and fear of others’ being judged or perceived negatively.

Phobias can be described as significant anxiety that results from being exposed to a particular object or situation and the desire to avoid it. Some people experience panic attacks when they have phobias.

Substance-induced panic disorder is characterized as intense anxiety or panic. It can be caused by misusing drugs, taking medication, being exposed to toxic substances, or withdrawing from drugs.

Unspecified anxiety disorder and other specified anxiety disorders describe anxiety or phobias that don’t fit the criteria for other anxiety disorders but are severe enough to cause distress and disruption.

When should you see a doctor?

  • It feels like you worry too much, affecting your work, relationships, or other aspects of your life.
  • You are struggling to control your anxiety, fear, or worry.
  • You are depressed or have problems with alcohol, drugs, or mental health issues.
  • Your anxiety may be related to a health issue.
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors may be present. Seek emergency treatment immediately.

You may not be able to forget your worries. They may become more severe over time. Before your anxiety worsens, see your doctor or mental health provider. If you seek help early, it’s easier to manage your stress.

Causes

We don’t know the causes of anxiety disorders. Life experiences, such as trauma, can trigger anxiety disorders. It is possible to have inherited traits as well.

Medical reasons

Underlying medical issues can cause anxiety. Anxiety signs and symptoms can be a sign of a medical condition. Your doctor may recommend testing to determine if you have anxiety.

Anxiety can also be associated with other medical conditions such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism, a thyroid problem, can be caused by the body.
  • Asthma can be a result of respiratory disorders such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)..
  • Use of drugs for drug misuse or withdrawal
  • Reduction of alcohol, anti-anxiety medication (benzodiazepines), or other drugs
  • Chronic pain or irritable stool syndrome
  • Rare tumors can produce certain fight-or-flight hormones

Some medications can cause anxiety.

If:

  • There are no blood relatives (such as a parent or sibling with an anxiety disorder) that you don’t know.
  • As a child, you didn’t suffer from an anxiety disorder.
  • Anxiety can cause you to avoid certain situations or things.
  • An anxiety attack suddenly occurs. It is not related to any life events.

Risk factors

These factors could increase your chances of developing anxiety disorders.

  • Trauma. Children that have been subject to abuse, trauma, or who witness traumatic events are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. It can also create anxiety disorder in adults who have experienced trauma.
  • Stress is caused by illness.
  • Stress buildup. Anxiety can be caused by a significant life event or small stressful life events, such as a death, financial worries, or work stress.
  • Personality. Individuals with certain personality types are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders.
  • Other mental disorders. Many people with mental illnesses such as depression also have anxiety disorders.
  • Family history of anxiety disorders.
  • Alcohol and drugs. Anxiety can be caused by the misuse of alcohol or drug use.

Complications

An anxiety disorder can do more than make you anxious. An anxiety disorder can lead to or worsen other mental and physical conditions, such as:

  • Depression is often associated with anxiety disorders or other mental health disorders.
  • Substance misuse
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Problems with the bowel or digestive system
  • Chronic pain and headaches
  • Social isolation
  • Problems at school and work
  • Low quality of life
  • Suicide

Prevention

Although it is impossible to predict what will lead to anxiety disorders, you can reduce symptoms by taking steps if you are anxious.

  • Seek help immediately. Anxiety can be more challenging to treat than many other mental illnesses.
  • Be active. Do things that you love and make you feel good. Social interaction and caring relationships can help you to lessen your worries.
  • Avoid drinking or using drugs. Anxiety can be worsened by alcohol and drug abuse. Quitting any of these substances can cause anxiety. You can seek help from a support group or your doctor if you cannot stop.

Treatment

Psychotherapy and medication are the main treatment options for anxiety disorders. Combining both of these may be most beneficial to you. You may need to experiment with different treatments until you find the one that works best for your needs.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is also known as psychological counseling or talk therapy. It involves working with a therapist to reduce anxiety symptoms. It is an effective treatment for anxiety.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the most effective type of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders, is CBT. CBT is a short-term treatment that teaches you skills to manage your anxiety and return you to normal activities.

Exposure therapy is a component of CBT, which involves you slowly interacting with the object or situation that triggers anxiety. You gain confidence in your ability to manage the situation.

Medications

You can use different medications to relieve anxiety symptoms. It depends on what type of anxiety disorder you have and whether or not you have any other mental or physical issues. Here are some examples:

  • You can also treat anxiety disorders with certain antidepressants.
  • Buspirone, an anti-anxiety medication, may be prescribed.
  • In limited cases, your doctor may recommend other medications such as sedatives (also known as benzodiazepines or beta-blockers). These medications can be short-term and not long-term for anxiety relief.
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