Anxiety is a common and frequently positive feeling. However, it might develop into a medical illness if a person experiences excessive amounts of worry regularly.
Anxiety disorders are a class of mental health conditions that cause excessive trepidation, dread, anxiety, and concern.
These illnesses affect a person’s behavior and emotional processing, and they also produce physical symptoms. While mild anxiety can be hazy and unpleasant, severe anxiety can significantly interfere with day-to-day activities.
40 million people in the US struggle with anxiety-related issues. It is the most prevalent subset of mental diseases in the nation. However, only 36.9% of persons with anxiety disorders obtain therapy.
What exactly is anxiety?
Anxiety is a sensation that is characterized by tension in the body and mind, worry in the mind, and bodily changes like elevated blood pressure, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).
Identification and treatment of the problem can be aided by understanding the differences between anxiety that is normal and anxiety that needs medical care.
This article examines the many forms of anxiety, the distinctions between anxiety and anxiety disorder, and the current therapies. Although anxiety can make people feel uncomfortable, it is not usually a medical disease.
Feelings of anxiety are common and even vital for survival when someone is exposed to potentially dangerous or frightening situations.
Since the beginning of time, the body has triggered alarms to enable evasive action in response to predators and other impending threats. A faster heartbeat, greater perspiration, and heightened sensitivity to the environment are all signs of these alarms.
The “fight-or-flight” response, which is triggered by the “danger” response, is a hormonal and chemical messenger that the brain secretes in a surge. This equips people to defend themselves against physical attacks or to get away from danger.
The need to flee from larger creatures and impending danger is less urgent for many individuals than it would have been for early humans.
These days, the main sources of anxiety are related to jobs, money, family life, health, and other important matters that need a person’s attention but don’t always call for the “fight-or-flight” response.
An echo of the original “fight-or-flight” response is a normal sensation of anxiety before a big life event or in a trying scenario. It may still be necessary for survival; for instance, when crossing the street, someone who is afraid of being hit by a car may naturally glance both ways to stay safe.
Disorders of anxiety
Sometimes the intensity or duration of an anxious emotion is out of proportion to the initial trigger, or stressor. There may also be physical signs, such as headaches and high blood pressure.
According to the APA, someone who suffers from an anxiety condition frequently has intrusive thoughts or worries. Anxiety may become disruptive once it reaches the stage of a disorder.
While other diagnoses fall under the category of anxiety disorders, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is frequently characterized by the following symptoms:
- Feeling “on edge” with a sense of restlessness.
- Anxiety that won’t go away.
- Heightened irritation
- Trouble paying attention.
- Troubles falling or staying asleep are examples of sleep issues.
People with GAD will experience these symptoms at high or chronic levels, even if they may be common in daily life. GAD might manifest as nebulous, uneasy concern or more intense anxiety that interferes with daily life.
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-V) divides anxiety disorders into four primary categories.
OCD, PTSD, and acute stress disorder were all included as anxiety disorders in earlier DSM versions together with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In contrast, many mental health issues are no longer classified as anxiety in the handbook.
These diagnostic categories now cover anxiety disorders
Disorder of generalized anxiety: This is a chronic condition marked by persistent, excessive worry and concerns over unrelated people, things, and circumstances in life.
The most prevalent anxiety condition is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and those who have it frequently struggle to pinpoint the source of their fear.
Panic disorder: Panic disorder is characterized by brief, unexpected bursts of acute horror and dread. These episodes can cause trembling, disorientation, nausea, dizziness, and trouble breathing.
The peak of a panic attack often occurs after 10 minutes and progresses quickly. But a panic episode might persist for several hours.
Although they can happen without a trigger, panic disorders frequently follow terrifying events or periods of intense stress.
An individual having a panic attack could mistakenly believe that it is a serious sickness and take severe action to prevent further episodes.
Specific phobias: These are unreasonable dread and avoidance of a certain thing or circumstance. Because they are related to a particular cause, phobias differ from other anxiety disorders.
A person suffering from a phobia may recognize that their fear is unjustified or intense, yet they are unable to control their anxiety whereas the trigger is visible. Fear can be triggered by anything, from people or animals to commonplace items.
Agoraphobia: This is a dread of, or avoidance of, places, things, or circumstances from which it could be challenging to escape or where assistance might not be accessible if one becomes trapped.
This illness is commonly mistaken for dread of nature and open places, but it is more complicated than that. The fear of leaving the house, using an elevator, or using public transit can all be symptoms of agoraphobia.
Selective mutism: Although they may have outstanding verbal communication abilities among known individuals, some kids who suffer from this type of anxiety find it difficult to talk in certain situations or circumstances, like school. It might represent a severe case of social anxiety.
Social phobia or social anxiety disorder: This is a fear of being humiliated in front of others or of receiving unfavorable feedback from others in social circumstances.
Stage fright, a fear of intimacy, and worry about rejection and humiliation are just a few of the emotions that people who suffer from social anxiety disorder may experience.
People with this illness may avoid social settings and interpersonal interactions to the extent that it becomes exceedingly challenging to go about daily tasks.
Separation anxiety disorder: A separation anxiety disorder is characterized by intense anxiety following a break from a person or environment that makes you feel safe or secure. Panic symptoms can occasionally arise after separation.
Anxiety disorders have many different root causes. Many may happen simultaneously, some might lead to other things, and others might not even cause anxiety disorders until another anxiety condition is already present.
Among the potential reasons:
- Factors beyond one’s control, such as challenges at the job, marital troubles, or family concerns.
- Heredity, since individuals are more prone to develop an anxiety condition if they have relatives who do.
- Medical variables include the signs of another illness, the side effects of a medicine, the strain of a difficult surgery, or a protracted recuperation.
- Because many anxiety problems are caused by hormonal and electrical signal imbalances in the brain, psychologists refer to these conditions as brain chemistry.
- The effects of this might make other potential reasons more noticeable after withdrawal from an illegal drug.
Behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and medication will all be used as treatment options. It may be necessary to postpone treating an anxiety illness until any underlying disorders are under control since alcoholism, depression, or other diseases can occasionally have such a powerful impact on mental health.
Anxiety disorders can occasionally be treated at home by a patient without the need for a clinician. For severe or persistent anxiety problems, nevertheless, this might not be helpful.
A person can practice many activities and exercises to manage milder, more targeted, or transient anxiety disorders, such as:
Managing stress: Potential triggers can be reduced by developing stress management skills. Prepare lists to make difficult activities more achievable, organize any forthcoming deadlines and demands, and commit to taking time off from studies or jobs.
Relaxation methods: The mental and physical symptoms of anxiety might be relieved by simple activities. These practices include yoga, deep breathing exercises, lengthy baths, meditation, and deep breathing exercises.
Positive thinking drills to replace negative ones: Make a list of the negative thoughts that may be reoccurring as a result of worry, and then make a list of more credible, uplifting ideas to replace them.
If anxiety symptoms have a known source, such as a phobia, it might be helpful to visualize facing and overcoming that fear.
Support system: Speak to supportive friends or family members who you are familiar with. Online and nearby support groups could both be accessible.
Exercise: Exercise can boost self-esteem and produce hormones in the brain that make one feel good.
Psychological counseling is a common treatment for anxiety. This can involve psychotherapy, CBT, or a mix of treatments.
CBT – This kind of psychotherapy tries to identify and alter unhelpful thinking patterns that serve as the basis for anxious and problematic moods.
The goal of CBT is to reduce distorted thinking and alter how people respond to things or circumstances that cause anxiety.
As an illustration, a psychotherapist offering CBT for panic disorder will work to emphasize that panic episodes are not heart attacks.
CBT may include exposure to triggers and phobias. This enables individuals to face their anxieties and lessens susceptibility to their typical anxiety triggers.
Several different forms of drugs can help someone control their anxiety. Antidepressants, benzodiazepines, tricyclics, and beta-blockers are some of the medications that might manage some of the symptoms, both physical and mental.
Benzodiazepines – For certain patients with anxiety, a doctor might prescribe them, but they have a significant potential for addiction. Apart from sleepiness and potential dependency, these medications often don’t have many negative effects. A typical benzodiazepine that is given is diazepam, sometimes known as Valium.
Antidepressants – Despite also focusing on sadness, they frequently aid in reducing anxiety. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), which are often used and have fewer adverse effects than previous antidepressants but are nonetheless likely to induce jitters, nausea, and sexual dysfunction when first taken, are also known as antidepressants. Effexor, also known as Prozac, and citalopram, sometimes known as Celexa, are other antidepressants.
Tricyclics – Other than OCD, the majority of anxiety disorders are helped by this family of medications, which is older than SSRIs. Dizziness, sleepiness, dry mouth, and weight gain are just a few of the potential adverse effects of these medications. Examples of tricyclics are imipramine and clomipramine.
A person may also use the following medications to alleviate their anxiety:
- Inhibitors of monoamine oxidase (MAOIs).
If any recommended medicine begins to have significant side effects, get medical attention.
There are techniques to lessen the chance of developing anxiety disorders. A mental health condition may not always be present just because you have anxious sensations, which are a normal part of daily living.
Take the following actions to help control your anxiety:
- Reduce your consumption of chocolate, coffee, tea, and cola.
- Before taking over-the-counter (OTC) or herbal medicines, ask a doctor or pharmacist whether any ingredients might exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
- Continue to eat healthfully.
- Observe a regular sleeping schedule.
- Steer clear of alcohol, marijuana, and other recreational substances.
Anxiety is a normal feeling that is essential for a person’s survival when they are in danger. It is not a medical problem. When this response becomes excessive or out of proportion to the stimulus that initiates it, an anxiety disorder begins to take shape.
Panic disorder, phobias, and social anxiety are just a few of the several forms of anxiety disorders. Along with self-help techniques, treatment typically combines various forms of therapy, medicine, and counseling. Maintaining anxious emotions within healthy bounds can be facilitated by an active lifestyle and a balanced diet.
Q. How can I tell when my nervous feelings are becoming excessive compared to their cause?
Ans. Finding it increasingly difficult to perform activities that they used to be able to do reasonably easily may be the most obvious sign that anxiety is becoming a problem.
Going to the grocery store, being separated from a family member or caretaker, speaking in front of a crowd, or taking the elevator are some examples of what this could entail. Reach out if you see that your anxiety is getting in the way.