Anxiety is a perfectly normal human emotion that every individual will experience at some point during his or her lifetime. There is nothing wrong with feeling anxious, nervous, or concerned when you are faced with a stressful situation in life, and many people experience episodes of anxiety when dealing with problems at work, taking important tests, making critical decisions in their lives or starting a new relationship. However, anxiety disorders are quite different, capable of causing enough discomfort and distress that they interfere with an individual’s ability to lead a normal life. Anxiety disorders are serious forms of mental illness, during which fear, worry and concern are crippling and constant.
Anxiety is often regarded as an abnormal response, or a disorder when it:
- Persists after a stressful situation has diminished
- Appears for no apparent reason, with no stressor
- Persists even if the stress is minor
- Seems out of proportion in consideration of the situation
What is an Anxiety Disorder?
There are many mental health disorders and conditions where anxiety is a prevalent symptom. It can appear in mood disorders, and even as a response to other illnesses. You may be suffering with an anxiety disorder if you find that the symptoms of anxiety interfere with your regular activities, or daily life. Approximately 18.1% of US adults over the age of 18 suffer with an anxiety disorder. There are four forms of anxiety disorder that are most regularly acknowledged by health care professionals, although it is important to recognize that some people experience symptoms and features from more than one type of disorder at once.
- Phobias – Specific phobias are characterized by an intense fear response to a particular situation or object. Most of the time, the level of fear an individual experiences will be inappropriate in consideration of the situation, and it can cause people to avoid everyday interactions and activities to a disabling extent.
- Generalized anxiety disorder – This disorder, also known as general anxiety, is recognized in people who experience unnecessary or excessive tension and worry, even in situations where there is nothing, or little to provoke an anxiety attack.
- Panic disorder – People suffering from this condition experience sudden instances of terror that may strike repeatedly with no warning, known as a panic attack. Some of the most common symptoms of a panic attack include, palpitations, chest pain, sweating, a feeling of choking, or experiences that leave the individual feeling as though they may be ‘going crazy’, or having a heart attack.
- Social anxiety disorder – Also known as social phobia, this condition involves an overwhelming degree of concern and worry regarding social situation, usually centering on nervousness around being judged or behaving inappropriately.
What are the Symptoms of Anxiety?
When you experience anxiety, you will typically notice feelings of fear and tension, as well as numerous physical symptoms, such as an increased heart rate, feeling of sickness, sweating, headache, chest pains, hyperventilation, tremors, or dry mouth. The physical symptoms that are caused by anxiety are caused by the brain sending various messages through your nerve pathways to various parts of your body, causing certain parts, such as your lungs and heart, to work faster. In addition to this, you will begin to release stress hormones, like adrenaline, into your bloodstream, which may have a further impact upon your heart, muscles, and even lead to panic attacks. Other common symptoms include:
- Feelings of panic, uneasiness and fear
- Trouble sleeping
- Sweaty or cold hands and feet
- Trouble staying calm and still
- Inability to concentrate
What Causes an Anxiety Disorder?
Although the exact causes of anxiety disorders are unknown, it is important to establish that like other mental illnesses, they are not a form of personal weakness. Scientists are continuing to engage in research regarding mental health, and as they do, it is becoming clear that disorders are often caused by a mixture of factors, including environmental stress and chemical changes within the brain. Similarly, to depression, various environmental factors such as a significant event, or trauma can trigger instances of anxiety within people who may already have an inherited susceptibility to the development of anxiety disorders. Some studies have shown that anxiety can run in families, meaning that a disorder may be partially inherited from one or both parents.
How are Anxiety Disorders Treated?
The primary aim of any form of treatment for anxiety disorders is to help an individual reduce the symptoms that they experience to an extent that they are capable of carrying on with their daily routines in a normal fashion. The treatment options that will be available for you, or your loved one will depend largely on the type and severity of the condition you are suffering from.
Cognitive or behavioral therapy may be used in an attempt to improve coping mechanisms and change unhealthy thought processes which could be enhancing the symptoms of anxiety. Cognitive therapy is based on the concept that the way in which we think can fuel or trigger various mental health problems, such as anxiety or even major depression. A therapist will assist you in understanding your current thought processes so that you may be able to identify the harmful patterns which could be making you anxious. Behavioral therapy, on the other hand, aims to change the behaviors you engage in which may be unhelpful to your condition. For example, when you are suffering from a phobia, you may react to the feared object in a harmful way.
Antidepressant medications can also be used to treat anxiety even if you are not depressed. These medicines work by reacting with the chemicals within your brain such as serotonin, which could be involved in the production of anxiety symptoms. It is important to remember that after first starting an antidepressant, patients may feel their anxiety becomes worse for a few days before they begin to improve.
Please call Creative Care today if you feel as though you or your loved one could benefit from further assistance and information regarding mental health issues or anxiety disorders.