To put it in simple words anxiety means a feeling of worry, nervousness or uneasiness about something. It is basically fear or threat for something that hasn’t happened yet. Fear is actually the alarm reaction that occurs in response to immediate danger. A lot of us get fearful in an unknown situation or when speaking in public but the intensity of all matters in an anxiety disorder. It interferes with their day to day activities like job presentations or school performance etc.
A Phobia is an irrational or extensive fear from an object or a situation. It refers to a group of anxiety symptoms. There are different types of phobias that come under anxiety disorders.
It affects approximately 25 to 29 percent population at some point in their lives. It is more common in woman than men.
Types of Anxiety Disorder
There are certain types of anxiety disorders and each one comes with a different set of symptoms and treatment plans.
- Agoraphobia: It comes from the Greek word agora which means fear of public places. People with this fear generally tend to avoid crowded places like streets, malls, theatres etc. They get anxious when they feel that escape from that situation is not possible or can be embarrassing for them. They are sometimes scared of their own bodily functions. It first starts with avoiding situations where attacks have occurred then gradually goes to the places where attacks might occur. It sometimes gets so worse that the person might not go in some parts of their own home.
- Generalized anxiety disorder: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) (formerly known as free-floating anxiety) can be diagnosed. DSM-5 criteria specify that the worry must occur on more days than not for at least 6 months and that it must be experienced as difficult to control. People with GAD live in a constant future-oriented mood state of tension, apprehension, and worry. They often try to procrastinate or try to check on things frequently. The worry process is the central feature of GAD. It causes impairment in social life and occupational functioning. Genetic factors play a major role in the development of generalized anxiety disorder.
- Panic disorder: It is characterized by the occurrence of panic attacks that often seem to occur out of the blue. According to the DSM-5 criteria for panic disorder, the person must have experienced recurrent, unexpected attacks and must have been persistently concerned about having another attack or worried about the consequences of having an attack for at least a month (often referred to as anticipatory anxiety). Attacks are brief but intense and usually subside in 20 to 30 minutes. They come unexpectedly like sometimes there can be no such provoke but panic attacks can take place.
- Separation anxiety disorder: It is normal in children till the time of infancy. But if it still persists after the child has grown old then it can be SAD. It is a condition when a child becomes fearful and nervous when away from home or separated from caregivers. It can also develop in forms of physical symptoms like headaches or stomach ache just at thought of being separated. In children, bed wetting can occur. It might interfere with the daily activities like going to school or with peers. It can also be seen in adults who don’t like to move away from families and are still dependent on others for their needs to get fulfilled.
- Social anxiety disorder: Commonly called social anxiety phobia. It is characterized by one or more fear of specific situations. The persons feel that if he or she is exposed to that specific situation something negative might happen or they would embarrass or humiliate themselves. They either try to avoid these situations or are in a lot of distress when put to that situation. Fear of public speaking is the most common type of social phobia faced by people. It typically lasts for 6 months or more. Examples include social interactions, being observed, and performing in front of others.
- Specific phobias: Specific phobias are if she or he shows strong and persistent fear that is triggered by the presence of a specific object or situation. When individuals with specific phobias encounter a phobic stimulus, they often show an immediate fear response that often resembles a panic attack except for the existence of a clear external trigger (APA, 2013). For example, a claustrophobic person may go to great lengths to avoid entering a closet or an elevator, even if this means climbing many flights of stairs or turning down jobs that might require them to take an elevator. Generally, people with specific phobias recognize that their fear is somewhat excessive or unreasonable although occasionally they may not have this insight.
- Substance-induced anxiety disorder: A substance might induce psychotic symptoms during intoxication when the person is under the influence of drugs or during the withdrawal period when the person stops taking the drugs. If it begins during the withdrawal it might show up to 4 weeks after an individual stops using the drugs. Anxiety symptoms can result from intoxication on alcohol, cannabis or other related substances. To be characterized as one, the symptoms should be prevalent for a month; it should cause distress and shouldn’t occur during delirium. Medication has to taken under supervision to reduce the likelihood of occurrence. Exposure to drugs and alcohol should be stopped.
Causes of Anxiety Disorder
The actual causes remain unknown. Some life experiences trigger something within often leading to anxiety in people. They can also be genetically prone to anxiety. Inherited traits can be there. Medical reasons: sometimes anxiety can be linked to a health issue. They can act as indicators to a medical illness. If it is suspected then there are some tests that you might have to undergo i.e. thyroid problems, diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain or respiratory disorders. Also sometimes anxiety can occur as a side reaction of certain medications. Consult the side effects before taking any medication from a psychiatrist.
Risk Factors Involved
There are certain factors that can be avoided to decrease the risk of developing anxiety.
- Trauma: It is something that no one has control over. Childhood traumatic experiences are a major factor in developing an anxiety disorder at some point in life. Adults who experience traumatic event also develop anxiety disorders.
- Personality: There are certain personality types that are more prone to anxiety than others. Some get anxious even in the slightest change of situations.
- Stress buildup: A lot of people worry about small events or daily issues. All this gathers up and gets built a pyramid of stress. There is no outlet and it gets stored inside.
- Having blood relatives with anxiety: If it runs in the family then only the slightest trigger can lead up to anxiety disorders.
- Drugs or alcohol: Use, misuse or withdrawal can cause or worsen anxiety. Staying away from this is the best option.
Complications of Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety can sometimes comorbid with other conditions. It can lead or worsen the physical and mental conditions. Like depression, substance misuse, digestive or bowel symptoms, social isolation, suicide, headaches, and chronic pain, insomnia, problems in daily life etc.
The symptom includes feeling nervous, tense, increased heartbeat, trembling, sweating of hands, breathing rapidly, a sense of fore coming danger and panic situation, some experience gastrointestinal problems, sleep difficulties or trouble in concentrating in any other work, tiredness, repeated thoughts, the urge to avoid things or situations that trigger their anxiety.
If you think there is a certain fear that takes a toll over your life then consulting a psychiatrist is the best option. They will ask about your medical history and the symptoms that you have observed. They will then decide if the symptoms are intense or not. And also if it hampers your daily activities or not. Medications will then be prescribed accordingly.
They are accordingly selected and modified depending on the need of the patient.
- Medications: A lot of antidepressants work for anxiety disorders. One common name is alprazolam. Antipsychotic drugs also work really well for reducing anxiety symptoms.
- Psychotherapy: It is a type of counseling where you see a therapist who can help you deal with the fear and stress that comes with anxiety. Someone not willing to take medication can always opt for psychotherapy. It also gives you a clear insight into your disorder.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: It helps you to recognize and change your thought patterns or behavior in relation to things that trigger your anxiety.
How to manage symptoms?
A healthy diet is a way to a healthy mind. Cut down on things that are not good for your body. Avoid alcohol or drugs at all cost. They just might exaggerate the symptoms. Sleep pattern should be observed and maintained. Meditation should be included in the routine. Certain medications have side effects consult your doctor beforehand.
‘You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.’ – DAN MILLMAN
Don’t forget to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Your experience might help someone.