- 10 Jan 2023
- Psy. Neha Sahu
What are anxiety disorders?
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.
Anxiety refers to the anticipation of a future concern and is more associated with muscle tension and avoidance behaviour.
Fear is an emotional response to an immediate threat and is more associated with a fight or flight reaction – either staying to fight or leaving to escape danger.
Anxiety disorders can cause people to try to avoid situations that trigger or worsen their symptoms. Job performance, school work and personal relationships can be affected. In general, for a person to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the fear or anxiety must:
Anxiety disorders can cause people to try to avoid situations that trigger or worsen their symptoms. Job performance, school work and personal relationships can be or anxiety must:
- Be out of proportion to the situation or age-inappropriate
- Hinder ability to function normally
Types of Anxiety Disorder
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder and separation anxiety disorder.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) usually involves a persistent feeling of anxiety or dread, which can interfere with daily life. It is not the same as occasionally worrying about things or experiencing anxiety due to stressful life events. People living with GAD experience frequent anxiety for months, if not years.
Symptoms of GAD include:
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Being irritable
- Having headaches, muscle aches, stomach-aches, or unexplained pains
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep
(B) Panic Disorder
People with panic disorder have frequent and unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear, discomfort, or sense of losing control even when there is no clear danger or trigger. Not everyone who experiences a panic attack will develop panic disorder.
During a panic attack, a person may experience:
- Pounding or racing heart
- Trembling or tingling
- Chest pain
- Feelings of impending doom
- Feelings of being out of control
People with panic disorder often worry about when the next attack will happen and actively try to prevent future attacks by avoiding places, situations, or behaviors they associate with panic attacks. Panic attacks can occur as frequently as several times a day or as rarely as a few times a year.
(C) Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others. For people with social anxiety disorder, the fear of social situations may feel so intense that it seems beyond their control. For some people, this fear may get in the way of going to work, attending school, or doing everyday things.
People with a social anxiety disorder may experience:
- Blushing, sweating, or trembling
- Pounding or racing heart
- Rigid body posture or speaking with an overly soft voice
- Difficulty making eye contact or being around people they don’t know
- Feelings of self-consciousness or fear that people will judge them negatively
(D) Phobia-related disorders
A phobia is an intense fear of—or aversion to—specific objects or situations. Although it can be realistic to be anxious in some circumstances, the fear people with phobias feel is out of proportion to the actual danger caused by the situation or object.
People with a phobia:
- May have an irrational or excessive worry about encountering the feared object or situation
- Take active steps to avoid the feared object or situation
- Experience immediate intense anxiety upon encountering the feared object or situation
- Endure unavoidable objects and situations with intense anxiety
There are several types of phobias and phobia-related disorders:
Specific Phobias (sometimes called simple phobias): As the name suggests, people who have a specific phobia have an intense fear of, or feel intense anxiety about, specific types of objects or situations. Some examples of specific phobias include the fear of:
- Specific animals, such as spiders, dogs, or snakes
- Receiving injections
Social anxiety disorder (previously called social phobia): People with social anxiety disorder have a general intense fear of, or anxiety toward, social or performance situations. They worry that actions or behaviours associated with their anxiety will be negatively evaluated by others, leading them to feel embarrassed. This worry often causes people with social anxiety to avoid social situations. Social anxiety disorder can manifest in a range of situations, such as within the workplace or the school environment.
Agoraphobia: People with agoraphobia have an intense fear of two or more of the following situations:
- Using public transportation
- Being in open spaces
- Being in enclosed spaces
- Standing in line or being in a crowd
- Being outside of the home alone
People with agoraphobia often avoid these situations, in part, because they think being able to leave might be difficult or impossible in the event they have panic-like reactions or other embarrassing symptoms. In the most severe form of agoraphobia, an individual can become housebound.
Separation anxiety disorder: Separation anxiety is often thought of as something that only children deal with; however, adults can also be diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder. People who have separation anxiety disorder have fears about being parted from people to whom they are attached. They often worry that some sort of harm or something untoward will happen to their attachment figures while they are separated. This fear leads them to avoid being separated from their attachment figures and to avoid being alone. People with separation anxiety may have nightmares about being separated from attachment figures or experience physical symptoms when separation occurs or is anticipated.
(E) Health anxiety: -
Health anxiety is an obsessive and irrational worry about having a serious medical condition. It’s also called illness anxiety and was formerly called hypochondria. This condition is marked by a person’s imagination of the physical symptoms of illness.
Or in other cases, it’s a person’s misinterpretation of minor or normal body sensations as serious disease symptoms despite reassurance by medical professionals that they don’t have an illness.
There are a variety of options available to treat anxiety disorders. A mental health professional can help determine what works best for you.
Psychotherapy can help people learn to manage the emotional, cognitive, and behavioural aspects of anxiety. One particularly effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders is Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This approach focuses on helping people identify the automatic negative thoughts and cognitive distortion that contribute to feelings of anxiety.
Exposure therapy is another type of CBT that can be helpful for some types of anxiety. In this approach, people are gradually exposed to the things that they fear, often while simultaneously using relaxation techniques to help calm the body's stress response.
Some meditation can also be prescribed to help relieve symptoms of anxiety.
Coping Strategies often focus on ways to manage anxiety more effectively. Lifestyle changes such as limiting caffeine intake, getting enough rest, and engaging in regular exercise may be helpful.
One study found that exercise significantly reduces symptoms of anxiety, suggesting that it may be useful for preventing and even treating symptoms of anxiety.
Stress management techniques including deep breathing, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation can also be beneficial when managing feelings of anxiety.
If you have an anxiety disorder, there are plenty of treatment options available to help you live your life to the fullest. Remember, treatment can take time before you and your physician discover the best options for you. Be patient and keep communication open with your mental health professional in order to figure out the plan best tailored to your individual needs.