What are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety is a human emotion that we all experience at times. Some people will feel nervous or anxious when they are about to sit for a test, faced by challenges at work or even when they are about to make important decisions in their lives. Anxiety disorders are known to cause distress which interferes with one’s ability to live normally (Iacoviello BM, Mathew SJ 2010).
Some of these anxiety disorders include social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, panic disorder and the generalized form of anxiety disorder. This is a serious mental illness since those affected will experience constant and overwhelming fear and worry. At times it can even be crippling (Merikangas Kr, Kalaydjian AE 2009).
Types of Anxiety Disorders
A. Social Anxiety Disorder
It is also known as social phobia and involves worry that is overwhelming and self consciousness in relation to one’s everyday social relationships and situations. The worry is mainly centered on the fear of being judged by others/the society. Also fear of behaving in embarrassing manner (Iacoviello BM, Mathew SJ 2010).
- Panic Disorder
This is the fear or feeling of terror that will strike one suddenly, and sometimes repeatedly. This can lead to sweating, palpitations, chest pains and results to a state of shock. Some people experience a chocking feeling, one like you are experiencing a heart attack.
- Specific Phobias
These are intense feelings of fear of any given/specific situation or object. These can be heights, harmful animals, etc. They can even lead to one avoiding some very common and everyday situations .
- Generalized Form of Anxiety Disorder
This form of disorder involves great tension and worry, even in a case of very little or no provocative situation.
The Symptoms Associated With Anxiety Disorder
The symptoms will vary depending on the disorder type. Below are some of the general symptoms (Iacoviello BM, Mathew SJ 2010).
- Problems sleeping
- Sweaty and cold feet or/and hands
- Fear, unease and panic
- Palpitations of the heart
- Dry mouth
- Tense muscles
- Inability to stay calm
Causes of Anxiety Disorders
The specific cause of anxiety disorders is not clear. Just like other forms of mental illness, are not results associated with character flaw, personal weaknesses or even poor background and upbringing. However, it has been observed that many of the anxiety disorders are as a result of many combined factors such as stress and certain changes in the brain (Iacoviello BM, Mathew SJ 2010).
Anxiety disorders, just like other forms of mental illness, may be as a result of the relevant brain circuits responsible for regulation of emotions and fear. Several studies have indicated that severe or long lasting stress can lead to change in the transmission of nerve cells. Other studies have shown that some of the people with specific anxiety disorders will have changes in their brain that control memories that are linked with great emotions (American Psychiatric Association 2000).
Certain factors from the environment can also lead to anxiety disorders, such as certain events associated with trauma . (Merikangas Kr, Kalaydjian AE 2009)
Are Anxiety Disorders Common?
Anxiety disorders are said to affect millions of adults. However, most disorders will begin in early adulthood, adolescence and early childhood. There will occur mostly in women than in men. However, they have the same frequency in all races (Merikangas Kr, Kalaydjian AE 2009).
How can Anxiety Disorder Be Diagnosed?
During anxiety disorder diagnosis, the doctor will make an evaluation through the questions asked by the doctor to the patient. There are no lab tests for anxiety disorder. However the doctor may recommend some tests to check for any forms of physical harm, which may be the cause for the disorder (American Psychiatric Association 2000).
Doctors use special assessment tools and interviews to make the evaluations. The diagnosis will be based on the report of the duration and intensity of symptoms which will also include any other problem associated with daily functioning, caused by the symptoms, of the patient (Iacoviello BM, Mathew SJ 2010).
How are Anxiety Disorders Treated?
Treatment can include medication, Psychotherapy, relaxation therapy, lifestyle and dietary changes and cognitive-behavioral therapy (Gale CK, Millichamp J 2011).
Can Anxiety Disorders be prevented?
Anxiety disorders cannot be prevented, but can be controlled by (Gale CK, Millichamp J 2011):
- Seeking support and counseling if one feels anxious with no apparent reason.
- Consulting a doctor before taking of any over the counter drugs or herbal remedies.
- Reduction or stopping of those products that will cause accelerated anxiety. These include chocolate, cola, energy drinks and even caffeine.
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Anxiety disorders. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., text rev., pp. 429–484. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Gale CK, Millichamp J (2011). Generalised anxiety disorder, search date May 2011. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
Iacoviello BM, Mathew SJ (2010). Anxiety disorder. In EG Nabel, ed., ACP Medicine, section 13, chap. 1. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
Merikangas Kr, Kalaydjian AE (2009). Epidemiology of anxiety disorders. In BJ Sadock et al., eds., Kaplan and Sadock’s Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 9th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1856–1864. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.