Anxiety is a normal response to stress. But when it becomes hard to control and affects your day-to-day life, it can be disabling. Anxiety disorders affect nearly one in five adults in the United States. Women are more than twice as likely as men to get an anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
What are anxiety disorders?
Anxiety disorder definition in a few lines
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses that cause people to feel excessively frightened, distressed, or uneasy during situations in which most other people would not experience these same feelings. When they are not treated, anxiety disorders can be severely impairing and can negatively affect a person’s personal relationships or ability to work or study and can make even regular and daily activities such as shopping, cooking or going outside incredibly difficult.
How many have anxiety disorders?
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in America: they affect around 20 percent of the population at any given time. Fortunately there are many good treatments for anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, some people do not seek treatment for their illness because they do not realize how severe their symptoms are or are too ashamed to seek help.What are
What are the major types of anxiety disorder?
The major types of anxiety disorder are:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). People with GAD worry excessively about ordinary, day to-day issues, such as health, money, work, and family. Women with GAD may have muscle tension and other stress-related physical symptoms, such as trouble sleeping or upset stomach.
- Panic disorder. People with panic disorder have sudden attacks of terror when there is no actual danger. Panic attacks may cause a sense of unreality, a fear of impending doom, or a fear of losing control. People having panic attacks sometimes believe they are having heart attacks, losing their minds, or dying.
- Social phobia. Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, is diagnosed when people become very anxious and self-conscious in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have a strong fear of being watched and judged by others. They may get embarrassed easily and often have panic attack symptoms.
- Specific phobia. A specific phobia is an intense fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. Specific phobias could be fears of closed-in spaces, heights, water, objects, animals, or specific situations. People with specific phobias often find that facing, or even thinking about facing, the feared object or situation brings on a panic attack or severe anxiety.
- Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD).OCD is characterized by repetitive, intrusive, irrational and unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or rituals that seem impossible to control (compulsions). Some people with OCD have specific compulsions (e.g., counting, arranging, cleaning) that they “must perform” multiple times each day in order to momentarily release their anxiety that something bad might happen to themselves or to someone they love.
Are there any known causes of anxiety disorders?
Although studies suggest that people are more likely to have an anxiety disorder if their parents have anxiety disorders, it has not been shown whether biology or environment plays the greater role in the development of these disorders. Some anxiety disorders have a very clear genetic link (e.g., OCD) that is being studied by scientists to help discover new treatments to target specific parts of the brain. Some anxiety disorders can also be caused by medical illnesses. Other anxiety disorders can be caused by brain injury.
Best treatments for anxiety disorders
Anxiety treatment is designed to remove or calm the symptoms, and improve your psychological health condition and your social life.
How are anxiety disorders treated?
Often, treatment includes counseling
(called psychotherapy), medicine
, or a combination of the two. Psychotherapy
is talking to a trained mental health professional about what caused your anxiety disorder and how to deal with the symptoms. It may involve cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT may help you change the thinking pattern around your fears and change the way you react to situations that create anxiety. Psychotherapy techniques are referred to as “first-line treatments.”
Treatment with psychotherapy and medications
In most cases, a combination of psychotherapy and medications is most beneficial for people with severe anxiety disorders. Some commonly used medications for anxiety disorders are antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Diet, sleep and exercise: Other treatments for anxiety
The importance of having a good diet and getting enough sleep are known to decrease symptoms in people with anxiety disorders. Regular exercise has also been scientifically proven to be effective.
Worst treatments for anxiety disorders
People with anxiety disorders are more likely to use or abuse alcohol and other drugs including benzodiazepines, opiates (e.g., pain-killers, heroin) or cigarettes. This is known as self-medication. Some people use drugs and alcohol to try and reduce their anxiety. This is very dangerous because even though some drugs make people feel less anxious when they are high, anxiety becomes even worse when the drugs wear off.
Medication treatment of anxiety disorders
What types of medicine treat anxiety disorders?
Several types of medicine treat anxiety disorders. These include:
- Antianxiety (benzodiazepines). These medicines are usually prescribed for short periods of time because they are addictive. Stopping this medicine too quickly can cause with drawal symptoms.
- Beta blockers. These medicines can help prevent the physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder, like trembling or sweating.
- Panic disorder. People with panic disorder have sudden attacks of terror when there is no actual danger. Panic a
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs change the level of serotonin in the brain. Common side effects can include insomnia or sedation, stomach problems, and a lack of sexual desire.
- Tricyclics. Tricylics work like SSRIs. But sometimes they cause more side effects than SSRIs. They may cause dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, constipation, or weight gain.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). People who take MAOIs must avoid certain foods and drinks (like cheese and red wine) that contain an amino acid called tyramine. Taking an MAOI and eating these foods can cause blood pressure levels to spike dangerously. Women who take MAOIs must also avoid certain types of birth control.
All medicines have risks. You should talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of all medicines.
What if my treatment is not working?
Sometimes, you may need to work with your doctor to try several different treatments or combinations of treatment before you find one that works for you.