Anxiety is a completely normal emotion. It’s your brain’s way of reacting to stress and warning you of impending danger. Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. For example, you may be concerned when confronted with a problem at work, before an exam, or before making a major decision. Anxiety is normal in everyday life, but an anxiety disorder is not.【1】
Anxiety disorders and normal anxiety are not the same things. Many of us experience anxiety when confronted with a stressful situation, but if these feelings persist for a long time, the anxiety may become chronic. Anxiety disorders can develop when fear or tension becomes excessive, unmanageable, or interfere with daily life. It is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses in America.
Anxiety disorder is a mental illness characterized by feelings of anxiety and fear. It causes you to experience persistent, overwhelming anxiety and fear. What’s more, a negative will affect on every aspect of your life, in school, work, and other social activities such as family.
2 What Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders?
Common signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders include:【2】
- Feeling nervous, fidgety, or tense
- A sense of imminent danger, panic, or doom
- Palpitations( highly heart rate)
- Shortness of breath (hyperventilation)
- Chills, sweating, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Feeling weak or tired
- Dry mouth, nausea
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking about anything other than your current concerns
- Have trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) disorders
- Difficulty controlling your worries
- Desperate to avoid things that trigger your anxiety
3 What Types of Anxiety Disorders?
- Square phobia
- Anxiety disorders caused by physical conditions
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Selective mutism
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
- Specific phobia
- Substance-induced anxiety disorders
- Other specific anxiety disorders and non-specific anxiety disorders
Click HERE to know more information about different types of Anxiety Disorders.
If you have the following condition, please see your doctor immediately:
- Always overly worried and the disease is interfering with your work, relationships, or other aspects of your life.
- Your fears, worries, or anxiety are distracting and difficult to control.
- You feel depressed and have problems with alcohol or drug use. Or have other mental health problems in addition to anxiety.
- You think your anxiety may be related to a physical health problem.
- If you have suicidal thoughts or behaviors, seek emergency treatment immediately
Your worries may not go away on their own, and they may worsen over time if you do not seek help. See your doctor or mental health provider before your anxiety worsens. It is easier to treat if you get help on time.
4 What causes and Risk Factors of Anxiety Disorders?
The etiology of anxiety disorders is still unclear. Life experiences such as traumatic events appear to trigger anxiety disorders in people prone to anxiety. Genetic characteristics may also be a factor. Researchers believe that a variety of factors may contribute to anxiety. The more risk factors a person has, the more likely they are to develop anxiety disorders.【3】
- Genetics. Family members who have anxiety disorders increase the likelihood of developing them. While this may indicate genetic transmission, It’s also possible to learn anxiety responses from anxious family members.【4】
- Brain chemistry. Some research suggests that anxiety disorders may be linked to malfunctioning circuits in the brain that controls fear and emotion. 【5】
- Environmental stress (traumatic events). This refers to a stressful event that you have seen or experienced. Life events commonly associated with anxiety disorders include childhood abuse and neglect, the death of a loved one, and being attacked or witnessing violence. 【6】
- Drug withdrawal or abuse. Certain medications can be used to hide or reduce certain anxiety symptoms. Anxiety disorders often go hand in hand with alcohol and substance use.【7】
- Medical conditions. Some heart, lung, and thyroid conditions can cause symptoms similar to anxiety disorders or make anxiety symptoms worse. When talking to your doctor about anxiety disorders, it is important to have a thorough physical exam to rule out other conditions.
There are still some risk factors that can make you more likely to develop anxiety. You can not avoid it, but you can change it.
Risk factors for anxiety disorders include: 【8】
- History of mental illness. If you have another mental illness(such as depression), then you should pay more attention to it. Because it can increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders.
- Childhood abuse. Emotional, physical abuse or neglect during childhood is associated with anxiety disorders later in life.
- Trauma. Experiencing a traumatic event increases the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can lead to panic attacks.
- Negative life events. Stressful or negative life events, such as losing a parent early in childhood, can increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
- Serious illness or chronic health conditions. If you constantly worry about your own or a loved one’s health, or over-care for someone who is ill, you will feel overwhelmed and anxious.
- Too shy in childhood. Childhood shyness and withdrawal from unfamiliar people and places are associated with social anxiety in adolescents and adults.
- Low self-esteem. Negative perceptions of yourself can lead to social anxiety disorder.
5 What are the treatments for anxiety disorders?
Every year, the estimated percentage of American adults suffering from various anxiety disorders is:【9】
- Specific phobias: 8%-12%
- Social anxiety: 7%
- Panic attacks: 2%-3%
- Agoraphobia: 1%-2.9%
- Generalized anxiety disorder: 2%
- Separation anxiety: 0.9%-1.9%
Women are more likely than men to suffer from anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorder, affecting nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. However, anxiety disorders are treatable, and there are many effective treatments available. Treatment can help most people live normal life. If you suspect that you have an anxiety disorder, the first thing you should do is to see a doctor make sure there are no more physical problems. When an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, a mental health professional can help you find the best treatment. Unfortunately, many people who suffer from anxiety disorders don’t have the awareness to seek help. They don’t realize that they have a disorder for which there are effective treatments.
Although each anxiety disorder has its own unique characteristics, most people respond well to two types of treatment: psychotherapy (also called “talk therapy”) and medication. 【10】These treatments can be given separately or in combination. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that helps people learn different ways of thinking, reacting, and behaving that can reduce anxiety.
Medications cannot cure anxiety disorders, but they can significantly relieve symptoms. There are dozens of medications that can be used to treat anxiety disorders. Because everyone responds differently to medications, there is no medication that can work for everyone. You may need to do some work with your psychiatrist to find the right medication that will be most beneficial for you. Medications used long-term to treat anxiety are antidepressants, which affect serotonin, norepinephrine, and other neurotransmitters in the brain.
There are some tips to relieve anxiety (self-help, coping, and management)：
There are many things people will do to help cope with anxiety symptoms and make treatment more effective. Stress management and meditation may help. In addition, research has shown that exercise is one effective way to relieve anxiety. 【11】 Aerobic exercise has been found to improve mood and anxiety through the release of endorphins and neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. Regular moderate exercise also helps with sleep, which has a beneficial effect on anxiety. Studies have shown that yoga, meditation, and acupuncture can also reduce anxiety symptoms by reducing stress. 【12】
More scientific evidence is needed to support the use of aromatherapy and basic plant oils such as lavender to treat anxiety, but some people find them to have a calming effect. Being in an environment where you feel comfortable, or a smell that can make you calm down may achieve an unbelievable effect.
6 How to prevent anxiety disorders?
There is no way to know when or if someone will suffer from anxiety. However, if you are prone to anxiety, there are steps you can take to manage it. Seek treatment early, because the longer you wait, the harder it will be to cure. It’s important to stay active and exercise regularly, avoid drugs and alcohol that can increase your anxiety, and limit your caffeine intake.
Some important tips to relieve anxiety:
- Create a set of stress management strategies. For example, break down tasks into manageable steps. Plan tasks and activities in a flexible manner. Learn how to delegate and share responsibilities rather than taking everything on yourself. Incorporate meditation and relaxation exercises into your life on a regular basis to relieve stress.
- Good relationships and social support systems are a protective force. Build interpersonal and communication skills to reduce the stress associated with social interactions, which can sometimes be challenging.
- Create a healthy lifestyle of a good sleep environment, healthy nutrition, regular exercise, and self-care.
- Develop skills that are geared toward the problems, rather than avoid them. Using problem-solving skills has been found to help reduce stress and anxiety.
- Create a more balanced perspective by recognizing the negative thinking, a more optimistic outlook can be consciously achieved. The earlier this is done, the more likely it is to help prevent anxiety disorders.
- Good mental health education is also important. Mental health education fosters awareness of the proper way to view stress. It would help if you had a timely psychological adjustment to keep the stress away from your life.
7 What are the complications of chronic anxiety?
Anxiety will negatively affect your physical and mental health and cause new worries or exacerbate existing ones. As mentioned above, anxiety can lead to depression. It can also exacerbate insomnia, digestive problems, headaches, and chronic pain. The emotional loss caused by excessive worry and fear can lead to substance abuse, social isolation, and problems at work. 【13】Suicidal thoughts are another complication of severe anxiety. Untreated anxiety is also associated with gastrointestinal disorders, chronic respiratory disease, and heart disease. Anxiety will make these disorders more difficult to treat, which can worsen the outcome.
- Depression (often occurs with anxiety disorders) or other mental health disorders
- Substance abuse
- Sleep difficulties (Insomnia)
- Digestive or intestinal problems
- Headaches and chronic pain
- Social isolation
- Problems at school or work
- Poor quality of life