Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health disorders that cause a person to experience fear, worry, and nervousness. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues, affecting more than 18% of adults in the United States. It is important to note that anxiety is a normal emotion that everyone experiences. However, when anxiety becomes excessive and persistent, it can become a disorder.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – This type of anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent and excessive worry that is difficult to control. People with GAD often experience physical symptoms, such as headaches, muscle tension, and fatigue.
- Panic Disorder – People with panic disorder experience sudden and intense episodes of fear, which can be accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and trembling.
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) – People with SAD experience intense fear and anxiety in social situations. This can include fear of being judged, fear of embarrassment, and fear of negative evaluation.
- Phobias – People with phobias experience intense fear and anxiety when exposed to a specific object or situation. Common phobias include fear of heights, fear of public speaking, and fear of flying.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – People with OCD experience intrusive thoughts, or obsessions, which cause them to perform repetitive behaviors, or compulsions. Common obsessions include fear of germs, fear of contamination, and fear of making mistakes.
Causes of Anxiety Disorders
The exact cause of anxiety disorders is unknown, but there are several factors that may play a role, including:
- Genetics – Anxiety disorders may be caused by genetic factors. Studies have shown that anxiety disorders tend to run in families.
- Brain Chemistry – Anxiety disorders may be caused by an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. For example, people with anxiety disorders often have an imbalance of serotonin, a chemical that is involved in mood regulation.
- Environment – Stressful or traumatic events, such as the death of a loved one or a traumatic experience, can trigger anxiety disorders.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
The symptoms of anxiety disorders vary depending on the type of disorder. Common symptoms of anxiety disorders include:
- Feelings of worry, fear, or panic
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches, muscle tension, and nausea
Diagnosis of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are diagnosed by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. Diagnosis is based on a physical exam, a psychological evaluation, and a discussion of symptoms. The mental health professional may also use psychological tests, such as the Beck Anxiety Inventory or the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, to help diagnose the disorder.
Treatment of Anxiety Disorders
Treatment for anxiety disorders typically includes psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a form of counseling that can help a person identify and address the underlying causes of their anxiety. Medications, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, can help reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Psychotherapy is a type of counseling that can help a person identify and address the underlying causes of their anxiety. Common types of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT is a form of therapy that helps a person identify and change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors that are contributing to their anxiety.
- Exposure Therapy – Exposure therapy is a type of therapy that helps a person gradually confront their fears and learn to cope with anxiety-provoking situations.
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) – ACT is a form of therapy that helps a person accept their anxiety and learn to live with it.
Medication can be used to reduce symptoms of anxiety. Common types of medications for anxiety include:
- Antidepressants – Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), can help reduce symptoms of anxiety.
- Anti-anxiety Medications – Anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, can help reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health disorders that cause a person to experience fear, worry, and nervousness. There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The exact cause of anxiety disorders is unknown, but there are several factors that may play a role, including genetics, brain chemistry, and environment. Treatment for anxiety disorders typically includes psychotherapy and medication.