Mental anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health conditions, affecting millions of people worldwide. Anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. It can range from mild to severe, and can be both physical and psychological. Anxiety disorders can affect a person’s ability to function in daily life and can lead to a variety of symptoms including:
- Feeling restless or on edge
- Feeling tense or jumpy
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Trembling or shaking
- Experiencing weakness or tiredness
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Panic Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
- Specific Phobias
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things. People with GAD may anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. GAD can cause physical symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, muscle tension, headaches, and trouble concentrating.
Panic Disorder is characterized by recurrent unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden periods of intense fear that may include palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate; sweating; trembling or shaking; sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking; and feeling of impending doom. People with Panic Disorder may also experience anticipatory anxiety, feeling fearful or anxious about future panic attacks.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by a fear of social situations and of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in social interactions. People with SAD may also fear public speaking or performing in front of others. SAD can cause physical symptoms such as blushing, sweating, trembling, nausea, and difficulty speaking.
Specific phobias are intense fears of a specific object or situation, such as heights, spiders, or flying. People with specific phobias may experience a profound fear when exposed to the object or situation, and may go to great lengths to avoid it.
Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by fear of situations in which escape may be difficult or embarrassing, or in which help may not be available in the event of a panic attack or other crisis. People with agoraphobia may avoid public places or traveling alone.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry, by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety, or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions. Common compulsions include hand washing, counting of things, and checking to see if a door is locked. People with OCD may also experience an inability to discard items of little or no value.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat. People with PTSD may experience intrusive memories of the event, avoid reminders of the event, feel numb or detached from others, and have difficulty sleeping.
Treatment of Anxiety Disorders
The primary treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of the two. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most commonly used form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders and focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to anxiety. Medications commonly used to treat anxiety disorders include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), benzodiazepines, and tricyclic antidepressants.
In addition to professional treatment, there are many self-help strategies that can be used to help manage anxiety. These include:
- Exercising regularly
- Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation
- Getting adequate sleep
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and drugs
- Eating a healthy diet
- Challenging negative thoughts
- Talking to a friend or family member
Anxiety disorders can be overwhelming, but with proper treatment and self-help strategies, it is possible to manage and reduce symptoms and lead a productive life.