Anxiety is Worry, Fear, Unease, or Dread
It is a general term used to describe a range of disorders. Caused by stress, this disorder is a normal human reaction under many circumstances. Almost everyone experiences it at various times in life due to stressful situations such as work obligations, an impending exam, getting married, breaking up, money troubles, or simply walking through a dangerous part of town. It can even be a useful reaction at times, as feeling stress allows you to get things done when you need to.
An anxiety disorder, however, is characterized by excessive, prolonged worry or dread over a real or imagined event that affects someone’s daily living in a negative way. A person with anxiety may not be able to control such feelings even if they realize they are excessive and irrational. Anxiety disorders typically last at least six months. They can get worse if they go untreated, so it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.
Anxiety Disorders Are the Most Common Mental Health problems in America
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 40 million adults in the U.S. are affected by anxiety disorders every year. Women are 60% more likely than men to develop an anxiety disorder. Teenagers are not immune from anxiety disorders; a national survey indicates that about 8% of those aged 13 to 18 have one.
There are many different types of anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and social phobia. Each of these has different symptoms, but excessive, irrational fear or dread is the common link between them. It is not unusual for a person with an anxiety disorder to also have one or more other mental and/or physical health issues, which may exacerbate symptoms and make the disorder harder to identify. In such a case it may be necessary to treat the other illnesses first before the anxiety can be addressed.
Often Anxiety Will Show Itself in Physical Symptoms
Symptoms include increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, shaking, or dizziness. It can also cause headaches, abdominal pain, muscle tightness, dry mouth, frequent need to urinate, loose stools, and problems swallowing. Everyone reacts to stress in different ways, so the symptoms of an anxiety disorder vary between individuals.
Experiencing Anxiety is Normal in Many Everyday Situations
It is only when the anxiety and other symptoms become a chronic condition that adversely affects your day-to-day living that you need to seek professional help. A psychiatrist can perform a diagnostic evaluation of your symptoms in order to figure out whether they are the result of a physical problem or an anxiety disorder. There are a variety of treatments available that can bring your anxiety under control and help you lead a normal life again.
Anxiety Can be Treated With Medication, Psychotherapy, or a Combination of the Two
Medications do not cure an anxiety disorder but can help control the symptoms while you undergo psychotherapy. Many types of medications are used to treat the symptoms of anxiety, including anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, and beta-blockers. Antidepressants were developed to treat depression but have been found to also help with anxiety disorders; in fact, clinical depression and anxiety disorders often go hand in hand. Beta-blockers can help prevent the physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder, especially social phobia.
Because they do not cure you of an anxiety disorder, medications are only one half of the equation. Therapeutic methods are usually necessary to address the underlying causes of the disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a method that is often used to treat anxiety. CBT has been shown to be very effective in dealing with several different types of anxiety disorders, especially social phobia and panic disorder. It involves a cognitive component that helps you change the thinking patterns that lead to the anxiety, and a behavioral component that helps change the way you react in stressful situations. In general, a combination of medication and therapy is the best approach to treatment for many people with anxiety disorders.