Understanding Anxiety Disorders
Author: Justin Mckibben
Anxiety itself is part of the human condition, and we all have our moments when our anxiety gets the best of us. Different problems or adversities in our lives instigate different responses, and the more complex or critical the situation seems the more likely we are to face anxiety. The difference with anxiety disorders is that they involve more than fleeting moments of worry or fear. Anxiety disorders creates intense feelings of fear that tend to last much long, and over time these feelings get worse- not better.
Anxiety disorders and their symptoms can interfere with everyday life; work, relationships and personal health can suffer severe consequences when this pattern runs interrupted. So it is important when trying to live a healthy life that we assess and understand anxiety disorders.
There are several different kinds of anxiety disorders that can manifest in our lives in various ways. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there is information on three primary forms of anxiety.
Generalized anxiety disorder
This is displayed through excessive anxiety for months at a time experiencing several symptoms such as:
- Easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Sleeping problems
Panic disorder is characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden and abrupt feelings of intense fear. Someone having a panic attack may experience:
- Pounding or accelerated heart
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling of impending doom
Panic disorder symptoms itself include:
- Sudden and repeated panic attacks
- Feelings of loss of control during panic attack
- Intense worries about the next panic attack
- Fear of places where panic attacks have occurred before
Social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder has also been referred to as “social phobia.” This is associated with fear of social or performance situations where they predict they could be embarrassed, judged, rejected or even might offend someone. Symptoms of social anxiety are typically:
- Anxious about being around others
- Difficulty talking with others
- Feeling severely self-conscious
- Fear of judgment
- Worrying for days or weeks before social events
- Avoiding others
- Difficulty forming friendships
- Blushing, sweating, trembling around others
- Feelings of nausea when around others
Physical health conditions can imitate or worsen anxiety disorders, so evaluation for an anxiety disorder should begin with a healthcare provider. Physical conditions that impact anxiety disorders include:
- An overactive thyroid
- Low blood sugar
- Certain medications
Along with a physical evaluation, a mental health assessment is also extremely useful because anxiety disorders often co-exist with other related conditions such as:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Treating Anxiety Disorders
Just like there are various kinds of anxiety disorders and different symptoms associated with them, there are also different methods of treatment for an anxiety disorder that could be deeply effective depending on the individual.
Also referred to as “talk therapy,” psychotherapy should be specific to the individuals anxieties and structured around their own needs. One-on-one counseling is often very helpful, although it may insight discomfort at firm with having to confront fear-inducing topics.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This type of psychotherapy teaches a person different ways of thinking, behaving and reacting to anxiety-producing situations while helping the person practice social skills. Cognitive therapy is one side of CBT that focuses on identifying, challenging, and then neutralizing unhelpful thoughts underlying anxiety disorders. Another side of CBT is exposure therapy, which focuses on confronting the fears involved with anxiety disorders in order to help people engage in activities they have been avoiding.
- Support Groups
Sometimes groups utilize the opportunity to share problems and achievements with others who are struggling with the same issues to support one another. Self-help and support groups exist for all kinds of mental health disorders and other personal issues where this kind of comradery and peer-counseling is used as a way to identify with others and learn new ways of coping.
- Stress-Management Techniques
Things like meditation and other calming practices can often be used to enhance the effects of more clinical therapies. Also taking note of other stress-inducing activities and eliminating risk behaviors can make a huge difference with anxiety disorders.
Drugs, medications and even caffeine can impact anxiety levels, so making sure to work with your care provider on these elements can also improve your anxiety disorder symptoms. Illicit substances especially are not worth the risk; self-medicating only masks the problem.
Medications do not cure anxiety, so this is not a cue to go grab some miracle pill. Medications prescribed through a medical doctor are often given for the initial treatment of severe anxiety, but are only used if there is an insufficient response to other forms of psychotherapy. Medication should never be relied on as the only means of treatment but it can be effective in combination with therapy.
With anxiety disorders it is vital to have a general understanding of what someone is going through if you want to be able to help them. If you are experiencing frequent and serious symptoms of anxiety it is important to understand for yourself what the risks are and that there are ways to get help for those who need it. Anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with other mental health issues and addiction, so fighting back means facing all elements of what is holding you back.
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