Anxiety disorders affect millions of people worldwide. They include panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health problems in the United States. You don’t have to live with anxiety or OCD forever.
There are treatments available that can help. In fact, several effective medications can treat these conditions. If you’re suffering from anxiety, talk to your doctor about treatment options.
You can take steps to relieve some of your symptoms, too. This includes talking to a counselor, doing regular exercise, or taking up yoga. However, it’s important to note that not every “cure” for anxiety will work for everyone.
But first things first: What is anxiety? And do you need to know if you have it?
Why Do People Get Anxious?
Some researchers believe anxiety arises due to genetics, brain chemistry, or the environment. However, it also appears to run in families. In addition, some people are more prone to anxiety than others.
People born with high levels of certain hormones, like cortisol, may be more likely to develop anxiety. Also, having parents with anxiety increases your chances of developing this condition.
And yet, many people suffer from anxiety disorders without realizing it. That’s because the first signs of anxiety can appear subtle. And they can be hard to notice unless you pay attention.
So does growing up in a highly stressful family environment – such as one where there’s physical abuse or substance abuse. As a result, anxiety disorders often begin during childhood or adolescence.
What Is Anxiety?
It’s normal to experience moments of worry or fear. But when those worries become excessive – or last longer than 2 weeks – then you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder.
When you’re anxious, you may feel jittery and sweaty. Your heart rate might increase, and you may suddenly find yourself tensing all over.
You could even start shaking. If you’ve ever felt that way before, though, you probably knew it was abnormal.
These feelings are uncomfortable but not dangerous. The good news is that anxiety disorders can be treated with medication and therapy.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
There are seven main types of anxiety disorders:
Panic attacks occur when you feel intense anxiety that lasts for at least 1 hour. During a panic attack, you may feel dizzy, lightheaded, short of breath, numb or tingly, or confused.
Most panic attacks go away on their own after 20 minutes. But sometimes they don’t. That’s why it’s essential to seek medical care right away.
Social phobia involves extreme fears about being judged, embarrassed, or humiliated in social situations. Someone with this condition feels intensely self-conscious around other people and avoids places where they would be judged.
People with social anxiety can suffer from agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) or simple fear of public speaking.
Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent worrying that interferes with daily functions.
Worry is a natural human response, but it can lead to trouble focusing and concentrating, irritability, and sleep issues when it becomes severe or overwhelming.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder happens when someone has been exposed to trauma and experiences symptoms of anxiety or depression lasting more than 4 weeks.
Trauma can be something terrible that happened to you personally, such as sexual assault or child abuse. Or it can involve witnessing a horrific event, like seeing a friend get hurt or watching someone die.
OCD involves obsessing and repeating thoughts and behaviors until they seem perfectly reasonable. You may have these obsessions or compulsions every day, or only some days.
For example, you may think about hurting yourself or making sure everything is precisely the same twice each week.
Substance Use Disorders
Substance use disorders include alcohol dependence, drug addiction, or dependency. If you’ve had an alcohol or drug problem in the past, it doesn’t necessarily mean you still need treatment.
Instead, it depends on how much you use now and whether you can control your use.
Disorders Associated With Anxiety
Some mental health experts believe that anxiety disorders aren’t really separate entities but different expressions of one underlying cause.
They call this “internalizing.” According to this theory, anxiety stems from psychological problems in children and teens.
One of the most common causes of internalizing involves parents who try to protect their children from negative feelings like anger or sadness.
Unfortunately, this can create problems down the line since young kids tend to imitate what they see in adults.
Treatment For Anxiety
Anxiety can be cured, but there are no quick fixes. Treatment usually takes 6 months or longer. Before starting treatment, talk with your doctor about medications, therapy, and support groups.
There are many different types of treatments available. Some work better with certain patients than others. Your doctor will help you choose which ones might be best for you.
Doctors first recommend behavior therapies and medication if the patient shows signs of relapse. These include individual counseling, group therapy, family counseling, and biofeedback.
Medications commonly used for anxiety disorders include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and beta-blockers.
Talk therapy involves talking with a therapist, alone or with another person, to learn new ways to cope with stressful situations.
You may find it helpful to keep a list of things that worry you so you can discuss them with your therapist.
There are two primary talk therapies: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT). CBT focuses on changing unhelpful thought patterns and beliefs.
IPT emphasizes helping people change their relationships with other people. Both forms of talk therapy require a lot of time, attention, and practice before working.
Medication is generally recommended for mild to moderate cases of anxiety.
Antidepressants are often prescribed, along with anxiolytics (medicines that relieve stress without drowsiness), because they’re less likely to lead to substance abuse.
Support groups are great places to meet other people with similar issues. People with anxiety disorders join together online or attend meetings in person.
They share experiences, ask questions about each other’s lives and provide encouragement.
Check with your local hospital or community college to see if there are any in your area. Many hospitals have their own chat rooms where patients can get advice from other patients.
If you recognize these warning signs of anxiety, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor right away.
A visit to the emergency room is rarely necessary for minor concerns such as colds or sprained ankles.
But for more severe conditions such as chest pains, shortness of breath, and dizzy spells, going to the ER is often the best way to ensure speedy treatment.