Everyone can feel nervous occasionally as normal part of their life. For instance you may feel anxious about a job interview or about giving a presentation. But sometimes anxiety can control someone’s life in such a way that it becomes unhealthy. A person starts finding it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives. For example people may start avoiding activities or social contact out of fear.
The causes of anxiety disorders aren’t fully understood. Life experiences such as traumatic events and build-up of ongoing stress in daily life appear to trigger anxiety disorders in people who are already prone to anxiety. Being prone to anxiety can stem from having a certain personality type or when a person has genetic or inherited traits.
For some people, anxiety may be linked to an underlying health condition. In some cases, anxiety signs and symptoms are the first indicators of a medical illness. If your doctor suspects your anxiety may have a medical cause, he or she may order tests to look for signs of a problem. Examples of medical problems that can be linked to anxiety include:
- Heart disease
- Thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism
- Respiratory disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma
- Drug misuse or withdrawal
- Withdrawal from alcohol, anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines) or other medications
- Chronic pain or irritable bowel syndrome
- Rare tumors that produce certain fight-or-flight hormones
Sometimes anxiety can be a side effect of certain medications.
Having an anxiety disorder may cause more than only make you worry. When untreated, it can also lead to, or worsen, other mental and physical conditions, such as:
- Depression (which often occurs with an anxiety disorder) or other mental health disorders
- Substance misuse
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- Digestive or bowel problems
- Headaches and chronic pain
- Social isolation
- Problems functioning at school or work
- Poor quality of life
The two main treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy (talk therapy by a therapist) and medications. In some cases you may benefit for one of the two while in other cases (usually the more severe cases) you may benefit most from a combination of the two. It may take some trial and error to discover which treatments work best for you.
Talk with your psychiatrist at IMC about a treatment plan for you; which talk therapy may suit your situation and about the benefits, risks and possible side effects of medications.
Anxiety is the main symptom in various conditions, including:
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder where you regularly have sudden attacks of panic or fear. Often accompanied by physical sensations such as a racing heart beat, nausea or sweating. Having feelings of panic is a natural response and healthy sign in stressful or dangerous situations. But someone with panic disorder experiences anxiety, stress and panic regularly and at any time, often for no apparent reason. You may start to avoid certain situations out of fear of another attack. This can lead to a cycle of living “in fear of fear”. It can add to your sense of panic and may cause you to have more attacks.
Treatment for panic disorder consists mainly of talk therapy and medication. The main talk therapy for a panic disorder is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The most common medications for panic disorder are antidepressants like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) or Tricyclic Antidepressants, depending on the severity or your condition.
Phobias develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object. A phobia is an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal. When a person has a severe phobia, it can restrict their day-to-day life, causing a lot of distress. The person may organize their life around avoiding the situation that causes anxiety. Phobias can be divided into specific (simple) and complex. Examples of specific phobias are animal phobias, claustrophobia (fear of a confined spaces), acrophobia (fear of heights) or aerophobia (fear of flying). Complex phobias tend to be more disabling than simple phobias. They’re sometimes accompanies by panic attacks too. Common complex phobias are Agoraphobia (fear of crowded or open places, or of public transport) and Social phobia (extreme fear of being judged by others, for example fear of speaking or eating in public)
Treatment of phobias. Most simple phobias can be successfully treated and cured through gradual exposure to the object, animal, place or situation that causes fear and anxiety. This is known as desensitization or self-exposure therapy. Usually medication treatment is not need. The complex phobias take longer to treat. Lifestyle changes may help along with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and exposure. In more severe cases medication treatment is recommended as well.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is generally a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of issues, rather than 1 specific event. People with GAD feel anxious most days and soon as 1 anxious thought is resolved, another may appear about a different issue. GAD can cause a range of symptoms like heart palpitations, dizziness, feeling overwhelmed and restless or even trouble concentrating or insomnia.
Treatment of GAD can be a range of different talk therapies and medication treatments depending of the duration of your condition and the severity of your symptoms.