Anxiety is a normal reaction to stressful situations. However, people with anxiety disorder respond to such situations or even seemingly normal situations in an excessive manner. Anxiety disorder is among the commonest mental disorders experienced by many people. It is not one condition but a group of conditions, each with its unique presentation. However, all anxiety disorders are characterized by persistent and excessive fear or worry that is distressing and interferes with daily living. The anxiety is out of proportion to the danger or situation they are in.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Excessive worry about a variety of everyday problems that causes them to feel tense and distressed. They worry about health issues, finance, family member’s wellbeing or safety issues or something negative will happen even though the situation does not warrant such worries. Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Physical symptoms include fatigue, headaches, light-headedness, chest or stomach discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea or having to go to the toilet frequently.
GAD develops slowly. It often starts during the teen years or young adulthood. Symptoms may get better or worse at different times and often are worse during times of stress.
Intense, irrational fears triggered by things that pose little or no real danger such as heights, flying or spiders. Most people with specific phobias have several triggers. To avoid panicking, someone with specific phobias will work hard to avoid their triggers. Depending on the type and number of triggers, this fear and the attempt to control it can seem to take over a person’s life.
People with social phobia tend to:
- be very anxious about being with other people and have a hard time talking to them, even though they wish they could
- be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed
- be very afraid that other people will judge them
- worry for days or weeks before and event where other people will be
- stay away from places where there are other people
- have a hard time making friends and keeping friends
- blush, sweat or tremble around other people
- feel nauseous or sick to their stomach when with other people
People with panic disorder may have:
- sudden and repeated attacks of fear
- a feeling of being out of control during a panic attack
- an intense worry about when the next attack will happen
- a fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past
- physical symptoms during an attack, such as a pounding or racing heart, sweating, breathing problems, weakness or dizziness, feeling hot or cold chill, tingly or numb hands, chest pain, or stomach pain.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
This is a very distressing condition characterized by Obsessions and Compulsive behaviours. Obsessions are recurring, persisting unwarranted thoughts, impulse or images which cause marked distress or anxiety. Compulsions are repetitive behaviours aimed at relieving anxiety caused by obsessions. Failure to do so would result in stress and anxiety.
Cause for Anxiety Disorders
Researchers believed that many factors combine to cause anxiety disorders:
- Genetics – Some families will have a higher than average numbers of members experiencing anxiety issues and studies support the evidence that anxiety disorder run in families. This can be a factor in someone developing an anxiety disorder
- Stress – A stressful or traumatic event such as abuse, death of a loved one, violence or prolonged illness is often linked to the development of an anxiety disorder
Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
- Psychotherapy – It includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It can help people change the thinking patterns that support their fears and change the way they react to anxiety-provoking situations.
- Medications – It includes anti-anxiety medications and anti-depressants.
- Complementary Health Approaches – Stress Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing
Reference : National Institute of Mental Health, US