Anxiety is one of the common responses to stress. It is considered a normal human emotion, but significant differences exist between common anxiety and a disorder or mental illness that needs immediate psychiatric help.
Anxiety beyond general anxiety can be distinguished by a wide range of physiological changes such as increased heart rate, BP, sweating, tremors throughout the body, and more.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by extreme levels of dread, which set them apart from typical discomfort or uneasiness.
It is one of the most prevalent mental health problems. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect nearly 40 million adults, which’s about 19% of the population.
Suppose your anxiety is giving you a hard time. In that case, it is time to educate yourself and equip yourself with the right information to handle it correctly.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
This section will help you understand the different types of anxiety disorders, their causes, and symptoms. Ultimately, we will guide you through the best treatments for better outcomes.
GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Over 6 million individuals in the US suffer from GAD or Generalized anxiety disorder. GAD is tricky to diagnose as people affected also experience severe depression. So, only 40 to 43% of people affected by GAD can get therapy for it.
Women are at a higher risk than males as far as Generalized anxiety disorder is concerned.
GAD is characterized by excessive uncalled-for concern, reduced focus ability, disturbed sleep, and stiff muscles.
If you suffer from GAD, you are more likely to miss most of your commitments and even forget about mundane yet important things.
A panic episode is triggered by sudden and extreme fear. Panic attacks are one of the most common indicators of panic disorder which might cause intense physical discomfort, rapid or irregular heart rate, chest pain or suffocation, and profuse sweating.
About 2.7% of the population in the US suffer from panic disorder, according to NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health)
It is a combination of physical and emotional distress. You will likely experience trembling, nausea, numbness, tingling, light-headedness, hot flashes, and more regularly.
OCD or Obsessive-compulsive Disorder
OCD is when your head is flooded with illogical thoughts or notions which keep you from breaking free of a rut you have been in and making significant progress or positive changes in your life.
2.5 million adults, or 1.2 to 2% of the population in the US, suffer from serious OCD. And this mental illness has also affected at least 1 in 200 children and teenagers. But unfortunately, most OCD cases are not diagnosed until the kids turn 19 or older.
SAD or Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder makes you constantly worried about what people think about you. You might feel excessively image conscious and experience extreme anxiety when interacting with others.
Socializing can be exhausting if you suffer from a social anxiety disorder.
As per a report by NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), around 7.1% of Americans, or 15 million people, suffer from social anxiety disorder. Both males and females experience the symptoms at around the age of 13.
A 2007 ADAA poll found that 36% of those affected by SAD or social anxiety disorder unknowingly lived with the symptoms for over 10 years before starting psychotherapy or psychiatry.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Younger children and teenagers are more likely to suffer separation anxiety disorder when they move away from their loved ones.
It’s commonly observed in pre-schoolers, but adults can also experience separation anxiety for various reasons, such as parents’ divorce, moving away from home for work or higher studies, losing a pet or a loved one, etc.
If you are an adult with separation anxiety, you would constantly be scared of living and sleeping alone, fearing separation from the people you love the most.
Separation anxiety originates from your perceived thinking that you will be harmed and unable to return to your parents or your happy place where you feel the safest.
Phobia generally represents extreme pathological dread. It could be the fear of bugs, flying in airplanes, fear of water (hydrophobia), fear of heights, etc.
This fear induced through phobias about specific things is irrational but unavoidable. If you suffer from phobias, you are more likely to skip many activities which affect your daily functioning.
Agoraphobia and claustrophobia are some examples of phobias that exist. If you have Agoraphobia, you worry too much about being trapped in a place that is hard to get out from or escape, like waiting in a queue, public transportation, getting stuck in crowded areas, and more such situations.
Claustrophobia makes you weary of tiny-sized or narrow places because of your irrational notion that they are too small and offer no exit or escape routes. 19.3 million adult individuals in the US suffer from different types of phobias, as stated by NIMH.
Men are half as likely to be impacted by phobias as women. In most cases, the symptoms are noticeable during early childhood, with an average onset age of 7.
Also, some people would most likely be victims of depression, anxiety, and OCD simultaneously.
Illness Anxiety Disorder
Illness anxiety disorder, formerly known as hypochondriasis or health anxiety, is characterized by an unrealistically high level of concern based on the notion that you have or will soon contract a dangerous, undetected disease or a serious medical condition.
Both men and women are equally affected, and the symptoms can be seen during early adulthood.
Due to illness anxiety disorder, you are likely to confuse or link commonly occurring biological processes, such as abdominal cramps, bloating, sweating, awareness of heartbeat, etc., with deadly diseases.
Causes of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders stem from a complex set of causative factors, as they can result from a combination of reasons. So, it could be hard to put a finger on one factor alone.
Some possible causes are as follows:
- Substance abuse or the After-effect of drug or alcohol withdrawal
- Genetic or hereditary reasons
- Extreme levels of stress
- Traumatic events in the past
- Intense family conflicts
- Other external stressors, such as relationship or marital problems
- Medical conditions such as thyroid and heart diseases
- Some evidence points to malfunctioning regions of the brain responsible for regulating fear and other emotions
- Occupational hazards, for example, veterinary doctors experience serious anxiety due to high workload and burnout. According to Fear Free Pets, 1 in 20 vets approximately suffer from severe psychological distress and emotional exhaustion, causing anxiety
Symptoms And Available Treatments
Anxiety disorders have a wide range of symptoms. These are some of the most common signs.
- Disturbed eating and sleeping patterns
- Difficulting in focusing on work or studies
- Unregulated feelings of constant worry or stress
- Frequent and high intensity of irritability
- Reduced control over your bodily functions characterized by faster heartbeats and constant feelings of extreme nervousness
- Uncontrolled fidgeting
- Strange discomfort throughout the body
- Excessive sweating
- Constant paranoia and restlessness due to excessive worry
Diagnosis And Treatment For Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders can’t be determined with one particular test, given it has multiple complex causes. The best approach is to observe and test via physical examination and mental assessment tests to understand psychological concerns.
It is therefore recommended to consult a doctor to rule out any underlying medical causes. Mental health professionals can then take over to help you identify the most effective therapy approach for your specific anxiety disorder.
Evidence suggests that talk therapy or counseling has helped millions of people effectively treat their anxiety.
CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, has been the most preferred approach to treating anxiety disorders which teaches you new ways of developing positive thought processes and responding to stressful situations constructively.
If your anxiety disorder cannot be alleviated by talk therapy, the most obvious solution is to see a psychiatrist authorized to prescribe legitimate medications such as anti-depressants or other legally recommended drugs.
Here are some commonly used medications:
- Beta-blockers are usually used for heart issues
- Short-term usage of benzodiazepines such as Diazepam and clonazepam (strictly with prescription)
- Anti-psychotic medications such as Quetiapine and aripiprazole
- Escitalopram to alleviate stress
- Anxiolytics such as Buspirone
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and Selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Self-medication and dependence on stimulants such as Xanax and Adderall can be dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.
You can also support your psychotherapy and psychiatric treatment by practicing self-care, mindfulness, and yoga for better treatment outcomes.
Substance abuse, traumatic childhood, family issues, and modern-day stresses due to excessive workload or relationship issues are the top reasons causing anxiety.
Anxiety disorders can seriously hinder your capacity to work, study, and function normally. It can result in severe depression, leading to social isolation and eventually affecting your personal and professional relationships.
There are many different ways depending on which type of anxiety you are suffering from. But some of the most ways to treat anxiety are:
• Educating yourself about anxiety
• Engaging in therapy
• Joining support groups
• Taking appropriate psychiatric medications under the supervision of a certified psychiatric practitioner
• Making healthy choices and lifestyle changes, including your diet and exercise routines
• Learning yoga, mindfulness, self-care, and breathing techniques
No. Although anxiety cannot be completely cured, it can be managed effectively so that you can lead a normal life. Appropriate therapy and medications can help you get a good grip on your irrational fears and move on better with your life. Being consistent with your treatment is key to alleviating your anxiety.
I hope you are now well-informed about the different anxiety disorders, their causes, and symptoms, as well as the treatment approaches to deal with them systematically.
If you have any other thoughts, drop me a line in the comments section below.
She is an experienced Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Writer with a decade of expertise in psychology. Skilled in assessment, therapy, and patient care. Committed to helping individuals through clinical practice and mental health writing at Therapyjourney.co. Passionate about promoting mental well-being and awareness. Open to aligned opportunities.