Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. Anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For people with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The symptoms can interfere with daily activities. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that anxiety affects roughly 19% of the adult population in the United States, feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control, and are out of proportion to the actual danger. It can last a long time. One may avoid places or situations to prevent these feelings.
Anxiety Disorders revolve around feelings of worry, fear, dread, and distress that last for a significant period of time. There are several different anxiety disorders, each with its own unique causes and symptoms. Common symptoms of various types of anxiety disorders include persistent feelings of fear, worry, or distress—especially when there is no current obvious threat. Other signs and symptoms of various anxiety disorders include:
- Panic attacks
- Obsessive or compulsive thoughts and actions
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart rate
- Hot flashes or unusual sweating
- Feeling faint, lightheaded, or shaky
- GI disturbance
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Generalized anxiety disorder includes persistent and excessive anxiety and worry about activities or events — even ordinary, routine issues. The worry is out of proportion to the actual circumstance, is difficult to control, and affects how you feel physically. It often occurs along with other anxiety disorders or depression. (Mayo Clinic)
Panic disorder involves repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks). You may have feelings of impending doom, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a rapid, fluttering or pounding heart (heart palpitations). These panic attacks may lead to worrying about them happening again or avoiding situations.
Social anxiety disorder, ‘social phobia’, involves high levels of anxiety, fear and avoidance of social situations due to feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness and concern about being judged or viewed negatively by others.
Specific phobias are characterized by major anxiety when you’re exposed to a specific object or situation and a desire to avoid it. Phobias provoke panic attacks in some people.
Substance-induced anxiety disorder is characterized by symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are a direct result of misusing drugs, taking medications, being exposed to a toxic substance or withdrawal from drugs.
About Panic Disorder
Frequent and unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear, discomfort, or a sense of losing control even when there is no clear danger or trigger. Not everyone who experiences a panic attack will develop panic disorder. (NIH)
Agoraphobia: People with agoraphobia have an intense fear of two or more of the following situations:
- Using public transportation
- Being in open spaces
- Being in enclosed spaces
- Standing in line or being in a crowd
- Being outside of the home alone
Anxiety symptoms can be produced or aggravated by: (NIH)
- Some physical health conditions, such as thyroid problems or heart arrhythmia
- Caffeine or other substances/medications
What to do if you think you may have Anxiety Disorder
If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, getting a physical examination from a health care provider may help them diagnose your symptoms and find the right treatment.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an extremely effective tool for fighting mental health disorders. It teaches people different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations to help you feel less anxious and fearful. CBT has been well studied and is the gold standard for psychotherapy. (NIH)
Stress management techniques (NIH)
Stress management techniques, such as exercise, mindfulness, and meditation, also can reduce anxiety symptoms and enhance the effects of psychotherapy. You can learn more about how these techniques benefit your treatment by talking with a health care provider.
If SSRIs or SNRIs are effective at alleviating anxiety symptoms, they may be prescribed daily and/or on an ongoing basis. These medications can help to address symptoms of generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and/or phobia Some benzodiazepine anxiolytic examples include:
Mind/Body Medicine – Therapeutic massage can help reduce anxiety and stress. Preliminary studies also suggest that meditation, yoga, and other mind/body therapies may help alleviate anxiety.
Research shows that the following dietary approaches can help reduce anxiety: (healthline)
• Omega-3 fatty acids sourced from the sea help regulate the transmission of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which can help decrease anxiety (Trusted Source)
• Key nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc are associated with lower risk of anxiety (Trusted Source)
• Diets low in saturated fats and high in fresh vegetables and fruits, such as lacto-vegetarian, vegan, and Mediterranean diets, have been associated with decreased risk of anxiety (Trusted Source)