Anxiety Disorder: Understanding the Facts
OVERVIEW OF ANXIETY DISORDER
The way the body reacts when it is under stress is anxiety. It is usually the perception of horror or dismay about something that is to come. Circumstances like public speaking, showing up for the first time in an institution or going for an employment interview can bring about fear in many people.
When someone constantly worries about a particular thing or nothing in general for six months or more with subsequent decreased functionality or productivity then an anxiety disorder is likely present.
WHAT ARE ANXIETY DISORDERS
They are disorders characterized by constant fear or worry. Anxiety may be a normal part of life. It is only abnormal when it is constant and long-lasting. People tend to worry when faced with certain circumstances such as relocating to another residence, taking on a new skill or writing an exam. This form of a
In the case of an anxiety disorder, the fear is always present and may be intense enough to decreased functionality.
It may cause a loss of interest in activities that were previously pleasurable. Severe cases of anxiety disorder may prevent you from taking an elevator, crossing the street and even going out. Without quick intervention, the anxiety disorder is further exacerbated.
The commonest forms of emotional disorders are anxiety disorders. It affects all age groups although a slight gender predilection has been noted in women by the American Psychiatric Association.
TYPES OF ANXIETY DISORDERS
Anxiety is a recurring feature of many disorders such as:
- Panic disorder: this is an encounter of panic attacks that occur repeatedly at odd times. A sufferer usually lives in apprehension of when the next attack may occur.
- Phobia: this is an overwhelming fear directed at a particular object, situation or activity.
- Social anxiety disorder: here, the individual is intensely scared of being judged by others in a social circumstance.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder: these are impulsive thoughts that occur persistently to provoke performance of repeated actions.
- Separation anxiety disorder: is the worry felt prior to or on being separated from home or close relationships.
- Illness anxiety disorder: is the worry about one’s health status; was previously called hypochondria.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder: Is fear occurring after a significant life event.
SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY
The symptoms of anxiety are specific to the person experiencing it. The symptoms could range from an increased heart rate to an uncomfortable feeling in the stomach. The mind and the body seem not to be in consonance like there is a disconnection.
Others may come down with night terrors or night mares, panic attacks, a hurtful memory that can’t be brought under control. You may have the feeling of apprehension or just fear directed at a particular situation or location.
General anxiety is characterized by the following feelings:
- Racing heart beat
- Shortness of breath
- Lack of concentration
Since one person’s presentation of anxiety may vary from another, it is necessary to acquaint ourselves with the various ways through which anxiety may present.
WHAT IS AN ANXIETY ATTACK?
It is a perception of excessive fear or dismay. In most people, anxiety attacks develop gradually. It may be exacerbated by a stressful situation.
Anxiety attacks are different in presentation amongst people. This is due to the fact that some people with anxiety disorder may be symptomless at presentation and the symptoms, if present, may change over time.
Usual symptoms of anxiety attack include:
- Dizziness or light headedness
- Rapid breathing
- Dry mouth
- Fear and worry
- Tingling sensation or numbness
- Chills or hot flashes
Some symptoms of panic attack and anxiety attack are similar but are not exactly the same.
CAUSES OF ANXIETY
The particular cause of anxiety is not known. It is most likely multifactorial made up of an interplay between genetics, environmental exposures and the brain chemical composition.
Researchers believe that the brain part responsible for the regulation of fear is likely crushed.
Newer research is directed at further evaluating the brain parts linked with anxiety.
TESTS TO DIAGNOSE ANXIETY
There is no single test that can be used to make a diagnosis of anxiety. Making a diagnosis involves taking a proper history, conducting a lengthy physical examination and mental state examination and psychological questionnaires.
Some investigations to effectively exclude underlying medical diseases that could cause the symptoms noticed such as blood and urine tests may be indicated.
Some anxiety-based tests and scales may be useful to a doctor in grading your level of anxiety.
TREATMENT OF ANXIETY
When a diagnosis of anxiety has been made, you should discuss the options available for treatment with the doctor. In some people, just ensuring some life style modifications may be enough to combat the condition without necessitating the use of drugs. This is mainly for mild cases.
For cases with increasing severity, the use of drugs may be essential for effective management because they help in relieving symptoms and increasing productivity.
Anxiety treatment may either be through the use of medications or via psychotherapy. Having a session with a therapist or psychologist may help as they provide a more effective way to deal with anxiety through the use of tools or coping strategies.
The drugs used to treat anxiety include: antidepressants and sedatives. These function by regulating brain chemistry to stop anxiety episodes and prevent undesirable symptoms.
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR ANXIETY
Simple life style adjustments can help reduce the stress one goes through on a daily basis. The natural remedies are those directed at the body to make it better by caring more for it or getting rid of harmful activities. These natural remedies include:
- Sleeping adequately
- Being physically active and doing exercise
- Eat a balanced diet
- Avoidance of alcohol
- Avoidance of caffeine
- Smoking cessation
They serve as great ways to reduce anxiety.
ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
Most people who suffer from a form of anxiety disorder are equally depressed but this is not usually the case as anxiety and depression are two separate entities and may occur separately.
Anxiety can occur as one of the symptoms of a depressive state. Also, an anxiety disorder can exacerbate the symptoms of depression.
Symptoms of anxiety and depression can be managed by similar modalities which include: psychotherapy (counselling) drugs and life style modification.
HELPING CHILDREN WITH ANXIETY
Anxiety is common in children and occurs naturally. 1 in 8 children will experience anxiety in their childhood course. As they begin to grow, they find ways of coping with the anxiety states by developing skills they learn from their family and friends.
Like in adults, their anxiety can become continuous and lingers to get to anxiety disorder. When anxiety is not controllable, it begins to intermeddle with daily activities and the child may be withdrawn from communication with peers or relatives.
The symptoms of anxiety disorder in children include:
Apart from drug treatment for anxiety in children, cognitive behavioral therapy involving talks may be useful.
HELPING TEENS WITH ANXIETY
Many situations can cause anxiety in teenagers. Conditions like exams, going on dates or even getting a college visit. Many teenagers who are anxious or present with symptoms of anxiety may actually have an anxiety disorder.
The symptoms these teenagers usually present with include shyness, withdrawing from others, being nervous and avoiding outings. Anxiety in teenagers may cause bizarre actions. They tend to have poor school performance, avoid social gatherings, and engage in drug and substance abuse.
Some other teens may have depression accompanying their anxiety. It is essential to make a clear cut diagnosis of the two conditions so the treatment can be directed at the particular condition.
Psychotherapy and drug treatment are the commonest treatment modalities for teenagers experiencing anxiety.
ANXIETY AND STRESS
Stress is a product of demands on the body system. It may be due to a situation that is burdensome or worrisome. Stress and anxiety are similar as anxiety is still the same worry that people face.
Stress is like anxiety but anxiety can still occur without an obvious stress-related event.
Anxiety and stress each cause some symptoms that are either physical or mental and they include:
- Stomach pain
- Racing heartbeat
- Muscle pull
- Shortness of breath
- Lack of concentration
- Unnecessary anger
Under normal circumstances, stress or anxiety may not be viewed as being bad because they actually serve as triggers to fulfill the challenge one is facing. It is only problematic when they are constant and begin to intermeddle with daily activities. At this point, it is necessary to seek for help.
If left untreated, stress and anxiety may result over time in chronic diseases e.g. heart disease.
ANXIETY AND ALCOHOL
Alcohol is frequently employed by those who get anxious often. They take this alcohol to feel a bit calm. Alcohol can actually reduce the functioning of the central nervous system thereby making one to feel more relaxed.
At a social gathering, one may just want to feel good and takes this alcohol but it may eventually not have been the best choice to make.
Some people who suffer from anxiety disorders tend to abuse alcohol and other drugs/substances. They do this to feel good and do it often. This can ultimately result in alcohol-dependence state and subsequently addiction.
It is better to address any alcohol or substance abuse problem before even going on to manage the anxiety. Long-term regular use of alcohol can further exacerbate the anxiety disorder.
THE ROLE OF FOOD IN TREATMENT OF ANXIETY
The commonest treatment modalities for anxiety are drugs and psychotherapy, lifestyle modification too. In addition to these, research hypothesizes that the kind of food we eat may help brain activity especially in those that often have anxiety episodes. These foods include:
- Dark chocolate
- Green tea
Drugs or psychotherapy or both modalities can be used in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Many people with anxiety disorder especially those with the mild form do not seek treatment as they feel they may be able to live with it since it is not serious.
It is worthy of note that even the extreme cases of anxiety disorders can be treated. Anxiety may not totally fade away but one can learn to live with it while still maintaining an active, productive life.
Tonika Bruce, MSN, RN, MBA. is an accomplished nurse leader, published author, and personal development expert passionate about advancing healthcare management and quality patient outcomes.
She taps into the years of experience in healthcare management to produce credible and easy-to-understand health and leadership content. Her exceptional work has been featured in reputable publications, including Forbes, Recruiter, Inc, and the Color of Wellness magazine.