Anxiety Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention
We live in a world of chronic stress where troubles encircle your life from the moment you wake up in the morning to the time you go back to sleep. Every other person is depressed or suffering from anxiety. The term has become so common that anxiety disorders are no news to people around you. It is so common that people often ignore these conditions.
On the other hand, many people live in denial and fail to appreciate the gravity of the condition. They think that a person suffering from anxiety is faking it. These misconceptions are simply present due to a lack of awareness. Here we tell you all about the different anxiety disorders as well as their types, causes, and treatment.
What are anxiety disorders?
Anxiety as we know it is a physiological reaction to stress. It can be beneficial in some conditions where it pushes the body to work at its maximum capacity. It helps our body to be prepared and alert so that it is able to give an immediate response to the problems. However, chronic anxiety can lead to an excited state of mind.
It pushes your brain into overdrive. This deranges the primary brain functions, compromising your thinking capacity. Almost 30% of people in the world today suffer from anxiety disorders. However, many of these are treatable. The problem is they need to be identified first in order to be treated. So, what is anxiety?
Anxiety is a fear or concern about the future. The prospect of the events to come in the near future frighten a person so that they are unable to think rationally. Fear is the emotional response to an immediate problem or emergency and is more associated with fight or flight phenomenon- preparing the body to fight or leaving to flee danger.
Anxiety disorders can cause people to completely stay away from situations that lead to or worsen their symptoms. Job performance, assignment work and personal connections with people can be affected severely. Generally, a person who is experiencing a panic attack, excessive worry or stress, and anxiety, he must be worried out of proportion to the actual problem or get angry or stressed inappropriately. The disorder should also hinder their potential to operate normally.
Types of Stress Disorders
There are a number of divisions of stress disorders. Here we divide stress disorders into 8 types. Each anxiety disorder has its own specific and quality that makes it special and unique. Every patient has a different pathological process behind the problem, which also alters the treatment protocol needed to treat each disorder.
Generalized Panic disorder
Generalized panic disorder comprises of persistent and unnecessary worry that inhibits day-to-day activities. This ongoing worry and stress may be associated with a range of physical symptoms, such as restlessness, easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, muscle stress or problems sleeping and anger management issues.
Usually, the worries are aggravated by the day-to-day stresses such as job responsibilities, family health or trivial issues such as chores, car maintenance, or appointments. Small things can cause an out of proportion response. Unless identified, such people can have compromised work and family relationships and is often lonely. Many of these people actually know that they have a problem but simply fail to understand it due to lack of awareness.
People who have generalized panic worry most of the time about different things that occur in everyday life- regarding work, money, business, health or family for example. They are usually worried that something horrible might happen, even if there is no real reason to believe so. They have an inherent fear and always imagine the worst prospects. They cannot stop feeling troubled, even though it is affecting their life. How can they? They are ill, but simply do not know it yet.
These things can be as severe as to a person not wanting to operate a vehicle an automobile because they are concerned about having a major accident. Such fear and anxiety is not normal and needs to be addressed immediately. Many of these people require regular reassurance that the bad things they dread will not happen.
Moreover, People who have generalized panic do not rest well at all and frequently complain of headaches and muscle stress in their necks and shoulders. This is a consequence of lack of rest, which shows itself as fatigue. Their daily performance declines and their personal life is severely affected.
The major symptom of panic disorder is recurrent anxiety attacks, which is an overwhelming avalanche of physical and mental problems sliding on to the person one after the other. During a typical panic attack, a number of these symptoms appear randomly, severely affecting the patient and compromising his ability to think or work.
In fact, the person is often unable to do even the normal daily life things due to a panic attack.
The typical symptoms include:
Palpitations, a pounding heart rate is one of the typical features which is caused due to excessive release of adrenaline in the body.
- Sweating and cold clammy skin is caused due to constriction of the peripheral arterioles, which is again due to effects of the fight or flight hormone, adrenaline.
- Trembling or shaking this is a common feature of a panic attack where a person is involuntarily shaking.
- Feeling of shortness of breath or smothering sensations caused due to sudden heaviness in the chest. Some people may succumb to an asthmatic attack.
- Torso pain, often due to the fatigue of muscles that have been pumped and activated but are waiting for some action. The chronic utilization of these muscles causes them to fatigue leading to generalized body pain.
- Being dizzy, light-headed or faint, again, the sudden release of adrenaline can cause a dilatation of the blood vessels as the blood is diverted towards the muscles. This can decrease blood flow to the brain causing dizziness and fainting. At other times, the stress can activate the stress center in the brain, which ultimately slows down the heart and dilates vessels resulting in a drop in blood pressure and compromised blood supply to the heart.
Because symptoms are so severe, many people who experience a panic and anxiety attack may imagine they are experiencing a heart attack or some other fatal condition and often end up visiting a hospital ER.
However, these attacks are often linked to some incidents. Anxiety attacks may be precipitated as a response to a feared subject or some unexpected event. Although thee attacks can happen to anyone, many of the anxiety attacks start at an average age of 20.
Perhaps, there is a link of social responsibilities and anxiety as this is the typical age when a man or a woman enters practical life. On the other hand, it could also be that the anxiety disorder was always present and was simply precipitated in the 20s when life aggravated tensions for people to cope with. Panic attacks might occur with other mental disorders also such as depression or PTSD.
Many people consider this disorder as essentially the most uncomfortable kind of stress. Patients who suffer from the disorder define it as simple surges of very powerful, overwhelming feelings of anxiousness or fear. Often these people relate a precipitating event, which shows that the disorder is aggravated due to some causes or events.
It is hard to think straight when such an attack begins. Often the physical symptoms are too real. These symptoms can be disturbing for both the patient and the family. Many people get extremely scared and opt for doctors and other explanations. Their mind never diverts towards the simple answer that is one of the commonest causes of such symptoms, anxiety.
Many people say that they feel just like things are not real, or feel detached from oneself. Parents can often detach themselves from their kids or their partners, which can be confusing for the family as well. In addition, it only adds to the pile of guilt of the patient. Many people will experience at least one panic attack in their lives, likely throughout a period of severe stress. This is not a panic disorder. However, if you get anxiety attacks more often, or they start interfering with your daily life and start compromising your activities, making you avoid things that you once did, you might have a problem. This is not just a panic attack in this case; you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Like OCD, PTSD differs from other styles of mental disorders. Although some might consider post-traumatic stress disorder as a separate classification, experts suggest that anxiety is plainly an element of PTSD, only much more complicated.
This type of anxiety disorder has a definite cause. People develop PTSD after experiencing an extremely difficult, life-threatening event, such as military battle, a serious personal injury, or sexual assault. However, not everyone who survives such radical situations develops PTSD, you need to understand that as well. The disorder often involves a replay of the entire situation, where the patient experiences realistic flashbacks to the original injury and upsetting, intrusive thoughts, which can hinder their social relationships as well as their daily performance. Such people often become distressed when subjected to cues that resemble the distressing event.
For instance, in case a person lived through the horrific hurricane, a windy day may result in relapses and the person can experience severe anxiety and flashbacks to the horrible incident. Unless they cure or come to terms with their PTSD this will continue to happen every windy day. The patient has developed a subconscious fear of the wind and succumbs to the flashbacks as soon as a similar voice or visual is experienced.
Oher symptoms of PTSD include a constant agitated, hyperexcited state. Many people have sleep problems or experience realistic nightmares. These people have negative thoughts and it is often difficult to revive them from their flashbacks. The good thing that can help these patents is the realization that all of this is temporary. Such patients need to be confronted and assured that better times will come and soon they will be able to get over PTSD and move ahead.
You must have heard of this disorder. Perhaps this is one of the most talked about anxiety disorder and people generally know more about it than other disorders of the like. Experts say that OCD is very different from the other major kinds of anxiety disorders. The symptoms and the general behavior of the patients make this disorder stand out exclusively. This is because while stress and anxiety often result in patients missing out on events or staying aside without interacting.
People who have OCD take part in repetitive behaviors linked with a specific phobia. However, OCD is still a mental disorder. This is because patients who actually experience it usually feel intensely restless. While focusing on certain activities repetitively they are unable to perform many other activities on a daily basis, which compromises their regular life.
Psychological experts suggest that a person with OCD can experience either obsessions, compulsions, or both. Obsessions are recurrent thoughts or urges that can be intrusive and unwanted. They are often the cause of stress and problems these compulsions are repetitive and result in specific behaviors or functions that a person is not able to control. They are not able to control their desire for an unwanted thought or need.
Several common symptoms of the disorder include compulsive hand washing, obsessive cleaning, and so-called "checking" behaviors. These patients often go back home to see if they have switched off the light, closed the stove, locked the door. This does not happen once, but multiple times, even on the same day and can be very frustrating.
Other people express their symptoms as counting responsibilities, which are often driven with a superstition, like "I must count number when walking up stairs or something bad may happen. Hence of these compulsions are driven by concern. May it be bacteria or contamination, or mental images of their house burning down because they forgot to close the stove, an unrealistic fear often drives these people to check and recheck things just to satisfy their mind.
These are special kinds of anxiety disorders. A particular phobia is an excessive and persistent fear of a specific subject, situation or activity that is normally not dangerous at all. Patients know their fear is extreme and unnatural, but they cannot triumph over it. These anxieties cause such problems that some individuals go to extreme lengths to avoid what they fear. Typical fears are fear of spiders or fear of heights. Many people can simply faint or undergo shock when they face these phobias. The severity of the phobia is something that sets it apart from the regular fears that many people have.
Agoraphobia is a social fear of being in situations where these people may be subject to embarrassing or stressful conditions. Such people often bail beforehand and do all in their power to avoid such places where they may have to appear. Worries can escalate to such a level that fear of a particular situation can start for months beforehand. This fear or phobia often affects the regular work and abilities of these people too as they spend most of their time figuring out how to wiggle out of these situations. A person with agoraphobia experience this dread in several situations, such as:
- When he is using public transportation
- Being in open or enclosed spaces
- Standing in-line or being in a crowd
- Being out of their home
The individual tries to positively avoid the situation at all costs. Untreated agoraphobia may become so serious that a person may struggle to go out of their house. An individual can only be identified as having agoraphobia if he is intensely upset about the same situation and tries to avoid the particular situation with multiple excuses or even made up stories. The effort for planning such activities can really tell on these people’s health and daily activities.
A person with social anxiety has significant stress about being around other people. They are often fearful of not being liked or being humiliated or bullied. People who have this disorder will attempt to avoid the problem or undergo social gatherings with great nervousness. Common examples of social anxiety include extreme concern with public speaking, fear of making new friends, fearful of talking to anyone around, generally keeping to themselves. Being the center of attention is an issue for these people. For example, they could feel restless about:
- Meeting new people
- Speaking up or announcing something before other people
- Attending conferences or parties
- Public transportation is a struggle
- Even being watched while eating can be troubling for some.
They are usually concerned that their actions could be embarrassing or offensive or that other folks might observe that they are anxious. They will avoid situations where other folks could notice their stress and anxiety. This is why many of these people tend to stay cooped up in their homes. However, you still have to differentiate these patients from people who are generally shy. Normal shyness is not a public anxiety disorder. Shyness to the level that interferes with a personal life is an anxiety disorder.
This usually occurs in children but can affect older people as well. A person with separation anxiety is too fearful or troubled about separation from people whom they are attached with. The sensation is beyond the usual feeling of love and want and can aggravate to the level that it makes them miserable and unable to do any of their daily choruses. A person with separation anxiety is persistently concerned about losing their loved ones. This fear rules their life and they are often extremely clingy.
This is why many of these patients are simply misdiagnosed as being too possessive. Instead, they simply do not know how to deal with their feeling of want, which expresses itself as possessiveness rather than a disease. They can be unwilling to venture out alone or sleep without their loved ones or may experience nightmares about separation. Physical symptoms of this disorder often develop in youth, when they are often ignored as normal possessive behavior. However, many people grow out of this condition as they age towards adulthood.
What causes stress and anxiety?
Since and research is persistently trying to find the cause and connect the dots, however, doctors do not completely know what causes nervous disorders. However, it is believed that certain distressing encounters can bring about anxiety in folks who are susceptible to it. Studies suggest that genetics could also play an important role in anxiety. In some instances, stress and anxiety may be triggered by a health issue and may be the first indicators of a much more sinister disorder inside the body.
Moreover, a person may experience many anxiety disorders at exactly the same time. It could also go with other mental health issues such as depression or bipolar disorder. This is also true of generalized panic, which mostly accompanies another anxiety attack or mental condition.
The sources of anxiety disorders are undiscovered but likely involve a blend of factors including hereditary, environmental and internal factors. Stress-related disorders can run in individuals, suggesting a specific series of genes and environmental variables could have a major role in these disorders.
Symptoms of anxiety disorders
Different stress disorders have different symptoms as described above. However, almost all the anxiety disorders have some common features that help health experts identify the condition. These are typical and encompass a variety of disorders. The common symptoms include:
- Panic, dread, and uneasiness is often the first symptoms of anxiety disorders
- Sleeping problems follow pursuit as chronic stress hyperactivates the system making it difficult to sleep.
- Chilly, sweaty, numb or tingling hands or feet, which is the result of the widespread release of adrenaline in the body.
- Shortness of breath, generally a feeling that is caused due to the stimulation of the respiratory center in the brain.
- Palpitations due to the heart being stimulated to beat extra fast
- Dry mouth, Nausea, and dizziness accompany anxiety disorders
- Tense muscles, which are the result of excessive stimulation, which causes them to fatigue.
When you have symptoms, your physician will look at you and ask a number of questions. They will also ask your family different questions to ascertain the diagnosis. In addition, they will check on your health background. As the treatment may involve drugs, doctors also ask for the general health and the history of any major illnesses in the past. There are no tests for anxiety disorders and the diagnoses are based on clinical evidence.
Treatment for stress and anxiety disorders
There are a number of treatments for anxiety disorders. It all starts with counseling. As a family, you need to encourage the person and help him counteract the disorder. There are different ways of doing it. In addition, doctors often prescribe medicines if there is an indication. This can help better your mental capacity and improve the environment so that you are able to cope with your problem better.
The suggested treatment for anxiousness disorders is mental treatment. Cognitive treatment allows regular counseling. This is usually done in multiple steps. It involves one on one sessions with the doctor, support from the family and group sessions where these people can relate to others and open up.
If the psychological treatment is not enough and your symptoms are at an extreme, the doctor can shift to double therapy and add medication to your treatment as well. These medicines are usually enzymes or synthetic hormones that attempt to correct the problematic disbalance in your mind. This helps you shift towards a better state of mind to open up to your cognitive therapy and get better.
However, you do need to try the mental treatment first as it is the first step towards realization. Once you know that you have a disorder and that it can be treated, the sole hope of a cure can help you get much better in a short period!
As you undergo this cognitive treatment, start by studying healthy stress and just how our brains cope with anxiety. You can then understand how to manage your troubling thoughts and control your troubled mind or panic attacks before they start. You can also learn to control their severity so that even if they do occur, they are milder and easily manageable.
If the treatment is working, you should see a noticeable difference in only 4-8 weeks. You can also have face-to-face sessions with a professional therapist - usually a psychologist or psychiatrist. Around 8-12 pieces of training are recommended, where you learn to address your anxiety disorder, identify the trigger points and avoid them and even learn to control the attack after it occurs.
Another treatment is Exposure therapy. It can become an added part of your psychological therapy, something that you can do to exercise your mind in a healthy manner. First, you make a set of everything you would like to do, but you cannot in the present. You then begin by doing an easy and simple thing, and slowly but surely work up the path to tougher options until you triumph the entire list. For instance, if you are stressed about traveling, a typical list may appear like this:
- Spend some time on the platform.
- Travel to one stop with a close friend
- Travel to one stop by yourself
- Go to the town by yourself at a peaceful time
- Goo to the town at a busy hour
Medication for anxiety disorders
Generally, you should only opt for medication if the psychological treatments have not worked for you. If you have a severe panic attack or suffer from severe depression, your physician will most likely recommend both medication and internal treatment right away. In this case, the medications are justified. They will help your brain so that your mind can calm down and start understanding the problem.
The very best medications for stress disorders are antidepressants. Antidepressants work very well for panic as well as depression. The antidepressants frequently used to treat anxiety belong to the class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These include fluoxetine and citalopram.
However, SSRIs are contraindicated for some people, which means that your doctor might recommend some other kind of antidepressant instead - a serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). Good examples are venlafaxine and duloxetine. At other times, instead of the actual depression, all your brain needs s time to relax. Benzodiazepines (also known as sleeping pills) are occasionally used to take care of anxiety. However, these can be addictive and are only prescribed in acute cases for a short period.
Prevention of stress and anxiety disorders
There are a number of ways that you can prevent anxiety disorders. Many of these steps are things that you should implement in everyday life. Not only are they great for your mind, they are great for your body too.
- Get enough sleep so that you can rest your mind.
- Get exercise this helps to burn off the stress hormones and release the frustration so that your mind clears up. It is also great for preventing overthinking.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages and recreational drugs. These may seem the answer for the short time but all of them aggravate depression in later stages.
- Indulge in rest and meditate, one of the best ways to avoid stress is to meditate. Take regular yoga classes or dedicate some time for yourself at home. It will surely help you a lot.
Stick to a healthy diet plan. Lots of fruits and vegetables are what you need to stay light and fresh. Too much load on the digestive system can also put you in a depressive mood aggravating your stress disorder.