Anxiety is a normal emotion in the human life. We usually feel nervous or anxious when we are faced with a problem or an unusual situation such as when taking a test, attending an interview, a problem at work or when making a crucial decision. Anxiety can be useful when it keeps you cautious of danger. However, for some individuals, anxiety affects normal life including work, sleep, socialization, or school. This form of anxiety interferes with relationships and general life enjoyment and with time can lead to serious health issues. These serious anxieties are called anxiety disorders.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
The most common types of anxiety disorders include the following:
- Panic disorders: this is a situation where a person has feelings of terror that strike abruptly and recurrently without a warning. It is characterised by sweating, palpitations (irregular heartbeats) and feeling of chocking effect that makes a person think that they are having a heart attack.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): this is a condition arising from a traumatic event such as loss of a loved one, a natural calamity, sexual or physical assault. PTSD victims have lasting terrifying thoughts and memories of the occurrence and are emotionally distressed.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): people with OCD are overwhelmed by constant fears or thoughts that lead them to carry out particular routines or rituals. These disturbing thoughts are referred to as obsessions while the rituals are known as compulsions. An example is a person with unusual fear of germs and disinfects their hands wherever they become into contact with anybody.
- Social anxiety disorder: this entails irresistible worry and self-consciousness regarding routine social situations. Worry normally centres on a fear of facing judgment by others or acting in a way that may lead to embarrassment or ridicule.
- Generalized anxiety disorder: this is unnecessary, unrealistic tension and worry that occurs with little or no apparent reason to trigger the anxiety.
- Specific phobias: this is a serious fear of a certain situation or object for instance snakes, flying, water, diving, or heights. This fear may make a person avoid routine situations that may present these sources of phobia.
- Substance induced anxiety disorder: anxiety resulting from substance abuse.
- Separation anxiety disorder: mostly a childhood disorder characterised by fear of separation from parents or care takers.
There is no known cause of anxiety disorder, but just like other forms of mental disorders, anxiety disorders do not originate from character flaw, personal weakness or poor upbringing. They are caused by various factors including changes in the brain as well as environmental pressure. Anxiety disorders can result from chemical imbalances in the brain or can be inherited from a parent or can be triggered by certain environment factors such as trauma.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder
Symptoms of anxiety vary from disorder to disorder. Nevertheless, anxiety exhibits general symptoms of feeling of panic, fear and tension, nightmares, sleeping problems, uncontrollable obsessive thoughts, dry mouth, palpitations, muscle tension, recurrent thoughts of traumatic events, ritualistic behaviours, nausea, dizziness, sweating, trembling, rapid breathing, weakness or tiredness among other unusually behaviour.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Psychiatrists or psychologists are mental health professionals who carry out an evaluation through interview and assessment tools. They look at the intensity, a persons, history, length of symptoms, a person’s attitude and behaviour. When they establish the type of anxiety disorder, they recommend a treatment plan.
Depending on the type of anxiety disorder, the following treatment may be used or a combination of the following:
- Medication: these include drugs given to minimize symptoms of anxiety disorders such as antidepressants and anxiety reducing medications.
- Psychotherapy: this is a form of counselling which deals with emotional responses to mental illness. Here mental experts help people through talking to patients to understand and deal with their disorder.
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy: Patients often participate in this kind of psychotherapy in which the individual learns to identify and change thought patterns and behaviours that result to upsetting feelings.
- Dietary and lifestyle changes and relaxation therapy: healthy eating and avoidance of alcohol and drugs and regular exercises including relaxation therapy can help people to reduce and recover from anxiety disorders.
Even though anxiety disorders are unpreventable, their symptoms can be controlled or reduced through:
- Reducing or stopping consumption of caffeine enriched products including coffee, cola, tea, chocolate and energy drinks.
- Seeking support and counselling from professionals after a disturbing or traumatic incident.
- Inquire from a doctor or pharmacist before taking any over the counter prescriptions as some of them contain chemicals that can heighten symptoms of anxiety.
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