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What is an anxiety disorder?
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
The duration of the severity of an anxious feeling can sometimes be out of proportion to the original trigger, or stressor. Physical symptoms such as increased blood pressure and nausea may also develop. These responses move beyond anxiety into an anxiety disorder. The APA expresses an individual with an anxiety disorder as “having recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns”. Anxiety can interfere with daily function if it reaches the stage of a disorder.
What are the symptoms of anxiety disorder?
These are the common anxiety signs and symptoms:
- Feeling nervous, restless, or tense.
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom.
- Having an increased heart rate.
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation).
- Feeling weak or tired.
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.
- Having trouble sleeping.
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems.
- Having trouble controlling worry.
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety.
What are the different types of anxiety disorders?
Agoraphobia – This is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that make you panic or helpless.
Anxiety disorder due to a medical condition – can be caused by a physical health problem.
Generalized anxiety disorder – includes persistent and excessive anxiety and worry about activities or events.
Panic disorder – involves repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks).
Selective mutism – is a consistent failure of children to speak in certain situations, such as school.
Separation anxiety disorder – this is a childhood disorder characterized by anxiety that’s excessive for the child’s developmental level and related to separation from parents or others who have parental roles.
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 – characterized by major anxiety when you are exposed to a specific object or situation and desire to avoid it.
Substance-induced anxiety disorder – characterized by symptoms of intense or panic that are a direct result of misusing drugs, taking medications, being exposed to a toxic substance, or withdrawal from drugs
What are the causes of anxiety disorder?
The causes of anxiety disorder are complicated. These are the possible causes of anxiety disorders:
- Environmental stressors such as difficulties at work, relationship problems, and family issues.
- This occurs where there are family members with an anxiety disorder.
- Medical factors such as effects of medication, stress, prolonged recovery, or intensive surgery.
- Brain chemistry. This is because many anxiety disorders are a result of misalignments of hormones and electrical signals in the brain.
- Withdrawal from an illicit substance.
What is the treatment for anxiety disorders?
Treatments consist of a combination of psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, and medication.
In some cases, you can treat anxiety disorder at home without clinical supervision. These are the exercises and actions to help a person cope with milder, more focused, or shorter-term anxiety disorders:
Stress management – learning to manage stress can help limit potential triggers. You can organize any upcoming pressures and deadlines and commit to taking time off from study or work.
Relaxation techniques – Some simple activities can help soothe the mental and physical signs of anxiety. Some of these exercises include meditation, deep breathing exercises, long baths, etc.
Exercises to replace negative thoughts with positive ones – You can create a list of the negative thoughts that might be cycling as a result of anxiety, write down another list next to it containing positive, believable thoughts to replace them.
Support network – Talking with familiar people who are supportive, such as a family member or friends.
Exercise – Physical exertion can improve self-image and release chemicals in the brain that trigger positive feelings.