What are anxiety disorders?
Anxiety disorders are different from the normal emotion of anxiety that everyone experience at times. People with anxiety disorders experience an overwhelming and constant feeling of fear and worry which can interfere with the ability to lead a normal life.
What are the different types of anxiety disorders?
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including: 2
- Panic disorder: People with this condition may have sudden and repeated attacks of fear with no warning. They also experience physical symptoms such as sweating, strong or irregular heartbeats, chest pain and a feeling of choking.
- Social anxiety disorder/social phobia: This disorder involves anxiety about being with other people and feeling self-conscious about everyday social situations. The anxiety originates from the fear of being judged by others, often causing them to sweat, blush or tremble around other people.
- Specific phobias: A specific phobia is an unrealistic and intense fear of a specific object or situation which leads to avoidance of everyday common situations.3 Common phobias include fear of heights, fear of flying etc.
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): This disorder involves constant worry and tension that is unrealistic. People with GAD are troubled with a feeling that something bad is about to happen.
What causes anxiety disorders?
Although the exact cause is not known, scientists believe that anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry and environmental stress.3
What are the risk factors for anxiety disorders?
There are some factors that may increase the chance of having anxiety disorder:4
- Personality: Some personality traits like timid and negative people or people who avoid taking risks in their life may develop anxiety disorders more than others.
- Genetics: Anxiety disorders may be an inherited condition
- Gender: Women develop anxiety disorders more often than men
What are the symptoms of anxiety disorders?
Depending on the type of anxiety disorder, the symptoms may vary. Anxiety disorder symptoms can be emotional and/or physical.3
Emotional symptoms include:
- Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness.
- Worrying very much about everyday things
- Having trouble controlling their worries
Physical symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Increased heart rate
- Sleep problems
- Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
- Dry mouth
How is anxiety disorders diagnosed?
There are no laboratory tests to diagnose anxiety disorders. Diagnosis generally involves evaluation of medical history and physical examination to check if the anxiety is associated with a physical illness. If physical illness is ruled out, then psychiatrists will evaluate for anxiety disorders using specially designed questionnaires and assessment tools.3
How is anxiety disorders treated?
Treatment options depend on the type and severity of anxiety disorders. Psychotherapy and medications are commonly used to treat anxiety disorders.5 A type of psychotherapy is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in which patients learn how to identify and change the thought patterns and behaviours that causes anxiety. Medications such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants are used to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Complementary or alternative treatments such as yoga, meditation may also help to deal with anxiety.
- Any Anxiety Disorder Among Adults (NIMH RSS) http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-anxiety-disorder-among-adults.shtml (Accessed December 22, 2015)
- Anxiety Disorders (NIMH RSS) http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml (Accessed December 22, 2015)
- Anxiety Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention (WebMD) http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/mental-health-anxiety-disorders (Accessed December 22, 2015)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (Risk factors) http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/basics/risk-factors/con-20024562 (Accessed December 22, 2015)
- Anxiety disorders and effective treatment (http://www.apa.org) http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/anxiety-treatment.aspx (Accessed December 22, 2015)