Anxiety is your brain’s way of responding to stress and warning about impending danger. It is a very natural response. For instance, you may have fear when you deal with a difficulty at work, before taking a test, or at the juncture of making a significant choice.
Everybody experiences anxiety from time to time. Although occasional nervousness is acceptable, anxiety problems are distinct. Like the fight and the flight response is a physiological response to stressful or frightening situations, which is normal.
However, excessive anxiety may make you avoid work, gatherings, and other social settings. However, many people with anxiety problems can regulate their emotions with treatment.
Types of Anxiety Disorder
1. Generalised Anxiety Disorder
It is a chronic condition characterised by persistent and excessive anxiety and worries. The worries can be about unrelated life events, things, and situations in their day to day lives. It is a mental health disorder that produces fear and a constant overwhelming feeling. GAD is the most prevalent anxiety condition.
People suffering from GAD usually fail to analyse the cause of their concern. It often co-occurs with other forms of anxiety or depression. The common symptoms are palpitations, dry mouth and sweating. As per research, GAD is twice as common in women as in men.
2. Panic Disorder
Brief or unexpected attacks of acute fear and apprehension may lead to panic disorder. It may result in trembling, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and breathing difficulties. Panic attacks typically begin and increase swiftly and peak within ten minutes. In addition, the feeling can last for hours.
Terrifying events or extended stress are the primary causes of panic disorders. However, they can occasionally develop without a specific reason. In addition, people can misunderstand a panic attack as a life-threatening disease. Therefore, you need to consult a specialist to understand the problem. Also, you need to undertake severe behavioural changes to avoid repeat attacks.
People often tend to confuse panic disorders with GAD. However, they are different from one another. While panic disorders are recurring panic attacks, GAD is excessive worry over everyday life. Though one may have both, it isn’t common and also aggravates the situation. In such cases, holistic medical diagnosis, evaluation and supervision, is crucial.
An irrational worry or aversion to a particular thing or situation can lead to a phobia. Therefore, phobias differ from anxiety disorders because they result from a specific incident.
People dealing with a phobia may realise that their fear is unreasonable or intense. Yet, they cannot control their anxiety in case of a trigger. For example, fear of flying called aerophobia, animals called zoophobia, darkness known as nyctophobia or a range of objects/situations can cause phobias.
It is a fear of open spaces or locations, events, or situations. It occurs when one imagines that they cannot escape. In such cases, you may feel trapped when in contact with the outside world.
For example, a person with agoraphobia may fear leaving their house, using elevators or public transportation. In addition, they may also fear being in any crowded space. In extreme cases, people may even get housebound for a long time.
5. Selective Mutism
It occurs when children persistently fail to communicate in specific settings. For example, a child may communicate in general but fail to do that in school. On the other hand, they may be eloquent with close family members at home. Therefore, it can affect academic, occupational, and social functioning. This condition is primarily seen in children but can continue till adulthood.
6. Social Anxiety Disorder, or Social Phobias
It comes with increased anxiety, fear, and avoiding social situations. As the name suggests, it is a fear of society. For example, conditions like embarrassment, self-consciousness, guilt, shame, fear of others or being seen adversely may lead to social phobia.
7. Separation Anxiety Disorder
The anticipation of separating from a person or a place may lead to high anxiety levels. That is what we call separation anxiety disorder. It is a common occurrence in children and infants. The heightened emotional state of the anxiety comes from a sense of lack of security or protection. Separation anxiety disorder is common in children and can continue till adulthood if not treated properly.
8. Substance-induced Anxiety Disorder
Conditions like drug and alcohol abuse, pharmaceutical use, exposure to a hazardous substance, or drug withdrawal may lead to stress and anxiety. As a result, you may experience a feeling of severe anxiety or panic. This condition is known as a substance-induced anxiety disorder.
Causes of Anxiety Disorder
A variety of factors causes anxiety disorders. The possible causes include:
- Environmental pressures, such as work troubles, marital issues, or family issues
- Genetics can play a role in developing an anxiety disorder. Similarly, seeing a near and dear one going through it can trigger such behaviours.
- Medical conditions can also cause anxiety disorder. The common causes are symptoms of another disease, medicine effects, or the stress of a major operation or a lengthy recovery.
- Hormonal and electrical signal misalignments in the brain may lead to anxiety.
- Withdrawal from an intoxicating substance, the symptoms of which may amplify the impact of other potential causes.
When To See a Doctor?
Consult your doctor / professional/counselor if:
- You worry excessively, and it interferes with your career, relationships, or other aspects of your life.
- In case you are bothered by and unable to manage your fear, worry, or anxiety.
- You feel depressed, have a problem with alcohol or drugs, or have other mental health issues. In addition, if you think your stress can lead to physical health issues, you should consult a doctor.
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviours occur. In this case, seeking immediate help from a medical professional is advised.
Anxiety Disorder: Treatment
The best ways to treat patients with anxiety disorders are psychotherapy, behavioural therapy, and medicines.
1. Self Help
An individual can treat an anxiety illness at home without any therapeutic supervision if the anxiety is acute and are not imparing day to day functioning of an individual. There are numerous exercises and behaviours that can help people manage milder, more focused, or shorter-term anxiety disorders.
2. Goal Setting
Learning to handle stress can help limit potential triggers. In addition, you can follow simple practices. For example, organise any forthcoming deadlines and pressures, make lists, break down complex tasks into smaller tasks, and take time off from school or work.
3. Relaxation Technique
Simple exercises can assist in alleviating both emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety. Examples, meditation, deep breathing exercises, long baths, resting in the dark, and yoga are some relaxation techniques that can ease an individual and calm their nerves. Moreover, a study demonstrates that relaxation therapy is better than non-directive therapies for treating anxiety disorders. Furthermore, studies also prove that music and muscle relaxation techniques improve sleep quality and emotional measures in individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder.
4. Scheduling a Stress Time
Make a list of the negative thoughts that are worrying you. Then make a list of positive, credible thoughts to replace them. Finally, imagine yourself successfully facing and conquering a specific fear. It might help. However, it is relevant if the anxiety symptoms result from a trigger, such as a phobia or an obsessive thought.
5. Support Systems
Support programs may help deal with such disorders. Even interacting with supportive people you know, such as family members or friends also helps the process. Also, there are plenty of centres and online support groups to help you during a crisis.
Physical activity can boost self-esteem and produce chemicals in the brain that lead to happy feelings. A quick burst of aerobic exercise or a calming ritual can work well. Several studies suggest that exercise and regular physical activity positively impact anxiety’s pathophysiological processes. In addition, exercise also helps reduce anxiety in clinical settings. However, you may need a support system to start a routine. Therefore, we recommend seeking help from a mental health professional or a qualified coach.
7. Counselling and CBT
Psychological counselling is a standard method of addressing anxiety. You may also use cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, or a mix of treatments.
CBT is a part of psychotherapy that seeks to identify and alter negative thought patterns, serving as the foundation for anxious and troubled feelings. CBT practitioners minimise distorted thinking and change how people react to objects or circumstances that cause anxiety.
A psychotherapist who provides CBT for panic disorder will explain the cause of panic attacks and their symptoms. In addition, CBT may include exposure to anxieties and triggers. Therefore, it encourages people to confront their concerns. As a result, it helps them become less vulnerable to their usual anxiety triggers.
A study demonstrates the efficacy of internet-delivered self-help programmes with added therapist guidance. It suggests that text-based self-help manuals presented via the internet and supported by therapist feedback can yield reliable improvements in various mental disorders.
Ways to Manage Anxiety Disorder
1. Keep Yourself Informed:
The more you understand, the more prepared you will be to deal with symptoms and barriers along the path. Don’t be scared to ask any questions from your doctor. Remember that you are the most important member of your healthcare team. The more you ask, the better it will be for you.
2. Follow your treatment plan:
Stopping your medications abruptly can result in unpleasant side effects and relapse. So, don’t stop your medication abruptly. Instead, do that only on the advice of the doctor.
3. Avoid caffeine:
You should avoid caffeine-based foods and beverages, such as coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks, and chocolate. Caffeine is a mood-altering stimulant that may exacerbate the symptoms of anxiety disorders.
4. Avoid alcohol:
Don’t consume alcoholic beverages or recreational street drugs. Substance misuse can hinder the performance of the drug and also cause severe side effects like respiratory depression, spike in blood pressure, slow reflexes etc.
5. Eat healthily and exercise regularly:
Aerobic exercises, such as jogging and biking, help produce brain chemicals that reduce stress and improve mood. So, ensure that you follow a proper diet rich in all essential nutrients.
6. Improve your sleeping habits:
Anxiety disorders and sleep issues frequently coexist. Prioritise your sleep and take adequate rest. Maintain a soothing nighttime ritual. If you are still having difficulties sleeping, consult your doctor.
7. Maintain a journal:
Writing down your thoughts and feelings before the day is over may help you relax. It is a way of expressing yourself and letting out thoughts worrying you. Ensure that you don’t toss and turn all night with anxious thoughts.
8. Meet your friends:
Whether in person, on the phone, or on the web, social contacts help people grow and stay healthy. People with a close circle of friends who support and converse with them have lower levels of social anxiety.
9. Seek Professional Help:
Some people find it beneficial and uplifting to chat with others having similar symptoms and emotions. You may also do that because such people may share their experiences and help you deal with your anxiety. In addition, self-help or support groups allow you to share your issues and accomplishments with people who are or have been in your shoes.
Before using any over-the-counter medications or herbal cures, consult your doctor or pharmacist. Many of these medicines contain compounds that might worsen anxiety symptoms.
The Bottom Line
Anxiety is a medical condition. Also, an anxiety disorder develops when this reaction becomes extreme or out of proportion. Panic disorder, phobias, and social anxiety are examples of anxiety disorders. Treatment consists of several therapies, medicines, counselling, and self-help strategies.
An active lifestyle combined with a well-balanced diet can help keep anxious feelings under control. Remember to ask for help from a medical professional, if you feel there is a need.