Anxiety disorder is a type of mental disorder characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worry.
It’s normal to have some anxiety. You may feel anxious or nervous if you have to tackle a problem at work, go to an interview, take a test or make an important decision. And anxiety can even be beneficial. For example, anxiety helps us notice dangerous situations and focuses our attention, so we stay safe.
But an anxiety disorder goes beyond the regular nervousness and slight fear you may feel from time to time. An anxiety disorder happens when:
- The worries are abnormally severe or prolonged
- Occur in the absence of stressful circumstances.
- Anxiety interferes with your ability to function.
- You often overreact when something triggers your emotions.
- You can’t control your responses to situations.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF AN ANXIETY DISORDER?
Symptoms vary depending on the type of anxiety disorder you have. General symptoms of an anxiety disorder include:
- Numbness or tingling in hands or feet.
- Muscle tension.
- Shortness of breath.
- Hot or cold flashes
- Trouble sleeping.
- Trembling, twitching or feeling shaky
- Fatigue or restlessness
- Muscle tension or jitteriness
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded – faintness
- Fast heartbeat or breathing rate
- Sweatning, or cold and clammy hands
- Dry mouth, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Difficulty swallowing/choking sensation
- Sharp pains in the chest or chest discomfort
- Abdominal pain/ stomach ache
- Worry or fear that something bad will happen
- Feeling panic, fear and uneasiness.
- Repeated thoughts or flashbacks of traumatic experiences.
- Uncontrollable, thoughts rumination
- Fears of losing control, dying or going crazy
- Inability to be still and calm.
- Irritability, impatience, easily distracted
If several of the above symptoms seem clearly associated with a specific situation or object, and persist over time, you may need to seek help from a doctor.
HOW DOES MEDICATION TREAT ANXIETY DISORDERS?
Medications can’t cure an anxiety disorder. But they can improve symptoms and help you function better. Medications for anxiety disorders often include:
- Anxiolytic medications, such as benzodiazepines, may decrease your anxiety, panic and worry. They work quickly, but you can build up a tolerance for them. Your doctor may prescribe an anti-anxiety medication for the short-term.
- Antidepressants can also help with anxiety disorders. Your doctor will work with you to find the right medication combination and dosage. Don’t change the dose without consulting your provider. They’ll monitor you to make sure the medicines are working without causing negative side effects.
HOW DOES PSYCHOTHERAPY TREAT ANXIETY DISORDERS?
The goal of therapy is to resolve underlying conflicts, to express feelings, and to permit confronting of the feared situations or objects. By learning to confront the feared situation in therapy, patients can gradually reduce anxiety. Approaches include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common type of psychotherapy used with anxiety disorders. CBT for anxiety teaches you to recognize thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome feelings. You then work on changing them.
- Exposure therapy focuses on dealing with the fears behind the anxiety disorder. It helps you engage with activities or situations you may have been avoiding. Your provider may also use relaxation exercises and imagery with exposure therapy.
- There are a number of effective behavioral techniques for treatment of anxiety disorders.
- Relaxation therapy and breathing exercises can help in treating anxiety and hyperventilation that occurs in panic disorders.