We all go through tough times and feel nervous about certain parts of our lives. Those feelings escalate in someone with an anxiety disorder to the point that they interfere with the quality of life of the individual. In people with anxiety disorders even small stimuli can cause intense emotions.
Anxiety is relatively prevalent in the adult population. Moreover, according to statistics, over 18 percent of adults in the U.S., or 40 million individuals, experience anxiety at some point during a given year.
Nonetheless, only a minority of those seek intervention. By raising awareness, many in the mental health industry hope to inspire more people with anxiety to get the support they need.
What is Anxiety?
All of us now and then get caught up in our worries. That is a natural and common part of life. Such feelings are very strong in someone with anxiety, however, and can be very damaging.
To believe that people with anxiety are being foolish or emotional or exaggerating is a mistake. What’s more, close friends and loved ones may undermine the situation, by assuming that the person overreacts. Realizing that an anxiety disorder is a real disorder and one that requires treatment, compassion, and support is important for people with anxiety.
What do we understand an anxiety disorder to be? An anxiety disorder is when a person responds to a stimulus in such a way that it affects daily life, prevents them from going to work, school or even relating well to others. Anxiety disorders, as discussed below, come in several forms.
Various Types of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders come in different types, including panic disorder and GAD, to name a few. The patient responds to stimuli in very different ways in each of these conditions. More than one of these conditions can also affect a patient with anxiety.
The professionals at our clinic know how to treat such conditions. Getting to know these conditions and their symptoms can help those who have suffered seek support.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Chronic anxiety is at the heart of a generalized anxiety disorder. To receive a diagnosis, a patient has to experience more days of anxiety than not over a period of six months. This long timeline is used to differentiate between GAD and acute anxiety disorders.
What triggers generalized symptoms for anxiety disorder may vary from patient to patient. Triggers can exist in areas like home or work. Additional triggers can be interpersonal relationships with others, or even disease. If triggers disappear, however, GAD symptoms can persist. People might even also feel anxious about getting a GAD diagnosis, compounding the problem.
Triggers in our Biological Makeup
There is often no environmental catalyst in GAD. Many with GAD also have fairly stable lives, and they are left to wonder why they are so constantly nervous. The reasons may be biological in these situations.
Biological causes can involve imbalances in one’s chemical makeup. Those with this sort of imbalance are more likely to start displaying symptoms of GAD as teenagers. This type of GAD can last a lifetime and get worse when environmental triggers are present.
Although a gene that causes this condition hasn’t been found by science, many believe it can be passed down in families. Work continues on whether there is actually a genetic trigger at play in GAD.
How Common is GAD?
A little over three percent of the U.S. population has GAD, which corresponds to about seven million people, according to the ADAA. A third of those patients experience serious symptoms. Such patients can’t perform simple everyday activities, such as waking up or bathing. Others can work more efficiently but suffer internally a good deal.
Everyone with GAD should recognize that support is available and that intervention can work.
Diagnosis of GAD requires a mental health professional. The following symptoms are common in GAD patients:
Mental and Emotional Symptoms
- Persistent feelings of dread
- Constant worry
- Feeling edgy all the time
- Faulty concentration
- Faulty decision making skills
- Being easily startled
- Achy muscles
- Digestive issues
- Excessive sweating
- Increased heart rate
Symptoms in Children and Teens
- A fixation on disasters or apocalypse
- Low self esteem or confidence
- Constant approval seeking
- Problems with digestion
- Avoiding social interactions
Professionals may take one of several strategies to treat GAD. A treatment plan can incorporate therapy, medication, or changes to a patient’s lifestyle. Whatever the plan, a patient should be working in conjunction with a psychologist or therapist to make sure it’s the best choice for them.
CBT is one option that works well in treating GAD. The patient must learn to recognise what causes their GAD symptoms in CBT, and then develop stronger coping strategies to respond to those triggers.
In certain cases, a therapist may suspect that a case involves a chemical imbalance, at which point he or she may refer the patient to a psychiatrist. Medication for GAD may include benzodiazepines or antidepressants, both of which influence the brain in different ways.
Panic attacks happen quickly and unexpectedly. As an acute condition, a panic attack does not last for a long time as with the symptoms in GAD. It does, however, come with very strong physical symptoms. A patient may experience a rapidly increasing heart rate, difficulty breathing, and perspiration. While those with GAD can have panic attacks, they also happen in patients without comorbid conditions.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD involves obsessive fixation on small issues that others might not even pay any mind to. Symptoms present in OCD include ritualistic behaviors, obsessive thinking patterns, and outsized fears about what would happen if a ritual is not performed. A patient’s fixations can center on almost anything from a light switch to walking down the street in a certain manner, and these fixations interfere greatly with that person’s quality of life.
Agoraphobia is not, as many laypeople believe, a fear of going outside, but instead a fear of being trapped in a situation you have no control over.
Agoraphobic patients often obsessively avoid the setting or things that cause their symptoms. Triggers can be anything from standing in a crowded line to taking a train. As patients try to cope with their triggering scenarios, they may experience panic attacks.