Anxiety Disorders: The Ultimate Guide to Types, Causes, and Symptoms
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition. Almost one in five people will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. These conditions share a general feeling of anxiety or unease that can manifest differently with varying intensity levels. An anxiety disorder is when your stress reaction is not normal and affects you negatively. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may feel like you’re constantly under threat or that something bad will happen at any moment. They can be challenging to manage, but many treatments and coping strategies can help ease your symptoms and improve your quality of life. If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, these articles will help you better understand the different types of anxiety, what causes them, and how they can be treated.
What are anxiety disorders?
Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions that cause excessive and uncontrollable worry or fear. Anxiety is a natural emotion that helps keep us alert but can interfere with daily life when it becomes excessive. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions. Most people experience some anxiety in their lifetime, even if they don’t have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is an emotion that’s often accompanied by physical changes like increased heart rate, muscle tension, and sweating. People who have anxiety disorders experience these bodily sensations to a significantly greater degree. The degree to which an individual’s anxiety is out of control and interferes with their ability to function daily differentiates a disorder from regular anxiety.
Types of Anxiety Disorders and their symptoms
The most common types of anxiety disorders are:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
This is characterized by constant worry about many things, often without apparent cause. People with GAD might experience excessive worry about work, health, money, family, and relationships. GAD is caused by extreme stress in your life. You might feel overwhelmed by too many responsibilities and insufficient time to complete them. Or you may have a difficult time relaxing. GAD is often treated with therapy, medication, or a combination.
Social Anxiety Disorder
People with Social Anxiety Disorder fear embarrassing themselves in front of others and may go to great lengths to avoid social situations. Social Anxiety Disorder is triggered by a specific environment or stimulus, such as public speaking or meeting new people. It may manifest as extreme self-consciousness, blushing, trembling, or even an inability to speak. Social Anxiety Disorder is commonly treated with therapy, sometimes in combination with medication.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
This is characterized by obsessive thoughts followed by compulsive actions or rituals. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts that cause anxiety and lead to compulsive behaviors like constantly cleaning one’s hands or checking to ensure you didn’t leave the stove on. OCD is caused by an excess of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps your brain function properly. OCD is commonly treated with therapy, in addition to medication.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
This is triggered by a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, an accident, war, or natural disaster. People with PTSD may re-experience the trauma through nightmares or flashbacks and avoid places, thoughts, or people that remind them of the trauma. PTSD may be treated with therapy, medication, or a combination.
Causes of Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders can arise from several different problems. Sometimes, a traumatic event triggers an anxiety disorder. Other times, genetics or a medical condition can be to blame. People with an anxiety disorder often have an overactive fight-or-flight response. This natural reaction prepares the body to fight off danger or flee from it. However, people with anxiety disorders have an overactive response even when there is no threat.
Several different factors cause this. Genetics can play a role in anxiety disorders, as can certain medical conditions. Anxiety disorders can also be caused by certain medications, traumatic events, and stressful situations.
Risks and side effects of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders come with various risks and side effects that can cause short- and long-term harm. Anxiety disorders can sometimes be fatal, especially when left untreated. Anxiety disorders often lead to feelings of isolation, lowered self-esteem, and strained relationships. In addition to these mental and emotional complications, anxiety disorders can cause physical health problems. One of the most common risks associated with anxiety disorders is insomnia, which can lead to other health issues like weight gain and lack of productivity at work and school. Anxiety disorders can also cause muscle spasms, digestive issues, headaches, and high blood pressure.
Who is at Risk for Anxiety Disorders?
Anyone can develop an anxiety disorder, but certain people are more likely to experience anxiety disorders. These groups include:
Anxiety disorders affect twice as many women as men. This difference is thought to be due to biological and hormonal differences and social expectations of women that can increase their risk of anxiety disorders.
People with chronic health conditions
People with chronic physical health conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, or cancer, are more likely to experience anxiety disorders. This is likely due to the added stress of managing a chronic condition and the side effects of taking medication to treat it.
People with mental health conditions
Anxiety disorders often co-occur with other mental health conditions, like depression and eating disorders. This is because many mental health disorders share survival mechanisms.
People with certain personalities
People with certain personality types are more likely to experience anxiety disorders. These personality types include the following:
● People with high levels of neuroticism the tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anxiety, anger, and sadness
● People with low levels of extroversion, the tendency to be outgoing and enjoy social situations
How are Anxiety Disorders treated?
The most common treatment for anxiety disorders is therapy, which can help you understand your anxiety and learn how to manage it. Several different types of therapy can treat anxiety, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).
While therapy is helpful, medication may also be prescribed. Different types of medication are available depending on the type of anxiety disorder, and some common medications include antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and beta-blockers.
Some people with anxiety disorders benefit from treatment with a combination of therapy and medication, and other people may only need therapy or medication to manage their anxiety disorder. Working with your doctor to determine what treatment is best for you is essential.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness affecting almost one in five people. These disorders are triggered by excessive stress, genetics, or a medical condition. There are many types of anxiety disorders, each with distinct symptoms. Anxiety disorders are treatable, and several different types of therapy are available. With proper diagnosis and treatment, anyone can recover from an anxiety disorder.
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