Anxiety disorders are a cluster of psychiatric disorders. Doctors characterize it as a sign of intense worrying with or without any valid reason with an accompanying feeling of fear. In medical terms, it is an unpleasant emotional state due to avoidable or unavoidable causes characterized by palpitations, sweating, and overall feeling of stress. On the other hand, fear is a response to a real or imagined perception of danger manifested in the form of a rapid heartbeat, muscle tension, especially in the abdomen, dryness of the throat, and sweating. Interestingly, anxiety disorder is an umbrella term covering many phobias, anxieties, OCD, and PTSD.
Anxiety disorders can start due to various conditions like trauma, loss of a loved one, financial or work-related stress, tension within the family, or illness-induced stress. However, substance abuse, a history of substance abuse in the family, or a personality prone to anxiety can add to the problem. But, if you do not treat them timely, they can lead to social isolation, trouble sleeping, problematic bowel movements, poor academic growth, and overall poor quality of life. In turn, these symptoms progress into chronic depression and even suicidal tendencies that can leave a permanent impact on your life.
Types of anxiety disorders
There are six major types of anxiety disorders affecting your life. They are
General anxiety is an irrational, excessive, and uncontrolled fear of events and activities. It can be hereditary or induced by other factors like trauma, substance abuse, or even idiopathy. People with GAD show excessive worry and tension with restlessness, difficulty concentrating, and an unrealistic view of problems. They are often irritable, easily tired, and have trouble sleeping, with muscle stiffness and soreness as accompanying symptoms. Though common, GAD on timely treatment has a good prognosis and is reversible with the help of medications, therapy, and a healthy lifestyle.
Panic attacks are sudden episodes of intense fear with the feeling of something very bad about to happen. The attacks are associated with sweating, palpitations, shortness of breath, ongoing worries about future attacks, and fear of the place where the previous attacks have occurred. Usually, abuse in childhood, psychological stress, and a family history of psychiatric problems are risk factors for panic attacks. After starting, these attacks last from range of time periods of 15 minutes to more than an hour but sometimes may be over in 1-5 minutes.
Social anxiety disorder:
Social anxiety disorder is the intense, persistent fear of being judged by others. It makes it difficult for you to meet new people and initiate other everyday activities like starting new conversations, mixing and working with others, and generally finding it difficult to do things with others watching you. This results in low self-esteem with physical symptoms like sweating, trembling, and palpitations. Social anxiety can occur independently or be associated with other conditions like depression and generalized anxiety disorder.
OCD and PTSD:
OCD and PTSD are two commonly known anxiety disorders. They occur on their own or co-occur with each other. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a pattern of unwanted thoughts giving rise to compulsions or repetitive behavior. PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder occurs in people who have been through traumatic events like natural disasters, accidents, or abuse and have seen the death of close ones or others. Both PTSD and OCD create intense anxiety and discomfort. You should treat them as soon as you diagnose them or start to see the symptoms.
Phobias are persistent, unrealistic, intense fears about certain personalities, circumstances, situations, or objects of daily life. Phobia has many subcategories-agoraphobia, social phobia, and any specific phobia. Agoraphobia is the phobia of wide-open spaces and the fear of not being able to escape starting a phobic reaction. Social phobia is the fear of being judged by others, while specific phobias are the fear of specific objects.
Separation anxiety disorder:
It is the fear or anxiety of getting separated from your loved ones. You can exhibit separation anxiety as a strong emotional disorder with regard to your age and cognitive development. Separation anxiety is a common phenomenon and lasts for about four weeks in children and six months in adults. Left untreated, it can gradually turn into depression and other personalized disorders and leave a permanent impression on your life.
Once you have decided to get help, the first step is in providing a detailed report about your symptoms to the medical practitioner handling your case. And, you should report any symptoms bothering your health and normal routine. But, symptoms like difficulty in concentration, irritability, sleep problems, breathing issues, and phobia factors are important. Remember, it is important to confide in your family history of psychiatric problems, abuse history of any, and substance use, and these may prove to be risk factors.
Your doctor may advise you for blood tests. Also, he may advise you to rule out any underlying conditions like hyperthyroidism and Lupus that act as a trigger mechanism for anxiety problems. But, you should confide in your practitioner during this time about any medications you have been taking for any systemic conditions as some of these medications result in anxiety problems as a side-effect. All of these diagnostic procedures go as per the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders published by the ASA.
Psychotherapy and Medications are the two important treatment options associated with anxiety disorders. Some it the most effective medications are
Anti-depressants are the first line of treatment for anxiety disorders. Therefore, SNRIs, NASSAs, Tricyclic Anti-depressants, and Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are some of the common anti-depressants. However, these work by altering the level of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Benzodiazepines control anxiety, seizures, and insomnia problems associated with anxiety disorders. Though their exact mechanism of action is still under study, they work on the GABA receptors to produce their anxiolytic properties. However, based on their mode of action, they may be short-acting, intermediate-acting, or long-acting.
It is a new anxiolytic medication belonging to the azaspirodecanedione group of medications. Buspirone is a serotonin 5-HT receptor agonist that produces anxiety relief without sedative effects. Because of the lesser risk of tolerance or addiction associated with its use, patients increasingly prefer it.
Treatment can help cure the problem to a great extent. But preventing the problem from occurring can prevent a lot of complications as well associated with treatment with the pain associated with withdrawal from the medications. Some of the prevention options are
- – Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and body weight
- – Eating a balanced healthy diet
- – Exercising and limiting consumption of alcohol and sugary beverages
- – Getting a yearly check-up as a prophylactic measure