Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorders, panic disorders, substance-induced anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder, selective mutism, agoraphobia, and phobias. Those with an anxiety disorder recognize the feeling of fear or panic when exposed to a situation or object of anxiety. While we all experience feeling anxious, anxiety becomes a disorder when it interferes with your every day life. Anxiety disorder can lead to panic attacks.
Anxiety may be masked by what is thought of as “perfectionism.” Only you, or those who know you well, will understand your symptoms as a serious concern. Common symptoms include feelings of nervousness and powerlessness, a sense of impending danger, increased heart rate, hyperventilation, trouble concentrating, and exhaustion. Anxiety disorders can lead to, or intensify, other conditions such as depression, sleep disturbances, headaches, substance abuse, or suicide.
Some medical problems are linked to anxiety disorders because of similar physical symptoms. In these cases, anxiety is the first sign of a medical problem. Heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, drug abuse or withdrawal, IBS, or tumors can be linked to anxiety. It is likely that your anxiety is because of a medical condition if you do not avoid situations because of your anxiety, you have anxiety that seems unrelated to life events, and if you do not have a history of anxiety.
Generally, anxiety disorders begin in childhood, adolescence, and emerging adulthood. Women are slightly more likely to have anxiety disorders than men. Some risk factors towards developing an anxiety disorder include childhood trauma, stress buildup, other mental health or medical disorders, having blood relatives with anxiety disorders, or use of drugs and alcohol.
To diagnose an anxiety disorder, you may take a physical exam to rule out other medical conditions. You might then fill out a psychological questionnaire.
Anxiety disorders can be treated through medication and therapy. Medications reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders, while therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) will help you change your behaviors that lead to feelings of anxiety.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapies (MCBT or MBT) approach the relationship between you and your anxious thoughts. MCBT helps focus on your bodily sensations, especially sensations during a moment of anxiety. Remaining present during these moments are important, so a person will approach anxious thoughts, rather than avoid them. This approach can show that anxiety is a reaction to nonexistent threats.
Other steps to reduce anxiety include: yoga and meditation, exercise, proper sleep hygiene, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and drugs.