Most people will have periods where they feel anxious or worried. These individuals may be able to pinpoint the reason for this; alternatively, it could be that they have no idea why they are feeling this way. There are certain situations in life that can cause anxiety, such as prior to a medical examination, before a school exam, or in advance of a job interview. In these situations, it is quite normal to have feelings of anxiety. However, some people find that anxiety is a constant problem. They spend much of their lives feeling worried and anxious, to the extent that these feelings begin to get in the way or normal life.
Types of Anxiety Disorder
There are many different anxiety disorders, and these affect people of all ages. The various types include:
- panic disorder
- generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
- obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Some individuals will feel panicky for no apparent reason. They may suffer with panic attacks out of the blue and without any identifiable cause. For those with panic disorder, the possibility of having a panic attack at any time and without any warning signs can cause even more panic and anxiety. Those affected are constantly on edge for fear of having a panic attack, which can prevent them from getting on with their daily life.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
Continual feelings of anxiety and worry for no apparent cause is something that affects a lot of people and is known as generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD tends to have a broad diagnosis due to the many varying symptoms that affects those with this disorder. This means that two people can both be diagnosed with GAD but will have completely different symptoms. GAD sufferers are often in a constant state of worry or high anxiety; it is common for them to have trouble concentrating, an inability to focus, and a racing mind.
Most people are aware of what phobias are, but it is important to remember that a phobia is different to a dislike of something. Those who suffer with phobias are likely to have an intense fear of something. In many instances, the thing they are afraid of will be something that poses no danger to them, such as spiders or even going outside. Those who suffer a phobia of something will usually feel intense anxiety or fear of that thing just by thinking about it.
As previously mentioned, a phobia is different to a dislike, or even a fear of something. A fear is considered a phobia when: it continues for more than six months, has a significant negative impact on the person’s daily life, and is out of proportion to the danger.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is another form of anxiety disorder that affects many individuals. Those affected may feel as though they have to repeat specific activities over and over. It can also cause people to have unpleasant images, thoughts, or doubts. OCD can affect daily life greatly, particularly when the individual feels the need to constantly repeat certain activities. It can prevent the affected person from working or even going out. It is also the cause of strain in relationships as those affected may feel as though others do not understand their problem. Some OCD sufferers become isolated and withdrawn and tend to suffer with feelings of shame and loneliness.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD often occurs as a result of a traumatic experience. Anxiety and fear are normal among those with PTSD, and these individuals could start to experience nightmares or flashbacks of the event. Soldiers who have witnessed combat are commonly affected by PTSD, but it affects many other people too. Those who have been involved in car accidents or have suffered sexual or physical abuse might also go on to develop PTSD.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder
There are several physical and psychological symptoms associated with anxiety disorder. Nevertheless, as there are many different types of this disorder, the symptoms that each person experiences can vary. Below are some of the common symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble sleeping
- Pins and needles
- Muscle tension.
- Feeling edgy
- Intense feeling of dread
- Trouble concentrating.
What Are Panic Attacks?
Those with panic disorder will experience panic attacks that can significantly affect their daily life. A panic attack can be described as an intense and overwhelming response to excitement, fear, or stress. When a panic attack occurs, the individual may experience some of the following symptoms:
- A rapid heartbeat
- Chest pains
- Trouble breathing
- Jelly legs
- Feeling faint.
Those with panic disorder often feel as though they are losing control or that they are going to have a heart attack and die. Some feel as though they are about to pass out.
For most, panic attacks last for between five and twenty minutes. They tend to occur quickly with no warning and usually peak after ten minutes before subsiding. Not everyone with panic disorder will experience the same symptoms; some will experience panic attacks every day while others may only have one every so often.
Causes of Anxiety Disorder
While there is no single cause of anxiety disorder in each affected individual, there are certain factors that can lead to its development. For example, those who have had traumatic experiences will be more likely to experience anxiety disorder than those who have not. Physical and mental health can also affect a person’s risk for anxiety disorder, as can their family history.
Nonetheless, drug and alcohol abuse are also risk factors. There is a strong link between substance abuse and addiction, and anxiety disorder.
Diagnosing Anxiety Disorder
A doctor can diagnose anxiety disorder, depending on the symptoms being experienced by the sufferer. As many of the symptoms associated with anxiety disorder can also be linked to other medical conditions, a number of tests may need to be performed to rule these out first.
If a GP suspects an anxiety disorder, he or she may refer the affected person to a mental health specialist such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. These doctors have been trained in mental health disorders and will be able to diagnose the type of anxiety disorder that the individual has.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorder
There are many treatments available for anxiety disorder. GPs often prescribe antidepressant medication, but this medication should only be used over a short period as these can be highly addictive. However, some people are prescribed these drugs for an extended period, as long as the benefits outweigh the risks.
Counselling and therapy is also used to treat those affected by anxiety disorder. Psychotherapy is utilised to get to the cause of the illness and to help the patient learn more about the illness and how to deal with it. Some counsellors will also use cognitive behaviour therapy. This type of treatment aims to teach the patient how to replace negative patterns and behaviours that cause the anxiety with more positive ones.
There are also a number of tips and self-help tricks that those with anxiety disorder can use to help them deal with their feelings of worry and anxiety. Talking to others can help, but many individuals with anxiety disorder feel as though they need to keep their feelings quiet. Finding a person that one can trust and who is willing to listen to the fears and worries of the affected person can help to ease symptoms.
There are also breathing exercises and meditation techniques that can help those affected by panic disorder. Some people like to shift the focus of what they are doing, or listen to music to take their mind off the thing that is causing them to worry.
Could You Have Anxiety Disorder?
If you have been experiencing feelings of anxiety or worry, you could be concerned that you have developed an anxiety disorder. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you been feeling edgy or nervous regularly for the past six months?
- Are you having trouble sleeping?
- Do your feelings of edginess and irritability cause you to tense your muscles?
If you have answered yes to the above questions, it is likely that you have an anxiety disorder. You should get in touch with your doctor and discuss all your symptoms and how you have been feeling. He or she will then be able to help or point you in the right direction for the help you do require.