Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Disorders

Apprehension of danger and dread accompanied by restlessness, tension, tachycardia, and dyspnea unattached to a clearly identifiable stimulus.


Anxiety disorders include panic disorder and adult panic anxiety syndrome, in which a person experiences episodes of a crippling sense of terror and panic called panic attacks. Another common anxiety disorder is obsessive compulsive disorder which is marked by obsessive thoughts that cause anxiety. People with obsessive compulsive disorder try to reduce their anxieties through ritual and repeated behaviors.


Post traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that occurs after a traumatizing event and is characterized by flashbacks of the terrifying event. A persistent fear of social situations is called social anxiety disorders disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder manifests as excessive worry and anxiety that is out of proportion to the actual situation. Phobias are anxiety disorders that are due to an excessive, irrational fear of certain objects or situations. 


Anxiety and anxiety disorders can also be a symptom of, or coexist with, a wide range of medical and mental health conditions, such as drug addiction, Alzheimer's disease, hyperthyroidism, hypertension, psychosis, and hypoxia. Anxiety disorders can manifest in one's mood, behavior, thoughts, and emotions.


Symptoms include severe feelings of panic, dread, distress, anxiety, apprehension, restlessness, and/or trepidation. Anxiety disorders also often produce physical symptoms, including an elevation in heart rate, increased alertness, palpitations, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Anxiety disorders can seriously affect a person's ability to function effectively in daily life. 


Symptoms of anxiety run the gamut from almost unnoticeable, such as a mild elevation in heart rate, to so extreme that they can interfere with the activities of daily living. This can include having anxiety about closed in spaces that is so excessive that a person refuses to use an elevator.


The symptoms of anxiety are related to a physiological human reaction called the fright, fight or flight response. This reaction developed in early human evolution as a means to increase alertness and readiness to react to dangerous stressors, such as the threat of a man-eating predator.


When confronted with stress, such as danger, the body's nervous system reacts by releasing the chemical epinephrine, also known as adrenalin. Epinephrine produces effects that make our body's better able to physically "fight or take flight" from a danger. These include increasing the breathing and heart rate so the muscles get the extra oxygen and energy they need to work hard.


In today's world people most often experience stressors that cannot be addressed effectively by fighting or running away, such as balancing finances on a tight budget, cramming for a test, going through a divorce, or running late for an important appointment.


However, epinephrine still circulates through the body in response to these types of stressors. Large amounts of epinephrine can result in symptoms, such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and chest pain. When physical symptoms such as these are experienced, it is very important not to assume they are due to anxiety. Seek professional medical care immediately.


Following is a list of causes or underlying conditions that could possibly cause Anxiety disorders includes:


  • Genetic predisposition.
  • Biochemical makeup - brain chemical imbalance may increase the anxiety response.
  • Personality trait.
  • Stressful situations e.g. exams, imminent work deadlines.
  • Family problems.
  • Trauma.


Treatment of anxiety disorders varies depending on the specific anxiety disorder, the severity, and a person's medical history, age, and general health. 


The first step to addressing anxiety disorders is to diagnose and treat any possible medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism and hypoxia, which can worsen or trigger symptoms or mimic anxiety disorders.


Anxiety disorders can often be successfully treated with a multifaceted plan that includes psychotherapy, sometimes known as "talk therapy". In psychotherapy, a psychotherapist builds a relationship with a client, establishing trust and helping the client to address anxiety disorders through such techniques as communication and cognitive-behavior therapy.


These techniques can help people to recognize and work through situations and thought patterns that trigger symptoms of anxiety disorders and can teach more effective ways of thinking, behavior and coping with these situations. Group therapy, in which experiences and feelings are shared with a group of people with the same diagnosis, might also be beneficial.


Psychotherapy is often combined with medications, such as anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications. There are many ways to reduce, even eliminate the symptoms of anxiety. The most effective strategy is to address anxiety in a variety of ways. Taking inventory of stressors and developing strategies to eliminate or reduce them is an important approach.


This may include making a list of stressors and grading them from most stressful to least stressful, then developing simple ways to minimize what you can. For example, if paying bills on time is an issue and creates stress in your life, mark the days on a calendar when bills must be paid. If money is tight, prioritize which bills are most important to pay on time.


Exercise is a well accepted way to reduce stress and anxiety and great way to blow off steam. Some experts believe that exercise allows the muscles to use and "work off" the body's build up of stress-induced epinephrine, which can produce such symptoms of anxiety. Deep breathing exercises and such disciplines as yoga and tai chi help to induce a calm state, and clear the mind of anxious thoughts.


For some people an hour of carefree window shopping, a spa treatment, or watching the game with buddies, are great ways to slow down and reduce anxiety. The most important thing is to recognize what helps you as an individual to reduce anxiety and to ensure that you incorporate it regularly into your life.

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