Mental disorders are something we deal with on a daily basis but don’t always seem to recognise which of the mental disorders do we suffer from. Anxiety is one of them and it's very important to get to know anxiety as it can lead to several other severe mental health disorders.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a typical response by your brain to combat stress. Everybody experiences a feeling of anxiety every now and then as they are exposed to different kinds of stresses. Anxiety which you feel once in a while is not harmful but an anxiety disorder is not the same.
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illness which increase feelings of worry and fear within you. This kind of anxiety disorder can have an impact on your social life and day-to-day activities.
A WHO (World Health Organisation) report 2017 says over 264 million people around the world suffer from an anxiety disorder.
Of these 264 million people, 179 million were females and 105 million were males.
What is an Anxiety attack?
An anxiety attack is a feeling of excessive worry or fear. Most of the time,an anxiety attack does not build up rapidly, it is rather very slow and takes time to form. Any stressful event can worsen the symptoms of an anxiety attack so it is very important to manage your levels of stress to prevent an anxiety attack from taking a toll on your mental health.
Types of Anxiety Disorders:
You may experience an excessive feeling of tension and worry without any specific reason.
Generalised Anxiety affected almost twice the number of people under the age group of 26-49 when compared to people over 50 years of age. (Source: SAMHSA 2014)
A feeling of sudden intense fear will trigger a panic attack. During a panic attack, you may experience excessive sweating, chest pain or sometimes even heart palpitations.
Heart palpitations are feelings of having a fast or a pounding heartbeat.
Social Anxiety (Social Phobia):
Social anxiety evokes a feeling of insecurity or self-consciousness about everything that happens on a daily basis in a social setting. You always keep thinking about what other people think about you or being judged or getting insulted by people.
Intense fear of a particular occurrence or a thing you deal with on a daily basis, for example, darkness or heights or insects.
Specific Phobias are the most common type of anxiety occurring in people. (Source: ADAA 2020)
Agoraphobia is a feeling of fear in certain situations where you cannot seek help from people to escape or that escaping the situation by yourself is difficult. People with agoraphobia generally fear crowds, large open spaces, bridges, travelling, etc.
A kind of anxiety that affects you especially when a loved one leaves or gets distant from you. You may feel anxious or sad when someone you have been close to suddenly leaves you and stops keeping in contact or talk to you.
People with selective mutism find it difficult to open up and talk in certain situations. They find it easier to talk only to certain people like family or a very close friend but when it comes to talking to somebody new, they find it difficult to start a conversation. This usually starts in childhood and if left untreated may go on during adulthood as well. This can be seen as a type of social anxiety.
Medication Induced Anxiety:
Use of certain medications or illegal drugs can cause side effects for withdrawal symptoms which lead to a form of anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder:
Specific symptoms can indicate the kind of anxiety disorder that you might be experiencing. The most common symptoms of anxiety disorder seen in most people are excessive fear or worry. Some other Symptoms are:
Over Thinking or Rumination
Causes of Anxiety Disorder:
Genetic: Sometimes, Excessive anxiety can be hereditary
Brain Chemistry: Fault in effective brain functioning can sometimes cause anxiety.
Environmental stress: Anxiety sometimes arises due to incidences that have been happening around you, for instance, the death of a loved one or witnessing violence, etc.
Drug Withdrawal: Certain illegal drugs cause withdrawal symptoms or side effects that can cause various forms of anxiety. Usage of alcohol and drugs can increase anxiety levels.
Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions involving the heart, lungs, thyroid, respiratory diseases, Drug withdrawal, etc. can cause anxiety disorder or even aggravate the symptoms of anxiety disorder.
Certain factors that can increase your chances of anxiety are:
Sexual Abuse during Childhood
Traumatic experience: This can increase chances of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Substance abuse: Excessive use of alcohol and illegal drugs.
Shyness and Social Withdrawal: Not socialising enough with people around you.
Low Self Esteem
Low self-confidence and a constant feeling of insecurity.
Anxiety disorders are more common in women than men (Source: Our World In Data 2018, NIMH 2017)
There is no specific technique for diagnosing anxiety. Your doctor might conduct many physical and mental health examinations and tests to finally come to a conclusion about your medical condition.
There are many ways to treat anxiety but most of it is a combined result of medication, psychotherapy and behavioural therapy.
Anti-Depressants like SSRIs and SNRIs are the first thing a person with anxiety is advised to take.
Bupropion: A type of antidepressant mainly used to treat Chronic Anxiety.
Other Antidepressants like Fluoxetine, Celexa, Prozac, Citalopram or Tricyclics.
Tricyclics provide benefits for all forms of anxiety disorders other than OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
Moamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) are also a type of antidepressants used to treat Anxiety.
Benzodiazepines: Mainly prescribed when you have excessive feelings of panic. They work quickly but must not be taken for longer periods as they can be addictive.
Beta-Blockers: These primarily help in reducing blood pressure and makes you feel calm and relaxed during an acute anxiety attack.
Anticonvulsants: Mainly used against seizures for people with Epilepsy, it is also used to control certain anxiety disorder symptoms.
Antipsychotics: Improve the functioning of brain circuits that controls your mood and thinking.
Buspirone: Used to treat Generalised Anxiety Disorders.
DISCLAIMER: Never resort to self-medication. Consult your doctor before taking any medication to take note of the side effects each medicine can cause.
A form of therapy in which a trained mental health specialist listens to you and talks about your condition and feelings and gives you suggestions on how to improve your mental health with the help of exercises or by following a specific routine to manage your anxiety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT):
A type of psychotherapy that trains you to control your emotions and teaches you to transform your negative thoughts into positive ones and improve your self-esteem and confidence.
Managing stress is the first strategy to follow which can help reduce symptoms of most of the medical conditions that exist today. Find ways to manage stress at home or by consulting a doctor. Following relaxation techniques such as Meditation, Deep breathing, to stay calm will help reduce anxiety.
One of the ways to reduce stress and anxiety is by exercising and staying fit as exercising can improve your mood significantly due to an increase in the secretion of "Feel Good" hormones like Endorphins.
Talking to friends and family and to those who are close to you can take your mind off the negative thoughts and stressful incidents and can elevate your moods.
Prevention is better than cure. But you can never be sure if you have any form of anxiety. If you start noticing any one of the symptoms of anxiety for a long period of time, it’s probably best to get it tested and diagnosed by a doctor.
Stay away from alcohol or smoking or illegal drugs as they can increase chances of anxiety and if you already have anxiety, alcohol and drugs can make the condition even more severe and affect your mental health.
Anxiety can cause the following complications in your body. The intensity of these complications can increase in cases of chronic stress and anxiety.
Depression (Occurs with almost every mental health disorder)
Headaches and Chronic Pain
Suicidal Thoughts (Anxiety affects your mental health severely, and as a result, a person is bound to feel suicidal. If you have such thoughts, consult a doctor at the earliest)
Substance Misuse (Overusing alcohol or tobacco or illegal drugs. These can increase the intensity of anxiety)
Social Isolation (Not talking or socialising with people)
Reduced efficiency at school or other workplaces.
Reduced Quality of Life
Helping children with anxiety:
Children experience minor forms of anxiety which are seen as normal. In most cases, it is not chronic. As they grow older they learn new techniques of coping up with the feelings of stress and anxiety by watching their elders or learning from them.
But anxiety in children can sometimes become very severe and chronic and finally develop into an anxiety disorder. When anxiety becomes chronic in children they begin to start showing symptoms by not interacting with people like normal and socially isolating themselves from other people.
Children show certain symptoms such as:
Anxiety treatment for children is mostly done with the help of CBT or talk therapy and certain medications. Children must be trained to follow relaxation techniques when they feel stressed and do their best to stay calm in all situations.
Helping teens with anxiety:
Teenagers experience anxiety on various levels on a daily basis due to increasing pressure and stress about tests and exams in their college and school lives. Teenage is also the age where teenagers tend to experiment with alcohol and drugs which increases their chances for anxiety and stress.
Teenagers experience pretty much the same symptoms of anxiety an adult would experience.
Treatment is by talk therapy (CBT) and medication. These also help in treating symptoms of depression.
Anxiety and Alcohol:
A lot of people resort to alcohol when something depressing or when they encounter a sad experience in life.
Alcohol acts like a sedative and temporary differences your central nervous system and calms your nerves which gives you a calm or relax feeling after consuming.
But people who are under chronic anxiety or stress depend on alcohol so much so that it becomes an addiction and this kind of addiction can aggravate the symptoms of stress and anxiety leading to more complicated disorders.
It's important to address the issue of alcohol consumption before a person get addicted to it and it's totally dependent on alcohol to cope with stress or anxiety as alcohol can make stress and anxiety worse.
Anxiety and stress:
Anxiety and stress are pretty much the same things, almost just like the two sides of a coin but they do have very minor differences which differentiate these two mental health disorders from each other. It generally is very hard to tell these mental health disorders apart.
Stress is caused by certain events or traumatic experiences that make you nervous or worried or feel like you are under physical and mental pressure.
Anxiety almost feels the same way as a person who is undergoing stress would feel like but anxiety is like sort of a reaction to the stress you experience.
Stress is something that stays for a short period of time and occurs due to a recognised stimulus or a Stressor. Anxiety can stay for longer periods and the root cause of anxiety or the stimulus is not necessarily known.
Both anxiety and stress have common physical and mental symptoms of which include:
Faster Heartbeat and Breathing
Constipation or Diarrhoea
Both stress and anxiety can affect your daily routine and can make you inefficient at what you do. know that it is the perfect time to consult a doctor if you have been experiencing symptoms of stress or anxiety for a long time, at least one week.
To know me about stress, refer to the following:
Anxiety and Depression:
Severe anxiety can lead to depression. Unlike stress, depression does not occur hand-in-hand with anxiety, but there are high chances that if you are experiencing chronic symptoms of anxiety, then you will soon start experiencing symptoms of depression.
Symptoms of anxiety can trigger the symptoms of depression in the long term and early treatment for anxiety can prevent any form of aggravation of mental health disorders.
The treatment for stress anxiety and depression are very much similar so treating anxiety can also in some way treat certain symptoms of depression too.
Just like any other mental disorder, it's ideal to pay a visit to your doctor when you start seeing symptoms of an anxiety disorder and not just start your own sources of medications to try and treat it home before you consult a doctor. Self-Medication has its own dangers and its important to be aware.