What is Anxiety?
Everyone experiences worry, fear, or stress sometimes. An anxiety disorder, however, is a mental condition in which those worries or interfere with daily activities, work, health, or relationships.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, nearly 40 million Americans (about 18 percent of the population) experience an anxiety disorder every year. The World Health Organization reports that one in 13 people around the globe suffer from anxiety, making it the most common mental disorder.
The term “anxiety disorder” applies to several different conditions. These include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder or panic attacks
- Agoraphobia (fear and avoidance of open, public, or crowded places)
- Social anxiety disorder
- Separation anxiety
- Specific phobias, such as fear of spiders, heights, or enclosed spaces
What causes anxiety?
Experts are not certain what causes anxiety, but it is probably due to a combination of factors that may include:
- Chemical imbalances
- Environmental stress
- Family history
- Underlying physical health issue
- Medication side effects
- Drug or alcohol misuse
- Experiencing trauma
- Specific personality traits
Anxiety can have different effects. It may create unpleasant emotions or sensations. It may prompt you to avoid certain places or situations. Anxiety can also cause distraction or irritability, affecting work performance or creating relationship strain.
What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety?
Each anxiety disorder has its own symptoms, with some overlap between types. Not everyone shows all the same symptoms, which may include:
- Excessive, persistent, or recurring feelings of fear, dread, or panic
- Feeling nervous, restless, tense, or irritable
- Increased heartbeat or breathing rate
- Sweating or trembling
- Weakness or fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating or shifting focus away from your worries
- Difficulty sleeping
- Stomach or digestive problems
- Avoid anxiety triggers
How do I learn if I have anxiety?
If your worries, stress, or fears seem difficult to control and interfere with your life, talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider. Discuss the specific symptoms that concern you, even if you are not sure about their cause. Sometimes, anxiety can be traced to a physical health issue.
An appointment with your provider can help you get the right treatment sooner, preventing additional complications. It is especially important to talk to your provider if you have other mental-health concerns, such as suicidal thoughts or struggles with substance use.
We also offer an anonymous online screening to heal you learn more about your symptoms and if further evaluation is needed.
What if my child or loved one shows symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety affects both children and adults. Childhood anxiety may appear as irritability, emotional outbursts or tantrums, clinginess, being easily startled, headaches, or stomach aches. Untreated anxiety in children may develop into adult depression.
If your child shows anxiety symptoms, schedule an appointment with a pediatrician or other health provider as soon as possible. Anxiety may interfere with physical or emotional development. Just like in adults, anxiety symptoms in children may have a physical cause, so a regular health checkup can help discover or rule out other issues.
Your family provider may refer you to a mental-health professional who specializes in children and adolescents. The therapist will talk with you and your child and ask questions about fears and other symptoms. Understanding when the symptoms began, and what makes them worse, can help the therapist reach a specific diagnosis.
If your loved one of any age has anxiety, there are ways you can help:
- Gently and privately talk to them about symptoms that concern you.
- Emphasize that anxiety can be treated, and is not a sign of personal weakness.
- If they haven’t done so already, suggest that your loved one contact a health provider about their symptoms.
- Help your loved one contact a professional or accompany them to appointments, if appropriate.
- Encourage them to practice good self-care, such as healthy eating and exercise, and avoiding drugs or alcohol.
- Be supportive and encouraging, listening without judgment if they need to talk.
- Watch for new or worsening symptoms.
What are the treatments for anxiety?
Just as there are different types of anxiety disorder, there are also different treatments. You or your loved one may have to try different options or combinations before seeing improvement.
Several different medications can help relieve anxiety symptoms. These may include:
- Certain antidepressants
- The anti-anxiety medication buspirone
- Sedatives and benzodiazepines, which should be used only for short-term relief, as they carry a risk of addiction
- Beta blockers, which are intended only for short-term relief, as these help block physical symptoms of anxiety
Your doctor or other healthcare provider can help determine the right medication for you. Never stop or change anxiety medication without consulting your prescriber.
Psychotherapy, talk therapy, or psychological counseling
With psychotherapy, you or your loved one works with a therapist to uncover and manage anxiety triggers and symptoms, and learn effective coping skills. Therapy may be individual or in groups.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered the “gold standard” in psychotherapy. CBT involves learning specific skills to improve symptoms and adjust your thought patterns. It may also include exposure therapy, in which you gradually encounter an object or situation that causes anxiety. This helps you build confidence and manage your symptoms.
Depending on your needs, you might seek a therapist with specific experience. They may specialize in treating certain types of anxiety, such as trauma or social anxiety, or specific populations, such as children or LGBTQ individuals.
Besides therapy and medication, other tools may help ease anxiety symptoms:
- Support groups
- Healthy lifestyle choices, including balanced diet, exercise, and sufficient sleep
- Maintaining supportive social networks
- Constructive activities and hobbies, such as music, art, or volunteering
MindPath Care Centers is also proud to participate in several clinical trials from partnered sponsor organizations, helping to pioneer potential new medications, therapies, or diagnostics. These trials include a study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of Brainsway Deep TMS for the treatment of PTSD, a mental condition related to anxiety. The National Institutes of Health also have information to help you decide if joining a clinical trial is right for you.
Freedom from anxiety is possible! If you or your loved one struggle with anxiety symptoms, there is help and hope for you. The experienced specialists at MindPath are ready to help you live your best life. Call us today at 1-919-929-9610 to schedule an evaluative appointment.
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Anxiety disorders. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
Anxiety Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. (July 2018). Retrieved June 6, 2019.
Coltrera, Francesca. Anxiety in children. Harvard Health Publishing. (14 Aug. 2018). Retrieved June 6, 2019.
Jovanovic, Tanja., Powers, Abigail., Michopoulos, Vasiliki., et al. What is Anxiety? Anxiety.org. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
Lyness, D’Arcy. Anxiety Disorders. Kidshealth.org. (Oct. 2018). Retrieved June 6, 2019.
Understand the Facts. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved June 6, 2019.