Anxiety disorders are a common psychiatric condition for patients young and old. Experts estimate that 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders, but only one-third of them receive treatment.
Anxiety disorders interfere with day-to-day life to the degree that the symptoms make it impossible for the person to participate fully and effectively in everyday situations. It manifests as persistent and overwhelming feelings that create irrational dread. Anxiety disorders tend to run in families and link to both biological issues, including genetics and brain chemistry, and psychological ones, like personality traits, exposure to stress early in life, and when specific life events occur (e.g. death, divorce, etc.). They are also more prevalent in women than men.
Anxiety disorders have many specific diagnoses, including:
- General Anxiety Disorder, persistent severe anxiety that interferes with daily activities
- Social Anxiety Disorder, where interactions with other people cause panicked feelings
- Selective Mutism, a condition where someone who can speak doesn’t in certain situations or to specific people
- Separation Anxiety Disorder, an excessive fear of being away from home or a loved one
- Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder, acute events with physical symptoms that resemble a heart attack that if left untreated result in panic disorder, withdrawing from one’s life
- Agoraphobia, fear of places of situations that make the person feel trapped or panicked
- Other Specific Phobias
Two related conditions to Anxiety Disorder include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Another common related condition is depression. Almost half of the patients suffering from depression also suffer from an anxiety disorder also.
For more facts about Anxiety Disorders prevalence, diagnosis and more from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, please click here.
Some symptoms that are typical of Generalized Anxiety Disorder include:
- Feeling on edge, irritable
- Difficulty concentrating
- Becoming fatigued quickly
- Having tension in muscles
- Challenges controlling worried behavior
- Sleep irregularities
Many treatment options exist for patients with anxiety disorders. Psychotherapy can often help alleviate the patient’s feelings of panic. However, the effectiveness is directly tied to addressing the specific issues that cause anxiety, which can be difficult for the patient to discuss. Group therapy or a support group can also have beneficial effects for the patient.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has also proven successful in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Based on teaching people new ways of thinking about problems, CBT helps patients learn new social skills and coping mechanisms for their thoughts and feelings. Cognitive Therapy helps patients identify and manage patterns in their thinking that create feelings of anxiety. Exposure therapy allows the patient to confront their fears while using coping mechanisms to alleviate symptoms.
Stress management is another effective treatment for anxiety disorders. Learning to calm oneself during an attack is a coping skill that helps them overcome their challenges. Exercise and a balanced diet are also a good idea, as well as reducing stimulants like caffeine, and over-the-counter cold medications. Self-medicating or illegal drug use is discouraged.
Prescription medication can be an effective way to alleviate symptoms, although it will not cure an anxiety disorder. Whether it is used as an initial treatment for anxiety or as an adjunct to other forms of treatment, studies have shown that patients with a regimen of both medication and psychotherapy fare better in their treatment outcomes.
To read more about treatment options for anxiety disorders, please click here.
All of us can get anxious. Anxiety has a useful purpose in that it helps us prepare and make decisions that help keep us safe. However, too much of a good thing, is well, too much. If you suspect that you or someone you love might have an anxiety disorder, please contact your doctor for a consultation.
To learn more how Achieve Wellness Group can help, please contact us here.
Dr. Bartlett has been involved in consultation-liaison psychiatry for over 33 years and was the director of a prominent psychiatry department’s multidisciplinary consultation-liaison service. Dr. Bartlett’s clinical practice focuses on mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and cognitive issues in all ages. She specializes in consultation for patients with complicated comorbid medical and psychiatric conditions and the potential need for psychopharmacology. She is presently accepting new patients.
“Anxiety Disorders.” www.nimh.nih.gov. Web. 17 May 2016. <https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml>.
“What Are Anxiety Disorders?” www.webmd.com. Web. 17 May 2016. <https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/mental-health-anxiety-disorders>.