Anxiety: Overview, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural response of the human body towards stress. It is a feeling of fear of what is about to come. Certain situations that can trigger the feeling of anxiousness are: going for a job interview, first day at a new school, giving a public speech. It is normal to become nervous on such occasions, and generally is not a topic of concern. These feeling usually lasts for a short period. Still, if the symptoms last more than six months, then it is a cause for concern, as the person might be developing an anxiety disorder, which requires medical attention.
Usually, the feeling of anxiety comes and goes, with events in life. Still, if a person has an anxiety disorder, then these feelings can stay and interfere with the normal functioning of their life. According to APA (American Psychiatric Association), anxiety is the most common form of emotional disorder which can affect people of any age, and women are more likely to have an anxiety attack than men.
What Are the Types of Anxiety Disorders?
The main form of anxiety diagnosed in people is a generalized anxiety disorder, but there are also others, which include:
Social Anxiety Disorder
People having social anxiety have an immense fear of social situations and continually worrying about how others will judge them.
People with this condition experience frequent panic attacks at unexpected times. They live in constant fear of the next attack.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
This situation amplifies the fear of being away from a loved one or home.
PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder)
People who experience a traumatic event can develop this kind of anxiety.
Phobia refers to a situation when someone has an extreme fear of a particular activity, condition, or object.
Illness anxiety disorder
Illness anxiety disorder is the type of condition in which the person who has it worries excessively about their health.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
OCD results in a situation in which a person has frequent and irrational thoughts to perform specific and repeated behaviors.
What are Anxiety Attacks?
The sudden outbreak of an overwhelming feeling of worry, fear, or distress, is how people experience an anxiety attack. For some, it may build up slowly and get worse when a stressful event approaches. These attacks can significantly vary in terms of their symptoms among individuals. Many signs of anxiety can change over time or don’t happen to all of the people.
Some of the typical symptoms of an anxiety attack can include
- Dry mouth
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Shortness of breath
- Hot flashes
Most anxiety attacks share common symptoms, but they are not all the same. A person should talk to their healthcare provider to figure out which condition they have and get the proper treatment for it.
What Causes Anxiety?
What causes anxiety exactly is still unknown, but researchers believe that various factors, including environmental and genetics, play a role that results in this situation. The brain chemistry is also responsible for causing this condition.
Some of the likely causes behind anxiety are
Those who have anxiety disorders in their family are more likely to have it.
Psychologist states that many anxiety disorders are a result of misalignment of electrical signals and hormones in the brain.
Relationship problems, difficulties at work, and family issues can also contribute to anxiety.
Sometimes, anxiety is a byproduct of another disease or the effects of a medicine. It can also be the stress of intensive surgery.
Withdrawal symptoms of some illicit substances can result in creating a feeling of anxiety.
Various researches are going on to get a deeper understanding of the causes of stress by taking a looks at the parts of the brain that controls different kinds of feelings.
What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?
Everyone experiences anxiety differently. These can range from weird feeling in the stomach to a pounding heart and excessive sweating. People can feel out of control and lose coordination between their bodies and mind.
People also experience anxiety in other ways, including panic attacks, nightmares, painful thoughts, and memories, which they can’t control. People with anxiety can have a general feeling of worry and fear or a fear of some specific event or place.
The common symptoms of anxiety include
- Trouble concentrating
- Increased breathing
- Difficulty in falling asleep (insomnia)
- Increased heart rate
As the symptoms can be different for everyone, it is better to consult a healthcare professional if the feeling of fear and nervousness lasts for an extended period and get appropriate treatment if required.
How is Anxiety Diagnosed?
Doctors recommend various tests to confirm the symptoms in a patient. They also refer to the international classification of diseases that designates ICD 10 code for anxiety. The diagnosis process is a lengthy affair, involving physical examination, psychological questionnaires, and evaluation of mental health. Some doctors can also conduct blood or urine test to figure out if any other underlying medical issue is causing such symptoms.
According to ICD 10, anxiety is a disorder in which a person has fear or dread without an apparent cause or object. Anxiety ICD 10 also includes symptoms like pangs of conscience, irritability, phobias, and anxious expectations.
What Are The Treatments Available For Anxiety?
There are various treatments available for anxiety disorders, which include a combination of behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and medications. Some people don’t require medical treatment; for them making changes in their lifestyle can be enough to fight the symptoms of anxiety. In more severe cases, doctors recommend proper treatment to manage the symptoms.
The treatment can be of two types, one in which the doctor will suggest the use of medication and other in which different therapies and counseling can help a person overcome the symptoms of anxiety. Which method of treatment a person should follow depends on the severity of their condition and their doctor’s advice.
There are different sorts of medicines available for treating anxiety disorders. Doctors can prescribe benzodiazepine, antidepressants, beta-blockers, tricyclics, and gabapentin for anxiety treatment. Each medication has its ups and downs. One should choose the drugs very carefully after consulting the doctor to minimize the risk of any adverse effects.
These can be very addictive and have a few side effects. There is also a possibility of misuse and developing dependence on these medications, so use it with care. Some of the benzodiazepine that doctors usually prescribe for treating anxiety are; Xanax, Valium, Diazepam, etc.
These drugs can help relieve the symptoms of most anxiety disorders, except for OCD. The side effects of this medicine can include drowsiness, dizziness, weight gain, and dry mouth. Tricyclics include drugs like clomipramine and imipramine.
Though the primary use of these drugs is to treat depression, they help combat anxiety symptoms. Doctors often recommend SSRI (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) as they have fewer adverse effects compared to other antidepressants. Still, they can cause nausea, sexual dysfunction, and jitters at the beginning of the treatment.
These are the major anxiety medications that are available in the market, and anyone with a proper prescription can buy them.
People who have a short-term anxiety disorder can try the following procedures to get their anxiousness under control without having to use any supplements for anxiety treatment.
This therapy limits the potential triggers of an anxiety attack. People can manage their stress by making a list to make their work more manageable, organizing any upcoming pressure and deadlines, taking time off from work or study.
Doing exercise can help relax the brain and body, which is beneficial for people with anxiety. It can also improve the self-image of a person and encourage the production of chemicals in the mind that can trigger positive feelings.
Taking with supportive people like close friends and family members or loved ones can have a positive impact on the mental health of a person. One should also look for local support groups in their area or online to find help.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT or counseling is a typical way of helping people with anxiety. CBT is a psychotherapy that aims to understand and change harmful thoughts, which can lead to the development of anxious feelings. CBT helps to limit negative thinking and encourage people to change the way they react to situations or objects that trigger their anxiety.
A psychotherapist giving CBT for panic disorder will try to make their patient believe that these are not heart attacks, as they might fear. The exposure to such triggers is a part of CBT, and this helps people to confront their fears. The more a person faces their anxiety, the more they become insensitive to the usual triggers.
Anxiety is a normal response of the human body. Still, if it exceeds the threshold and starts to interfere in the daily activities of an individual, then they should seek out medical help. There different types of anxiety disorder, which include panic disorder, phobias, and social anxiety. All these conditions are treatable with medication and physical and mental therapy, or by using a combination of both.
Anxiety Medications: A Closer Look at Medication for Anxiety
Everyone had a feeling of anxiety at some point in their life. People can get anxious when they have to appear for a job interview, attend a new school, giving a public speech, or doing any similar thing. Still, this feeling usually goes away in a short time, with the event that was causing it.
Different types of anti-anxiety medications
Benzodiazepines are a type of stimulant that helps treat the symptoms of anxiety by inducing a sedative effect. These medicines are also known as central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, that means they work by affecting the nervous system and chemicals in the brain to produce a calming effect.
These drugs are helpful in short-term use only as they become less effective over time, and they can also be very addictive. Because of such risks, physicians don’t usually prescribe them for longer than a month of continuous use.
Some of the benzodiazepines are:
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
This medicine helps treat short-term anxiety disorder and chronic anxiety disorder. It works slower than benzodiazepine and not equally effective in handling all types of anxiety disorders. The exact workings of this drugs are mostly unknown, but experts believe that it affects the chemicals in the brain to regulate the mood.
It can take multiple weeks before it starts to show its effects fully. Due to its slower working, it also causes fewer side effects, and people have a lower risk of building a dependency on this medication.
These medicines work by affecting neurotransmitters. Due to his property, they also prove useful in treating the symptoms of anxiety. These usually work very slowly and might take up to several weeks before showing some noticeable effects.
The following are the common antidepressants that help treat the symptoms of anxiety disorder.
Serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs are antidepressants that doctors often prescribe for the treatment of anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This medication works by stopping the reabsorption of serotonin, which is a chemical responsible for regulating the mood, by nerve cells in the brain.
It can take up to 2 to 6 weeks for the people to experience the effects of this medicine. Doctors prescribe this drug for a period of up to 12 months, and then they gradually decrease the dosage. SSRIs are not habit-forming drugs, so they do not usually lead to dependence. Still, people should consult a doctor before using this medicine or altering the dosage.
This category of drugs include:
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
These medicines can be useful in treating anxiety disorder, but they are not as useful for people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Tricyclics works similar to the other medication of this type, namely SSRIs. Doctors usually start with a low dose and increase it gradually to achieve the desired outcome. These drugs not used as often as they can cause more side effects than the newer medicines that are available in the market right now.
These drugs include:
- Imipramine (Tofranil)
- Clomipramine (Anafranil)
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAOIs help treat panic disorder and social phobias. These medicines work by altering the number of neurotransmitters in the brain to help regulate a person’s mood. The primary use of these drugs is to treat the symptoms of depression, but some healthcare providers often prescribe them for treating the symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder.
While using them, one should also take caution as these can have several side effects, and especially be dangerous for people who have high blood pressure.
Some of the FDA approved MAOIs include:
- Selegiline (Emsam)
- Isocarboxazid (Marplan)
- Tranylcypromine (Parnate)
- Phenelzine (Nardil)
The primary use of beta-blockers is to treat heart conditions. Doctors can also prescribe this medicine for treating the physical symptoms of anxiety in people who have a social anxiety disorder. Beta-blockers such as Inderal (propranolol) help reduce social anxiousness in stressful situations like going to a party or giving a public speech.