The World Health Organization estimates that more than 300 million people worldwide suffer with some type of anxiety disorder, including 58 million young people under the age of 18. In America, anxiety disorders affect nearly one in five people ages 18 and older, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Among the 40 million American adults impacted, only 36.9% receive treatment.
Despite the increasingly common nature of anxiety disorders, many misconceptions and myths still exist surrounding how to get diagnosed and the best treatments for anxiety. Fortunately, Manuel Astruc, M.D. and Associates can help you better understand the conditions that fall into this category. Arming yourself with trustworthy information is the first step to finding relief and getting back to feeling like you.
Understanding Anxiety Disorders
Worry and nervousness are natural parts of life. Everyone experiences these emotions from time to time, and they can even be helpful in certain circumstances. However, for someone with an anxiety disorder, fear, worry, and nervousness are persistent and overwhelming to the point of interfering with everyday life.
Anxiety disorder is an umbrella term that describes several conditions, each of which has its own characteristics and causes but can create equally problematic symptoms. For example, someone with generalized anxiety disorder may have uncontrollable worry and sleep disturbances, while someone with panic disorder could experience an out-of-the-blue sudden onset of intense fear, chest pain, and a racing heart. Both disorders can be physically debilitating.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
Although the symptoms can vary, depending on the type of anxiety disorder, they all share some signs in common. The persistent fear and worry don’t go away and interfere with daily life, with impairment ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms may include the following:
- Persistent feelings of restlessness, nervousness, or tension
- A sense of impending doom or danger
- Increased heart and breathing rates
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Feeling weak, tired, or trembling
Although these are some typical symptoms, this is not an exhaustive list. Some anxiety disorders present in unique ways. For example:
- Panic attacks are marked by sudden, out-of-the-blue intense discomfort, fear, and feeling out of control. Social situations may also trigger fear of making a mistake or looking foolish to others.
- Social anxiety disorder can cause blushing and sweating, difficulty making eye contact, a racing heart, and overwhelming feelings of self-consciousness.
- Phobia-related anxiety disorders may cause excessive worry about a specific situation or object and avoidance of it.
Causes of Anxiety Disorders
Researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint a precise cause of anxiety disorders. However, we know that, like other mental disorders, these conditions don’t stem from personal weaknesses or character flaws. A combination of factors likely contributes to each condition, including chemical imbalances, environmental factors, trauma, and heredity.
Additionally, researchers have confirmed that certain risk factors are associated with anxiety disorders. For example, repeated exposure to stressful or negative events can trigger anxiety. Additionally, symptoms can worsen after exposure to caffeine and certain medications. Some medical conditions, such as heart arrhythmia and thyroid disorder, can worsen symptoms.
Managing Anxiety Disorders
The good news is that you don’t have to suffer or struggle alone. Treatment, therapy, and lifestyle changes can make a tremendous difference. Often used in combination, these strategies for managing anxiety can help you feel more like yourself again.
Therapy for Anxiety Disorders
Therapy can provide significant relief from the symptoms of anxiety. A therapist can help you identify your triggers, such as work or relationship stress, trauma, medication side effects, or chronic pain, for example. Additionally, therapy can help you understand how your thought patterns may contribute to your symptoms. Therapy can equip you with coping mechanisms and the tools you need to change your thought patterns and reactions to triggers to reduce the undesired effects of anxiety disorders.
Medication for Anxiety Disorders
Certain medications may improve anxiety symptoms. For example, common anti-anxiety medications include benzodiazepines, which help decrease anxiety and treat depression. However, these are often used in the short term as they can be habit-forming and lead to physical and psychological addiction. Antidepressants can also help relieve symptoms, although they typically take longer to start working.
Drugs like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), for example, can work with your brain chemistry to minimize stress and boost your mood. In some cases, blood pressure medications that work as beta-blockers can be helpful in alleviating trembling and a racing heartbeat.
Lifestyle Changes for Anxiety Disorders
Even small lifestyle changes can help support your recovery and make a difference in your symptoms. For example, getting into a daily mindfulness and meditation routine can train your brain to better cope with thoughts of worry and fear when they occur. Other helpful changes include:
- Engaging in regular physical activity, which can improve mood and reduce stress
- Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains
- Limiting caffeine and alcohol, which can increase symptoms
- Getting plenty of sleep and feeling rested
- Using stress management techniques like yoga and visualization
Get Back to Yourself and Find Hope and Help with Manuel Astruc, M.D.
Learning as much as you can about anxiety disorder and seeking professional help can make all the difference in the world. Manuel Astruc, M.D. is a trusted psychiatrist in Saratoga Springs, NY, with decades of experience in helping people with anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses.
Hope is just a phone call away. Contact us today to learn more at 518-255-7164.