Anxiety disorder is a very common psychological disorder which affects more and more people. Every person can feel anxious sometimes. However, if it usually occurs without a reason, does not diminish soon, and affect our daily lives negatively, it is called anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder can be caused by genetic susceptibility, medical reasons and stressful life events. Treatment aims to eliminate symptoms such as severe anxiety, palpitations, trembling and sweating; and also, to make people gain effective coping mechanisms. People with anxiety disorder should not avoid asking for a professional help, and they should have some life style changes. Considering experts’ suggestions, having psychotherapy, -if necessary- using medications and compliance to treatment is very essential.
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Anxiety is a natural reaction that our body gives to stress. Every person can feel anxious at some points of their lives. When we encounter a stressful situation, usually our heart and breathing race. According to our automatic evaluation of whether we can handle the situation or not, our body gets prepared to either fight or flight. With racing heart, our body starts to pump more blood to our muscles.
Even though it is a natural reaction, if it occurs without a reason and very often, continues even after the threat is gone, and affects our school, work or social lives, it becomes something that needs to be treated. This condition is called anxiety disorder.
Causes of it are not certain yet. Imbalance of neurotransmitters called serotonin and norepinephrine are thought to be responsible for it. However, reasons behind this imbalance are not known yet, and researchers state that it occurs due to many factors such as genetic susceptibility, medical reasons and stressful or traumatic life events.
Studies show that some medical conditions are related to anxiety disorder. Here are some conditions:
it is likely that your anxiety disorder has a medical cause.
It can show some different symptoms according to their types.
If your anxiety exceeds normal levels and starts to impair your daily functioning, it means that it is time to see an expert.
Experts can conduct some psychological tests after listening your complaints, and compare the results with symptoms in diagnostic criteria systems. They can ask you to identify your thoughts, feelings and behaviors in order to understand your condition more clearly. In some cases, people can go to doctors with some physical complaints, but the actual problem is anxiety.
In these cases, your doctor can ask you to have some blood tests or physical examinations to eliminate the possibility of a medical condition. If your anxiety is not focused on one specific thing or condition, rather a broad feeling, and continues more than six months; you are likely to have a generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis.
Anxiety disorder cannot be detected by using only one test. Experts make a diagnosis considering the results of physical examinations, psychological tests and evaluations. Beck Anxiety Inventory is one of the most commonly used scales, and it has 21 items aiming to measure how often and how severely you experience it.
It has several different types. All types have an extreme anxiety and fear caused by a real or a perceived threat. Some types are listed below:
It is an extreme sense of fear of being in social occasions, being criticized and humiliated in those occasions. Being in such environments can cause palpitations, sweating and trembling. This fear is mostly irrational; yet still, people with social phobia can avoid social meetings because of extreme fear and anxiety.
It is one of the most common psychological disorders. People with GAD have usually a continuous and uncontrollable anxiety and disturbance. They usually have difficulty to identify the source of anxiety. They can believe they will fail at school, be fired from work or live through a catastrophic event with no obvious reason.
Exhaustion, quick temper, irritability, difficulty to concentrate, muscle pains, headaches, difficulty in swallowing, sense of suffocation, sweating continuously, frequent need to urinate and sleep problems are most frequent symptoms.
Panic disorder is the condition occurring with recurrent panic attacks with feelings of intense anxiety, fear and terror. People with panic disorder can experience sweating, difficulty to breath, increased heart rate and sense of terror; and these sensations peak in minutes. People can be possessed by the fear of death.
Most people can have panic attacks once or twice in their lives. However, panic disorder occurs when panic attacks recur continuously; it should not be confused by panic attacks.
Agoraphobia is the condition in which people have a great fear of being in the places and conditions that they believe they will not get help if something bad happens and they cannot run out. It is usually considered as fear of being in open and crowded places.
Yet, people with agoraphobia avoid and fear of using public transportation, going to malls, waiting in a queue, and in some cases, even leaving home. Agoraphobia can be observed with panic disorder.
PTSD is an intense anxiety condition in which people perceive a threat against their or their close ones’ lives or body integrity. These conditions may be natural disasters, accidents, wars, physical or sexual assaults. People with PTSD have a continuous sense of threat even if there is no real threat anymore.
They can re-experience the traumatic event with flash-backs and dreams, avoid reminders and have difficulty to remember the details of event. Some symptoms are irritability, difficulty in concentration, being easily startled and sleep problems. These people can have a severe sense of guilt and anxiety, and they can avoid activities that they can enjoy. It is very likely that people with PTSD can have depression, too.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is a combination of recurrent, persistent and anxiety provoking thoughts and impulses (obsessions), and performing certain recurrent behaviors in order to relieve those thoughts and anxiety (compulsions). It usually starts in adolescence, and it is more common in women. Symptoms can change depending on the culture.
Having superstitious beliefs, lucky numbers or colors can be evaluated as OCD if they impair daily lives. Every person can have some obsessive thoughts or behaviors for control and preventions. The important point is that these behaviors should not affect our lives negatively.
Panic attacks are sudden episodes of panic, fear and terror. Chest tightness, palpitations, sweating, trembling, dizziness, nausea, sense of losing control and fear of death are typical symptoms. Panic attacks start suddenly, they peak in 10 minutes, and diminish slowly in 10-30 minutes. Rarely, they can last for around an hour, too. During attacks, people can think that they are going to die, but this fear does not have a realistic base.
Although anxiety attacks can be confused with panic attacks, they do not occur without a reason. They are caused by an expectancy of a worrisome event and they occur gradually. Anxiety attacks can cause irritability and stress, which are not symptoms of panic attacks; but fear of death is not observed in anxiety attacks. Their physical and physiological symptoms are similar.
Treatment can change depending on the severity and the person. Yet, as general, there are two methods as psychotherapy and medications. When anxiety is mild or moderate, medications may not be needed. Treatment aims to decrease and control anxiety, and eliminate negative effects of it.
In cases with mild and moderate anxiety with no need for medication, psychotherapy is sufficient to decrease it and make people function properly again. Psychotherapy can be in many kinds depending on the anxiety and temperament of people. The most frequently used ones are listed below:
If anxiety severity is high, medication treatment can be applied in addition to psychotherapy. You should keep in your mind that medications cannot treat it; they can only relieve patients and provide them with an easier process of coping and going back to daily routine. The most commonly used medications are listed below:
Several medications can be used in anxiety treatment. However, it is crucial that these medications should not be used unless a doctor suggests.
Treating anxiety is not difficult. If you go to psychotherapy regularly, use medications that your doctor prescribes on time and with right dose, and have a good compliance to therapy, you can reduce and control it.