Sometimes anxiety could be a normal part of life. However, people with anxiety disorders often have intense, excessive and persistent concerns and fears about daily situations. Often, anxiety disorders have repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that peak in a matter of minutes (panic attacks).
These feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control, are disproportionate to the actual danger and can last a long time. In order to prevent these feelings, it may happen that you avoid certain places or situations. Symptoms can begin in childhood or adolescence and continue into adulthood.
Examples of anxiety disorder include: generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), specific phobias, and separation anxiety disorder. You may have more than one anxiety disorder. Sometimes anxiety arises from a disease that requires treatment.
Whatever the kind of anxiety you have, a treatment can help.
The most common signs and symptoms of anxiety include the following:
- Feeling of nervousness, agitation, or tension
- Feeling of imminent danger, panic or catastrophe
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
- Feeling weak or tired
- Problems concentrating or thinking about anything other than the current concern
- Having trouble falling asleep
- Suffer gastrointestinal problems (GI)
- Having difficulty controlling concerns
- Having the need to avoid situations that generate anxiety
There are several types of anxiety disorders:
Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear places and situations that can cause you to panic or make you feel trapped, helpless, or embarrassed and often try to avoid them.
Anxiety disorder due to a disease includes symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are directly caused by a physical health problem. Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent and excessive anxiety and concern about activities or events, including routine common issues. The concern is disproportionate to the current situation, difficult to control and affects the way you feel physically. It often happens along with other anxiety disorders or depression.
Panic disorder involves repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a maximum level in minutes (panic attacks). You may have feelings of impending catastrophe, shortness of breath, chest pain, or rapid, strong heartbeat, or flapping (heart palpitations). These panic attacks can cause the person to worry about them happening again or to avoid situations in which they have happened.
Selective mutism is a constant inability of children to speak in certain situations, such as in school, even when they can speak in other situations, such as at home with close family members. This can affect performance at school, at work, or in society.
The separation anxiety disorder is a disorder of childhood that is characterized by anxiety that is excessive for the developmental level of the child and that relates to the separation of the parents or other persons with a role as fathers.
Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) involves high levels of anxiety, fear, or rejection of social situations due to feelings of shame, insecurity, and concern about being judged or perceived negatively by others.
Specific phobias are characterized by remarkable anxiety when the person is exposed to a specific object or situation, and a desire to avoid them. In some people, phobias cause panic attacks.
Anxiety disorder induced by substances is characterized by symptoms of anxiety or panic intense that are the direct result of the misuse of drugs, as taking drugs, being exposed to a toxic substance, or having withdrawal because of the drugs.
Another specific, non-specific anxiety disorder is a term for anxiety and phobias that do not meet the exact criteria for some other anxiety disorder but are sufficiently relevant to be alarming and disturbing.
When to see your doctor
See your doctor in the following cases:
- You feel that you are worrying too much and that this interferes with your work, relationships, and other aspects of your life.
- Your fear, worry, or anxiety cause you discomfort and you find it difficult to control them.
- You feel depressed, have problems with alcohol or drug use, or have other mental health problems along with anxiety.
- You think your anxiety might be linked to a physical health problem.
- You have suicidal thoughts or behaviors (if so, seek emergency treatment immediately).
Your worries may not go away on their own and get worse over time if you don’t procure help. Visit your doctor or mental health professional before your anxiety gets worse. It’s easier to treat her if you get help soon.
Cause of anxiety
It is not entirely clear what causes anxiety disorders. Certain life experiences, such as traumatic events, seem to cause anxiety disorders in people who are already prone to anxiety. Inherited traits can also be a factor.
Medical causes of anxiety
For some people, anxiety may be related to a hidden health problem. In some cases, signs and symptoms of anxiety are the first signs of a disease. If the doctor suspects that the anxiety that you may have a medical cause, perhaps prompted analysis to look for signs of the problem.
Some examples of medical problems that may be associated with anxiety include the following:
- Heart disease.
- Thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism.
- Respiratory disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma.
- Inappropriate use of substances or abstinence.
- Abstinence from alcohol, anti-anxiety medicines (benzodiazepines) or other medicines.
- Chronic pain or irritable bowel syndrome.
- Rare tumors that produce “fight or run ” reaction hormones”.
Sometimes, anxiety can be a side effect of some medications.
Anxiety may be caused by a hidden disease in the following cases:
- If you have no blood relatives (such as parents or siblings) who have anxiety disorders.
- If you did not have an anxiety disorder in childhood.
- If you do not avoid certain things or situations because of anxiety.
- If anxiety occurs suddenly without being related to life events or if you have no history of anxiety.
- The following factors may increase your risk of having an anxiety disorder:
- Trauma. Children who suffered abuse or trauma or who witnessed traumatic events are at greater risk of developing an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Adults who go through a traumatic event may also have anxiety disorders.
- Stress due to illness. Having a health problem or a serious illness can cause great concern about issues such as treatment and the future.
- Stress buildup. An important event or an accumulation of smaller stressful situations in life can lead to excessive anxiety, such as the death of a relative, stress at work, or continuing concerns about the financial situation.
- Personality. People with certain types of personality are more likely to experience anxiety disorders than others.
- Other mental disorders. People who have other mental disorders, such as depression, often also have an anxiety disorder.
- Having blood relatives who have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can be hereditary.
- Drugs or alcohol. Drug or alcohol abuse or abstinence may cause or worsen anxiety.
Anxiety disorder doesn’t just mean being worried. It may also cause, or worsen, other mental and physical disorders, such as:
- Depression (which often occurs along with an anxiety disorder) or other mental health disorders
- Substance abuse
- Sleep problems (insomnia)
- Digestive or intestinal problems
- Headache and chronic pain
- Social isolation
- Problems at school or work
- Poor quality of life
It is not possible to predict with certainty what causes a person to develop an anxiety disorder, but you can take steps to reduce the impact of symptoms if you feel anxious:
- Call for help right away. Anxiety, like many other mental disorders, can be more difficult to treat if you delay.
- Stay active. Participate in activities that you enjoy and make you feel good about yourself. Enjoy social interaction and your affections, which can ease your worries.
- Avoid alcohol or drug use. Alcohol and drug use can cause anxiety or make it worse. If you’re addicted to any of these substances, the idea of quitting can make you feel anxious. If you can’t stop using on your own, see your doctor or find a support group to help.