What does anxiety mean?
We all get worried or scared in response to certain situations in our lives. On a clinical level, anxiety refers to the state of extreme worry, fear and panic the majority of your day. Trivial situations or even in the anticipation of situations that have not happened will trigger these feelings in someone with a clinical anxiety disorder.
Anxiety has various causes. Some major causes are:
- Low self-esteem
- Genetics: people with a family history of anxiety disorders are more likely to experience anxiety
- Chemical disorders in brain
- Environment factors such as harassment, abuse, violence, rejections and death of a loved one
- Drug abuse or withdrawal
- Other mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder.
What are the six types of anxiety disorders?
The six main types of anxiety disorders are:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): It is a long term disorder that makes a person inappropriately anxious in mundane situations. People with GAD are anxious most of the time and seldom remember when they last felt relaxed. They feel constantly worried, restless and find it hard to concentrate on work.
- Panic disorder: It manifests as sudden, intense fear associated with profuse sweating, restlessness, chest pain and a racing or pounding heartbeat (palpitations) often mimicking a heart attack. People with panic disorder may experience anxiety or panic attacks which are extreme and intense periods of restlessness or fear that affect associated with a pounding heartbeat, sweating, trembling, sensations of choking or being unable to breathe, extreme nausea, dizziness and chest tightness or pain.
- Social phobia or social anxiety: Feeling of overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations plague people with social anxiety. A typical variant is selective mutism, which may be often seen in kids who are confident in front of their family, but may not speak at all in school or other places. Though many people may feel anxious about speaking in public, social anxiety involves extreme and irrational fear and anxiousness of facing people.
- Separation anxiety: It happens when a loved one leaves. It is often seen in small children who feel scared or anxious when a parent leaves for work, for example. It can also affect adults who worry that something bad may happen to their loved ones when they are out of sight. People with separation anxiety fear being alone. They may even find it difficult to sleep when they are away from home or their loved ones.
- Trauma- and stressor-related disorders: They are related to the experience of a trauma or tragedy (e.g., unexpected death of a loved one, a car accident, or a violent incident like war or sexual assault) or stressor (e.g., divorce, beginning college, moving).Post-traumatic stress disorder is the commonest type of trauma and stressor-related disorders.
- Phobias: They are excessive fears about a specific situation or object. The fear or anxiety is markedly disproportional to the actual threat involved. Common phobias include agoraphobia (intense fear of being in open, crowded places), acrophobia (fear of heights) and claustrophobia (fear of enclosed places).
How do you treat anxiety?
There are many effective treatment options for anxiety disorders, these include:
- SSRIs like buspirone (Buspar and Vanspar) are used for treatment of anxiety
- Benzodiazepines like diazepam, lorazepam (Valium, Xanax, Librium, Ativan) are the medications to treat short term anxiety. These have a rapid onset of action
- Beta-blockers like Atenolol can especially work in performance anxiety by reducing palpitations.
- Talk therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): It is a short-term treatment designed to help the patients identify inaccurate and negative thinking (thinking traps) in situations that cause anxiety. It can be done as a one-on-one therapy or a group therapy session with people experiencing similar problems. CBT mainly focuses on the ongoing problems in a patient's life. It helps them develop new ways of processing their feelings, thoughts and behaviors to develop more effective ways of coping with their life
- Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE): It is a type of CBT that helps patients overcome the extreme distress they experience when reminded of past traumas or in confronting their fears. It is mainly used to treat PTSD and phobia
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): It involves teaching patients how to develop skills to regulate their emotions, stress-management, mindfulness and healthy interpersonal relationships
- Family therapy: It is a type of group therapy that involves the patient's family to help them improve communication and develop better skills for overcoming anxiety.
- Stress management
- Alternative therapy such as acupuncture and therapeutic massages