A racing heart, shaking hands, dry mouth, and sweaty palms are all signs of stress and anxiety. Everyone feels stressed from time to time. However, when anxiety affects the quality of life, it may be a sign of an underlying mental health condition. As with most mental health issue, there is no known reason why some people are more prone to anxiety disorders than others. Some theories point to brain chemistry, environmental situations, differences in perception, genetics, or a combination thereof.
It’s important to recognize the difference between stress and anxiety so you’re better equipped to handle your feelings. It’s normal to feel stressed from time to time. You might feel some level of stress from an upcoming test or a deadline a work. However, if anxiety is your normal state it could be an anxiety disorder. Being anxious without a known cause can spiral out of control. If stress and anxiety impact on your ability to function, it’s time to discuss your symptoms with your doctor. Anxiety disorders are manageable with the proper care and treatment options. It’s a matter of finding the right options for your needs. Some people find help at brain training centers like Neurocore which offers drug-free, noninvasive treatment for anxiety.
Types of Anxiety Disorder
There are many different types of anxiety disorders. Some people may experience symptoms of one or more type of anxiety conditions. Often, symptoms of depression overlap with anxiety. It’s important to seek support early. If left untreated, anxiety and affect all areas of your life.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
People with GAD feel anxious and worried most of the time, not just in specific stressful situations. Their worries are intense, persistent and interfere with their normal lives. Worries associated with GAD relate to several aspects of everyday life—work, health, family, finances, etc.—rather than just one issue. Even minor things such as household chores or being late for an appointment can become the focus of anxiety, leading to uncontrollable worries and a feeling that something terrible will happen. Some additional symptoms might be things like restlessness, feeling easily tired, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, or trouble sleeping. To be considered GAD, symptoms must persist for 6 months or longer.
Panic Disorder is when a person has recurrent panic attacks or persistently fears having one for more than a month. These intense, overwhelming panic attacks combine with uncontrollable feelings of anxiety and a range of physical symptoms. Symptoms of a panic attack, which vary depending on the person, include: rapid heartbeat, feeling weak or dizzy, tunnel vision, trembling, sense of terror, breathing difficulties, feeling of losing control. Some people mistake a panic attack for a heart attack or think they are about to die.
Phobias are when someone imagines irrationally exaggerated danger in reaction to a stimulus (object, activity, or situation). The panic, fear, or terror they experience is out of proportion to the actual threat. For some people, the sight of their phobic stimulus on TV, or even the mere thought of it, is enough to cause a reaction. Most people who have specific phobias know that their fears are irrational; however, they have no control over the anxiety that stems from the phobia. People with specific phobias often experience panic attacks with nausea, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, and perspiration. People can experience more than one phobia throughout their lives.
Specific phobias are usually divided into five categories:
- Animal Phobias, such as fear of dogs or fear of spiders
- Natural Environment Phobias, such as fear of thunder or fear of heights
- Blood-injection-injury Phobias arise from seeing blood, anticipating an injection, etc.
- Situational Phobias, such as fear of elevators or fear of driving
- Other Specific Phobias, such as fear of vomiting or fear of clowns
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder is sometimes classified as a type of phobia. For people with this disorder, social situations can lead to intense anxiety. They may fear being judged, criticized, laughed at or humiliated in front of others, even in ordinary, everyday situations. For example, the prospect of eating in front of others at a restaurant can be daunting for some people with social phobia. For some, specific social situations trigger anxiety such as having to give a speech or being observed and evaluated at work. For other people, anxiety may strike during any daily social interaction like having a meal with friends or making small talk.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is a broader condition which includes anxiety. Contrary to stereotypes, OCD is not about being clean or tidy. A person with OCD has ongoing intrusive thoughts and fears that cause uncontrolled anxiety. Although the person may acknowledge their thoughts as silly, they often feel the uncontrollable need to relieve their anxiety through compulsive behaviors or rituals. For example, a fear of germs may lead to the compulsive use of hand sanitizer.
Possible Treatment Options
An effective treatment plan can help control your anxiety. There is a range of management and support options for various anxiety conditions such as cognitive behavior therapy, medication, and anxiety management strategies. Usually, it takes a combination of treatments to get anxiety under control. The right combination depends on the patient and specific type of anxiety. Because anxiety supports are so individualized, it’s important to talk to a health professional about your specific needs.
For mild symptoms, your therapist might suggest lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and meditation. There are also online e-therapy options that work for many people many are anonymous and easy to access from the privacy of your own home. Moderate to severe anxiety usually improve with psychological or medical treatment. Remember, anxiety is manageable with the right treatment.