It is normal to experience anxiety from time to time. People with anxiety disorders often have excessive, persistent, intense worry and fear in everyday situations. Anxiety disorders are often characterized by repeated intense fear and anxiety that peak in minutes.
Panic and anxiety can interfere with everyday life, be difficult to control, and outstrip actual danger. They can persist over an extended period of time; you may wish to avoid certain places or situations to mitigate these feelings, and may begin at birth or early adolescence before continuing into adulthood.
Some examples of anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias (social phobia), separation anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder. It is possible to have more than one type of anxiety disorder. A medical condition can cause anxiety.
Treatment is available for all forms of anxiety.
Common signs and symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feeling nervous or restless
- Heart rate increases
- Hyperventilation (breathing quickly)
- Feeling tired or weak
- Problems concentrating on anything else or thinking of anything but the current worry
- Sleeping problems
- GI (gastrointestinal) problems
- You may have difficulty controlling your worry
- Avoiding things that cause anxiety
There are several types of anxiety disorders:
- Agoraphobia (pronounced Ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) is an anxiety disorder in which individuals fear places or situations which might trigger panic and make them feel trapped, helpless, or embarrassed.
- Anxiety disorders due to medical conditions include symptoms of panic or intense anxiety directly related to a physical problem.
- Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive and persistent anxiety, even about routine or everyday issues. It is characterized by excessive worry that is out of proportion with the situation, is difficult to control, and can affect your physical state. Other anxiety disorders or depressive symptoms often accompany this disorder.
- Panic disorder is characterized by repeated episodes of intense anxiety, fear, or terror (panic attacks) that peak in minutes. Heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, or feelings of impending disaster are all possible symptoms. You may worry about having another panic attack or avoid situations where they have occurred.
- Selective mutism occurs when children cannot speak, even though they can do so in other circumstances, like at home or with family members. This can affect school, social, and work functioning.
- Separation anxiety is a childhood anxiety disorder that manifests as excessive anxiety for a child’s development level and is related to separations from parents or other people who play parental roles.
- High anxiety levels, fear, and avoidance of social situations characterize social anxiety disorder.
- Specific phobias cause anxiety and fear when exposed to certain objects or situations. Some people experience panic attacks due to phobias.
- Substance-induced panic disorder is characterized as anxiety and panic caused by misusing drugs or medications, exposure to toxic substances, or drug withdrawal.
- Unspecified anxiety disorder or other specified anxiety disorder is a term for anxiety and phobias that do not meet the criteria of other anxiety disorders but are still significant and distressing.
When to visit a doctor
See your doctor if:
- You worry too much, interfering with your relationships, work, or other aspects of your life.
- You find it difficult to control your fear, anxiety, or worry.
- You may also have depression, alcohol or drug abuse, other mental health issues, and anxiety.
- You believe your anxiety may be related to a health issue.
If you do not seek help, your worries could get worse. Consult your doctor or mental health provider as soon as possible to prevent your anxiety from getting worse. Early treatment is easier.
The causes of anxiety disorders remain a mystery. Traumatic events and other life experiences can trigger anxiety disorders among people who already suffer from anxiety. Also, inherited traits can play a role.
An underlying medical condition can cause anxiety. Sometimes, anxiety symptoms and signs are the first indications of a serious medical condition. If you suspect your anxiety is due to a medical condition, your doctor may order tests to check for any signs.
Anxiety can cause a variety of medical conditions.
- Heart Disease
- Hyperthyroidism and other thyroid problems
- Addiction to drugs or withdrawal
- Withdrawal from alcohol or anti-anxiety medication (benzodiazepines), or other medications
- Chronic pain or Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Rare tumors which produce certain hormones of fight or flight
Certain medications can cause anxiety.
- You do not have any blood relatives with anxiety disorders (such as parents or siblings).
- You did not have anxiety disorders as a child.
- You do not avoid certain situations or things because you are anxious.
- You suddenly experience anxiety that seems unrelated to your life and that you have never experienced before.
If you have these factors, you may be at greater risk for anxiety disorders.
- Trauma. Children who have experienced abuse, trauma, or witnessed traumatic incidents are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Even adults who have experienced a traumatic experience can develop an anxiety disorder.
- An illness causes stress. A serious disease or health condition can lead to significant anxiety about your treatment, future, and other issues.
- Stress builds up. A major event or small stressful situation can trigger anxiety—for example, a family death, job stress, or persistent financial worry.
- Personality. Certain personality types are more susceptible to anxiety disorders.
- Anxiety disorders are often present in people with depression or other mental health conditions.
- Blood relatives who suffer from anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders run in families.
- Alcohol or drugs can cause anxiety. Anxiety can be caused or made worse by drug or alcohol abuse or withdrawal.
An anxiety disorder can do more than make you anxious. This disorder can lead to or worsen other mental and/or physical conditions, such as:
- Depression or other mental disorders
- Substance abuse
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- You may have digestive or bowel issues.
- Headaches and chronic pain
- Social Isolation
- When you have problems functioning at work or school, it can be a sign of a dysfunctional brain.
- Low quality of life
The following is a list of preventions.
You can reduce anxiety symptoms by taking the following steps:
- Early help is important. Waiting to seek treatment for anxiety or any other mental illness can make it harder to overcome.
- Keep active. Take part in activities you like and which make you feel good. Social interaction and caring relationships can help you to reduce your stress.
- Avoid alcohol and drug use. Alcohol and drugs can worsen or cause anxiety. Quitting these substances can cause anxiety if you are addicted. If you cannot quit, you should consult your doctor or join a support group.