Understanding Anxiety Disorders: Why and How People Get Anxious

Understanding Anxiety Disorders: Why and How People Get Anxious
Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety and anxiety disorders are related, but are different from each other. Anxiety is a normal feeling that occurs whenever something important is about to happen. Anxiety disorder, however, is a persistent overwhelming feeling of distress and fear. It is chronic, unremitting, and can grow worse. Sadly, anxiety disorders are the most common illnesses in America. There are about 40 million adults who suffer from it. Anxiety disorders can be treated, but only one-third of those who suffer from anxiety disorder receive treatment.

The disease, no matter what type, is usually debilitating. One good example is the Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD. In this condition, the person is unable to lead a normal life and is forever worried or tense without valid reasons. Because of this, most people suffering from GAD never relax, so that they are often tired and irritable. Their condition is also coupled with other mental health problems, such as depression. Physical symptoms of GAD include: fatigue, muscle tension, edginess, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, gastrointestinal discomfort or diarrhea, and irritability.

People with panic disorder suffer from panic attacks. They would feel as if they are having a heart attack or are going crazy. There are usually repeated incidences of fear, occurring often, and without warning. Physical symptoms of panic attacks include: shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, abdominal distress, fear of dying, and feelings of unreality.

Those affected with social phobias avoid social encounters and situations. People with social phobia often think that they are being judged by others. Often times, they are also anxious to behave in a way that causes them to be embarrassed or to be ridiculed. Extreme anxiety pushes them to have avoidance behavior. Physical symptoms include: heart palpitations, blushing, faintness, and profuse sweating.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder refers to the repeated, unwanted thoughts or obsessions that reflect exaggerated fears or anxiety. The obsessions lead an individual to perform a routine or ritual called compulsions to relieve the feelings of anxiety caused by the obsession. Examples of compulsion include: repeating phrases, hoarding, and washing of hands.

The post-traumatic stress disorder occurs after a person’s exposure to a traumatic event such as sexual or physical assault. A person with this type of disorder usually experiences flashbacks, have avoidance behavior, especially in those places related to the trauma, nightmares, depression, anger, and irritability.

People with specific types of phobias fear a specific object or situation. Usually, the level of fear is inappropriate to the situation and is irrational. The fear leads to the avoidance of the feared object or situation, causing those affected to limit their life experiences.

Anxiety disorders have different symptoms and treatments. Medications have been approved for the treatment of anxiety disorders. The newest antidepressants are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Anti-anxiety medications include benzodiazepines and beta-blockers. Behavioral, as well as cognitive-behavioral therapies are also utilized to treat anxiety disorders. The focus of behavioral therapy is to change specific actions and use techniques to stop unwanted behaviors. The cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches the affected individuals to understand and alter their thinking patterns in order for them to react differently to the anxiety-causing situations.

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