What You Need to Know about Anxiety Disorders

We have seen or heard stories about people who are unreasonably afraid of germs, who check if the house doors are locked several times every night, or who suddenly panic for no apparent reasons. These people are afflicted by anxiety disorders. Among the most widespread mental health conditions in the United States, these disorders affect around 19 million adults in the.

What are the causes of anxiety disorders?

No one knows the exact cause of these disorders. But one thing is for sure, anxiety disorders are not caused by poor upbringing, a character flaw, or personal weakness alone. Recent studies have suggested that a combination of factors (environmental stresses, changes in the brain, genetics, etc.) may cause these disorders.

What are the types of anxiety disorders?

There are several types of these disorders: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), social anxiety disorder (social phobia), and specific phobias.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders may differ depending on the type of the disorder. However, people suffering from these disorders exhibit the following general symptoms: uncontrollable and obsessive thoughts, problems with sleeping, nightmares, ritualistic behaviors like repeated hand washing, dizziness, nausea, muscle tension, and palpitations.

Signs and symptoms also include: dry mouth, shortness of breath, sweaty or cold hands and/or feet, an inability to stay clam or be still, tingling or numbness in the hands and/or feet, repeated flashbacks or thoughts of traumatic events, and feelings of fear, uneasiness, and panic.

How are they diagnosed?

When signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders are present, doctors usually begin the evaluation by asking the patient questions about his or her medical history and by carrying out a physical examination. While laboratory tests are not used to diagnose anxiety disorders, doctors may use different methods to look for physical illness as causing the symptoms.

The patient is then referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist in case there is no physical illness. These mental health professionals use uniquely designed assessment tools and interview to evaluate a patient for anxiety disorders.

What are the treatments?

There has been much progress in the last 20 years in treating patients with mental illnesses. While the exact approach to treat people with anxiety disorders largely depends on the type, one or a mix of the following treatment may be used: medication, psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation therapy, and dietary and lifestyle changes.

What are the preventive measures?

Unfortunately, you cannot prevent anxiety disorders. But you can do things to manage or lessen the symptoms. Experts suggest to moderate consumption of such products as coffee, chocolate, tea, cola, and other foods rich in caffeine. Also, consult with your pharmacist or doctor before you take any herbal remedies or OTC medicines. Lastly, seek support and counseling following a disturbing or a traumatic experience.