Almost every one of us feels nervous now and then. It’s a normal emotion. But you may experience persistent anxiety, seemingly uncontrollable, and overwhelming fright of everyday situations which can be disabling. When anxiety hinders your daily activities, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are a different group of mental illnesses and can keep you from going forward with your life normally. These are real, serious medical conditions just like physical disorders.
People with anxiety disorders often have deep, excessive and persistent fear about everyday situations. With time and good self-care, the condition can usually get better. So it is important to keep an eye on the warning signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders to know whether it has affected you or not.
So let us understand this disease in detail.
The word anxiety is derived from the Latin word “anxietas” which means (trouble, upset) and it comprises behavioral and cognitive responses to the perception of danger.
Prevalence of Anxiety Disorder in India
According to the psychiatric epidemiological studies conducted in India, neurotic disorders tend to have a prevalence rate of 20.7%. Anxiety neurosis is prevalent in 16.5 per thousand individuals, with a marginally higher prevalence in urban settings than in rural settings (106:100). Globally, the current prevalence is reported to be 7.3%.
Types of Anxiety Disorder
The types of anxiety disorder fall into the following major categories
- Panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia): Do you experience sudden attacks of anxiety and devastating fear for several minutes? If so, you may have a type of anxiety disorder called panic disorder. The disorder, also known as a panic attack, is characterized by a fear of tragedy or of losing control even when there is no real danger.
- Agoraphobia without panic: Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that displays fear of circumstances where escape could be difficult, or in which there is unavailability of help if something bad were to happen. The condition may involve a fear of crowds, bridges or of being outside alone.
- Social phobia: This type of anxiety disorder includes extreme fear of certain social unfamiliar situations. These situations may be so frightening that you get anxious which can be disrupting your life.
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): This type of anxiety disorder is characterized by long-lasting anxiety, inflated worry, and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke.
- Specific phobia: Specific phobia is a type of anxiety disorder due to an irrational fear of or hatred to something. Specific phobia also includes:
- Animal phobias: Phobia due to animals like dogs, snakes, cockroaches, spiders
- Natural environment phobias: Most of the people have a phobia of heights, storms, water.
- Phobia due to blood-injection-injury: These include fear of seeing blood, receiving a blood test.
- Situational phobias: Phobia due to airplanes, elevators, driving, enclosed places
Anxiety Disorder, Risk Factors
There are some risk factors for each type of anxiety disorder. Some of them include:
- Behavioral inhibition in childhood
- Exposure to stressful and negative life or environmental events during early childhood or adulthood
- A prolonged history of mental illnesses
- Chronic physical health conditions like thyroid problems, heart arrhythmias, caffeine or other substances/medications, can also trigger aggravate anxiety symptoms
Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
The symptoms of anxiety often develop gradually over time and many times it may be hard to understand. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Physical: These include panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, rapid heartbeats, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, and edgy
- Psychological: Constant excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking
- Behavioral: Avoiding some situations that make you feel nervous which can ultimately impact on study, work or social life
Diagnosis of Anxiety Disorder
The diagnosis for anxiety disorder is important to decide the line of treatment. Though there are no specific laboratory tests which diagnose anxiety disorders, the doctor might use various diagnostic tests to rule out physical illness as the cause of the symptoms. If no physical illness is witnessed, the doctor can refer you to a psychiatrist or mental health professional.
Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interview and assessment session to evaluate anxiety disorder.
Anxiety Disorder Treatment
Anxiety disorders, being the most prevalent psychiatric disorders, are associated with a high burden of illness. Fortunately, they are treatable. Most of the people experience meaningful symptom relief and improvement in their quality of life with professional care.
The treatment for anxiety disorders can be conducted in the following ways:
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It’s a form of psychotherapeutic treatment that explores the patterns of thinking that leads to inappropriate responses in an individual. It assumes that anxiety disorder is due to inaccurate or negative thinking that causes dysfunctional behavior.
The therapy addresses the emotions and thoughts that cause counterproductive reactions and inspects the relationship between those thoughts and behaviors.
2. Brain Stimulation Therapy
This therapy targets the regions of the brain that influence stress, anxiety, mood, and fear response. The therapy is a procedure that uses electrodes or magnets in the brain to treat some serious mental disorders that do not respond successfully to commonly used psychotherapies and medications.
The procedures include several types of brain stimulation therapies like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS),
Medication treatment of anxiety disorder is generally safe and effective. However, it often takes time and patience to find a suitable drug that works best for you. Before taking these, it is advisable to consult a psychiatrist for severe or treatment-resistant anxiety disorders. Medications include:
- Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): These antidepressants increase the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine (a chemical is also known as a stress hormone) by inhibiting their reabsorption into brain cells. These include fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, sertraline, citalopram, paroxetine, venlafaxine, milnacipran, desvenlafaxine, levomilnacipran, duloxetine, and escitalopram.
- Benzodiazepines: These gamma-aminobutyric acid GABA neurotransmitter drugs are typically fast-acting medications especially in patients with a history of addiction. The prescribed benzodiazepines include lorazepam, clonazepam, and diazepam.
- Beta-Blockers: Beta-blockers are typically only used to treat infrequent, performance-related episodes of social anxiety. Beta-blockers like atenolol and propranolol may be prescribed to patients with social anxiety disorder specifically in performance situations.
4. Ayurvedic treatment
In Ayurveda, techniques of treating mental disorders include psychotherapy, physiotherapy, shock therapy, drug treatment, hypnotism, and religious discourses by sages.
The use of medicinal herbs like Centella asiatica (brahmi) with catechu, honey, and powdered roots of serpentine, sankhapuspi (Convolvulus pluricaulis), and ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and tulasi (Ocimum sanctum) has been reported.
5. Yoga and meditation
It is well known that yoga helps in the management of stress and anxiety. Various studies have demonstrated immediate psychological effects in decreasing anxiety.
Yoga modulates the stress response as it reduces the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and eases respiration. Yoga and meditation also promotes neuroplastic changes in the executive brain system.
Thus, if you experience an anxiety disorder, it’s important to seek medical attention. Always get a clear picture of your condition from your doctor. You can easily cope up with the condition by following proper treatment and support.
Related Read: Dealing With Severe Anxiety? This is For You
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