All You Wanted To Know About Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety and anxiety disorders

It’s been a difficult day at work. Your boss has been riding your back about a project and the deadline is fast approaching. On top of that, you’ve got a cranky partner who is complaining about your long work hours and general absence. The pressure is getting to you and one fine day, all-of-a-sudden, with no advance warning, you start feeling breathless, nervous, scared and apprehensive. The feeling starts to increase in intensity and you feel paralyzed with fear and apprehension. You cannot understand what is happening and you fear you’re having a heart attack.

Beware! It’s your first anxiety attack !

Actually, what you are experiencing is not a heart attack but a form of generalized anxiety. The term anxiety is used to refer to several disorders of varying intensity which interfere with sleep, day to day functioning and with cognitive decision making. There are many different types of these disorders and the same condition may demonstrate different degrees of severity depending on the patient. According to the latest statistics, more than 18%Americans and more than 14% Europeans have suffered from one type of anxiety disorder or anxiety attack ( panic attacks ) in their lifetime. In Europe, Africa and Asia, the anxiety disorder rates vary from 9% to about 16% but there are chances that the rates are much higher due to poor diagnosis and detection.

Classic signs and symptoms

The symptoms of anxiety have an emotional as well as a physical component. However, the actual signs and symptoms vary considerably as a range of conditions are included into the same umbrella category. A few of the most common physical and emotional signs and symptoms that are seen include the following –

• Feelings of anxiety and dread

• Difficulty concentrating and focusing

• Tense and irritable feelings

• Feelings of impending doom

• Constant irritability and restlessness

• Feelings of mind going blank

• Constant feeling of fear and helplessness in situations that should have been normal.

• Sweating

• Nausea, vomiting and dizziness

• Frequent breathlessness

• Tremors, muscle tension and twitches accompanied by fatigue and muscle aches.

• Raised heart rates and high blood pressure

Classification and diagnosis

These classification of these nervous disorders is done by physical and emotional screening. Most psychiatrists use a standardized screening questionnaire called the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale or the Zung Self-Rating Anxiety Scale which is used to classify the condition. There are six major disorders and they are

1. General anxiety disorder,

2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder,

3. Panic attacks disorder (anxiety attacks),

4. Major depressive disorder

5. Post-traumatic stress disorder

6. Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)

Anxiety disorders Treatment

Early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to control any further problems. However, the large range of symptoms can complicate and delay diagnosis.  Treatment options usually include lifestyle changes like decreased stress, self-help and recognition of symptoms followed by cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy and pharmacotherapy. The most common drugs that are prescribed in these disorders include medications like SSRI like venlafaxine, benzodiazepines, MAOI like Nardil and GABA analogues like gregabalin. However, medications are prescribed according to individual symptoms and signs. A few researchers also recommend alternative therapy regimens like regular exercise, improved sleep routines, caffeine reduction, yoga and even meditation to control stress and encourage emotional control. Lifestyle changes like healthy eating habits, increased exercise, and herbs like kava are recommended for better control of the condition.

The exact cause of these disorders is not known and this does hamper the treatment process. Recent studies have showed that the condition may be caused due to a combination of physical changes in the brain, chemical deficiencies and environmental factors which precipitate the condition.

You can read about general anxiety disorder here

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