Anxiety Disorders – All You Need To Know

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Most people experience occasional stress and this is a normal emotional reaction. Stress is considered abnormal when it affects our daily activities and prevents us from having a normal life. Anxiety disorders fall into several categories. They all have anxiety as a common symptom and are all treated with psychotherapy and medication.

What is anxiety?

When people are stressed, they feel fear and tension. In addition, they may have one or more unpleasant physical symptoms, such as tachycardia, palpitations, malaise, tremors, sweating, dry mouth, chest pain, headache, and rapid breathing. Physical symptoms are caused in part by the brain, which sends many messages through the nerves to various parts of the body. The brain secretes hormones and chemicals called neurotransmitters. These substances cause the physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety.

Normal and abnormal anxiety

Normal anxiety is an emotional response that is beneficial to any individual. For example, most people would feel anxious if threatened by an attacker, or before a major fight. Anxiety is considered abnormal when it is disproportionate to the stressful situation the person has experienced or when it occurs for no apparent reason.

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

While there are several conditions in which anxiety is a major symptom, anxiety disorders are mood disorders with a common symptom of pathological stress and other symptoms, based on which they are divided into different types. The main types of anxiety disorders are:

1. Post-traumatic anxiety disorder

A serious injury, such as a serious attack or an accident that endangered a person’s life, is likely to cause post-traumatic anxiety disorder. The symptoms last for at least a month and often much longer. Stress is just one of the symptoms. The main symptom of post-traumatic anxiety disorder is the very painful feeling of reliving the traumatic experience. The person tries to avoid thoughts, feelings, conversations, places, people, activities or anything else that may trigger the memories or thoughts of the trauma. The feeling that the person is emotionally numb makes it difficult to feel feelings of love. The outlook for the future is often pessimistic. The person may lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.

Anxiety Disorder

2. Social Phobia

Social Phobia (social anxiety disorder) is perhaps the most common type of phobia. People with social phobia experience a strong fear of what those around them may think of themselves or how they may be judged. Therefore, they experience fear for any contact with other people or for speaking in public in formal or informal circumstances in front of other people, especially strangers. They experience fear that they will act awkwardly and that their actions will be judged by others as foolish, inadequate, stupid, reckless, etc. This fact dramatically changes the quality of life of these people.

3. Panic Disorder

The term panic disorder refers to recurrent panic attacks. A panic attack is an intense attack of anxiety and fear that occurs suddenly, without warning and without obvious causes. The physical symptoms of anxiety during a panic attack are very intense and include: tachycardia, tremor, shortness of breath, chest pain, fainting, and numbness. Each panic attack usually lasts 5-10 minutes, but sometimes up to two hours.

4. Generalized Anxiety Disorder

People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder experience intense anxiety, fear, anxiety and tension most days and this condition persists for long periods of time. Their anxiety is related to ordinary tasks such as home or work, but even trivial matters. In addition, there is usually nervousness, fatigue, irritability, muscle tension and sleep problems.

5. Obsessive – compulsive disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by repetitive obsessions, compulsions, or both. Obsessions are the repetitive thoughts, images or impulses that cause anxiety or disgust. Common obsessions are the fear of possible infections, germs, disasters, violence, etc. Compulsions are related to the thoughts or actions that the person feels they have to do or repeat. The person usually performs a compulsive act in order to overcome the stress caused by the obsession. A common example of a compulsive act is repeated hand washing, which accompanies dealing with the obsession of fear of dirt or germs. Further examples of compulsive acts are: repeated cleansing, checking, counting, touching, and storing.

How are anxiety disorders and phobias treated?

The main goal of treatment is to achieve reduction of symptoms so that the anxiety does not interfere with the person’s daily activities. Treatment options include psychotherapy and medication. In any case we should seek the opinion of a specialist.

Anxiety Disorder

Medication

Antidepressants

Antidepressants are mainly used to treat depression, but they also help reduce the symptoms of anxiety, even in cases where people do not suffer from depression. More specifically, they affect neurotransmitters, such as serotonin or norepinephrine, which are associated with the onset of anxiety symptoms. Antidepressants do not have a direct effect on the patient, therefore their use should be continued for at least 2-4 weeks. One of the most common problems with antidepressants is that patients discontinue them after one week of administration, considering that they are not effective.

When prescribed an antidepressant, the person should not stop treatment before the time indicated by their doctor. Antidepressants are not sedatives and usually do not become addictive.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines (sometimes called mild sedatives) are very common over-the-counter anti-anxiety medications. They usually improve the symptoms; however, they are addictive and if taken for a period of more than a few weeks they may reduce their effect. They may also cause drowsiness. Short-term administration of benzodiazepines for up to 2-3 weeks may be an option for immediate relief of anxiety symptoms, which is safe.

Buspirone

Buspirone is usually prescribed to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It is an anxiolytic drug, but it differs from other benzodiazepines and is not considered addictive. Although the mechanism by which it works has not been clarified, it is thought to affect serotonin, a chemical in the brain that is apparently involved in causing anxiety symptoms.

Alcohol and anxiety

Although alcohol can temporarily relieve people of anxiety symptoms, its consumption should not be considered to enhance the treatment of anxiety, because in the long run this does not happen. Consumption of alcohol for the purpose of calming the nerves has opposite effects and also leads to alcoholism. People who consume large amounts of alcohol (or drugs) in order to relieve their stress, should consult a doctor.

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