Understanding Anxiety

Posted by Umesh Vyas, M.D.
August 22, 2014

Umesh Vyas MDHaving occasional feelings of anxiety is a normal part of life. But people with anxiety disorders experience frequent and excessive anxiety, fear, terror and panic in regards to everyday situations. These feelings are unhealthy if they affect your quality of life and prevent you from functioning in a normal manner.  

Common symptoms of anxiety disorders include:

  • Feeling nervous
  • Feeling helpless
  • A sense of impending panic, danger or doom
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyperventilation
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Obsessively thinking about the panic trigger

Some of the many types of anxiety disorders are:

  1. Generalized anxiety disorder is persistent and excessive anxiety about everyday events or activities. The fear is generally disproportionate to the actual circumstance. It’s difficult to control and interferes with your ability to do daily tasks.
  2. Separation anxiety disorder is a childhood disorder that is an excessive amount of anxiety caused by the separation from parents or others in a parental role.
  3. Social anxiety disorder is a high level of fear, anxiety or avoidance of social situations caused by feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness and concern about being judged or viewed negatively.
  4. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is having unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). You feel driven to perform these compulsive acts to ease your anxiety.
  5. Post-traumatic stress disorder is anxiety triggered by a traumatic event by either experiencing or witnessing it. It may begin soon after the event occurs, or symptoms may not appear until many years after.
  6. Selective mutism is a consistent failure to speak in certain situations, such as in front of a group of people or even at home with family or friends. It can interfere with your work, school or some social situations.
  7. Panic disorder is repeated instances of sudden feelings of intense anxiety or terror that reach a peak within minutes. These episodes are often referred to as panic attacks. Common symptoms are feelings of impending doom, heart palpitations, chest pain and shortness of breath.
  8. Agoraphobia is an anxiety about places or situations that might make you feel trapped or helpless. This anxiety will often cause you to avoid these types of places or situations. 
  9. Specific phobias are anxiety disorders that center on a specific object or situation and your desire to avoid it. Things like spiders, snakes, water, blood, heights, flying, germs and closed spaces can be specific panic triggers. Many people have these fears to a lesser extent than those with specific phobias, who may have actual panic attacks and other disabling symptoms associated with an anxiety disorder. 
  10. Substance-induced anxiety disorder is a direct result of abusing drugs, taking medications, being exposed to a toxic chemical or withdrawal from drugs. 

You should see your health care provider if your anxiety is affecting your quality of life. If you’re worrying too much and it interferes with your work, relationships or other parts of your life, it’s time to seek a medical opinion. Your primary care provider can help rule out any underlying physical health issue before seeing a mental health professional. Anxiety disorders can cause depression, substance abuse, physical health problems or suicidal thoughts, which all should lead you to seek treatment as soon as possible.

The two major forms of treatment for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and medication. You may benefit most from a combination of the two, and you should work with your health care provider to discover which form of treatment best serves you.

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