Anxiety is very common, in fact most of us have experienced it at least once. For example, speaking in front of a lot of people can make us anxious.
However, when feelings of intense fear and worry become overwhelming and prevent us from doing everyday activities, an anxiety disorder may be the cause.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder.
Also, approximately 7% of kids aged 3-17 experience issues with anxiety each year. Most people develop symptoms before age 21.
Types of Anxiety
There are many types of anxiety disorders. The most common types of anxiety disorders include:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD produces chronic, exaggerated worrying about everyday life. This worrying can go on for most of the day, making it hard to concentrate or finish daily tasks. A person with GAD may become exhausted by worry and experience headaches, tension or nausea.
Social Anxiety Disorder
More than shyness, this disorder causes intense fear about social interaction, often driven by irrational worries about humiliation (e.g. saying something stupid or not knowing what to say). Someone with social anxiety disorder may not take part in conversations, contribute to class discussions or offer their ideas, and may become isolated. Panic attacks are a common reaction to anticipated or forced social interaction.
This disorder includes a lot of panic attacks and sudden feelings of terror. Sometimes it strikes repeatedly and without warning. Often mistaken for a heart attack, a panic attack causes powerful physical symptoms including chest pain, heart skipping a beat, dizziness, shortness of breath and stomach upset. Many people will go to desperate measures to avoid an attack, including social isolation.
We all tend to avoid certain things or situations that make us uncomfortable or even fearful. But for someone with a phobia, certain places, events or objects create powerful reactions of strong, irrational fear. Most people with specific phobias have several things that can trigger those reactions. To avoid panic, they will work hard to avoid their triggers. Depending on the type and number of triggers, attempts to control fear can take over a person’s life.
Other anxiety disorders include:
• Agoraphobia: fear of going outside
• Selective mutism: choosing not to ever speak for long periods of time because of fear
• Separation anxiety disorder: being filled with fear because someone leaves you or you have to leave them,
• Substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder, being fearful or worrisome as a result of using medication or substances.
Different anxiety disorders can have different symptoms. However, all anxiety disorders have one thing in common: persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not threatening. People typically experience one or more of the following symptoms:
• Fearing that something bad might happen or dreading something
• Feeling tense or jumpy
• Restlessness, fidgety or irritability
• Fearing the worst and being watchful for signs of danger
• Pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath
• Sweating, tremors and twitches
• Headaches, fatigue and insomnia (trouble sleeping regularly)
• Upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea
Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Scientists believe that many things combined can cause anxiety disorders:
• Genetics. Studies support the evidence that anxiety disorders “run in families,” as some families have a higher-than-average amount of anxiety disorders among relatives.
• Environment. A stressful or traumatic event such as abuse, death of a loved one, violence or being sick for a long time is often linked to the development of an anxiety disorder.
Physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder can be easily confused with other medical conditions. So it is important to talk to a doctor about it. After ruling out an underlying physical illness, a doctor may refer a person to a mental health professional.
Every anxiety disorder is different, that mean they require different treatments. But there are common types of treatment that are used.
• Psychotherapy aka therapy
• Medications, including antianxiety medications and antidepressants
• Stress and relaxation techniques
Anxiety disorders can occur along with other mental health conditions, and they can often make other conditions worse. So, talk with a mental health care professional if you are experiencing anxiety and any of the following:
• Substance Use
• Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
• Eating Disorders
• Trouble Sleeping