Do you feel like in deep waters when an exam or interview approaches? Do you feel crushed by a sense of uncontrollable nervousness? Well, it could be quite normal, especially if you are able to point to a stressful situation. However, it could sometimes be just the tip of the iceberg; the deeper, hidden portion being something consequential like Anxiety Disorder!
What is anxiety disorder?
Anxiety disorder is a mental health issue, characterized by extreme nervousness, fear, worry and anxiety, hindering you totally or partially from carrying out your daily activities smoothly. The disorder might even make you want to avoid people, places and situations that seemingly worry you!
What are the different types of anxiety disorders?
How does anxiety feel? What are the symptoms of anxiety?
The most common signs and symptoms of anxiety disorder are as follows:
- A heightened sense of nervousness, fear, restlessness
- Rapid breathing and increased heart rate
- Sweating and shivering
- A false sense of danger or some major threat
- Feeling tired and exhausted
- Inability to focus and concentrate on things other than current fears
- Inability to sleep peacefully
- A strong want to avoid situations, places and people who might trigger fear and anxiety
- Inability to control unnecessary worries
- Gastrointestinal and digestion issues
How do you get anxiety? What are the causes of anxiety?
The exact cause of anxiety is not known yet though many studies have been conducted on the same. Influential factors include the following:
- Job stress
- Peer pressure
- Stress from relationships
- Financial stress
- Traumatic incidents in the past (like death of dear ones)
- Medical conditions (like heart attack, hypoglycemia, thyroid issues, respiratory problems, irritable bowel syndrome etc.)
- Side effects of medications
- Family history of anxiety
- Brain biology
- Drug abuse
What is an anxiety attack?
An anxiety attack refers to an episode of extreme fear and worry about a specific incident or situation that might occur.
Is anxiety attack the same as panic attack?
No. Anxiety attack and panic attack have subtle yet significant differences.
Differences between anxiety attack and panic attack
While there are many similar symptoms for anxiety attack and panic attack, there are few notable differences as well.
- A sense of apprehension and distress is common in anxiety attack whereas a panic attack does not present with such symptoms.
- An anxiety attack usually has a specific situation or event triggering it whereas a panic attack does not necessarily have a trigger to point at.
- In panic attack, a sense of death approaching is experienced very often; however, persons suffering from anxiety attacks usually do not complain of a fear of dying.
- The symptoms are said to be less intense in the case of anxiety attacks, whereas the symptoms are severe in the case of panic attacks.
- Anxiety attacks have a gradual onset (often as a result of being anxious for a considerably long period) whereas panic attacks happen suddenly.
What is the difference between anxiety and depression? Are anxiety and depression the same?
Though the symptoms of anxiety and depression quite often overlap, they are not one and the same. Worry and nervousness mark the apparent signs of anxiety while depression is more about utter gloominess and a sense of dejection and helplessness. Anxiety relates to short-term and long-term worries, where future is seen with lots of apprehensions; depression adds a pessimistic tinge to the future, where hopelessness grabs the crown.
Does anxiety cause depression?
Anxiety and depression are very closely related to each other. Studies reveal that having anxiety, especially types like social anxiety disorder, can pave way to developing depression at a later stage. Very often, clinical depression presents with anxiety as a major symptom.
What can anxiety do to your body? What are the physical symptoms of anxiety?
If you thought anxiety spares your body, you are probably wrong. There are numerous bodily symptoms that accompany anxiety. The major ones are as follows:
- Muscle tension and aches
- Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate and palpitations
- Sweating and shivering
- Insomnia and sleep disorders
- Feeling tired and exhausted
- Stomach pain, indigestion and nausea
Can anxiety kill you?
People often have the doubt whether one can die from anxiety, especially while going through a panic attack. Though the attack could infuse a sense of death nearing, anxiety does not solely cause death, unless there is any other underlying medical condition that could prove fatal.
How to diagnose anxiety? Can you self diagnose anxiety?
A mental health professional would diagnose anxiety by:
- Probing more into your symptoms by asking several questions or by getting you to fill a standardized questionnaire like Generalized Anxiety Disorder Assessment (GAD-7).
- Conduct a physical examination to check for signs connected to anxiety.
- Order medical tests (like blood test/ urine test) to rule out possibilities of other underlying medical conditions being the cause of the symptoms.
There are self-assessment test available for diagnosing anxiety. However, it is always advisable to seek medical intervention before the symptoms become severe and uncontrollable.
How to treat anxiety?
There are different types of treatment methods available for anxiety disorder and your doctor might prescribe the method apt for you, based on the intensity and frequency of your symptoms. The common methods include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Highly effective in treating anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder, CBT focuses on identifying the negative thought and behavioral patterns and replacing them with positive and practical thoughts and actions.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): In DBT, the doctor helps you to accept your current state of anxiety and encourages you to develop a contrary outlook, helping you to change the way you feel. Distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotional control and interpersonal efficiency are few of the most significant aspects of DBT.
- Exposure Therapy: In exposure therapy, the individual is gradually exposed to objects and situations that trigger anxiety in him. It is a method that helps to conquer the fear and lead a better life.
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): This method involves the identification of your predominant values in life and then matching your actions with the identified values.
2. Medication: Several kinds of medications help in easing out the annoying symptoms of anxiety disorder. The most widely used medications are antidepressants, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), anxiolytics and sedatives.
When do you need anxiety medication?
There is no hard and fast rule that can tell you when to start taking medications for anxiety. However, mental health experts suggest taking medication at any point where you feel anxiety impairs your ability to function normally. When the symptoms bother you so much that even daily life activities become herculean tasks, you could probably start medication under the supervision of your doctor.
- Self-care: Lifestyle changes can be of great help in treating anxiety. Inculcating physical exercise, meditation and other relaxation technique in your daily routine is highly advisable. Abstinence from caffeine, alcohol, tobacco etc is something that all doctors recommend. Sticking to a healthy diet is also important while you try to get rid of anxiety and its symptoms. Yoga and stress management techniques are some of the most sought after natural remedies for anxiety.
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