Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. We get anxious before and during sporting events, when we start a new job or on the first day of school or before a presentation. However, people with anxiety disorders have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.
Symptoms of Anxiety
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble concentrating
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
Types of Anxiety
There are several types of anxiety disorders including:
Causes of Anxiety
The causes of anxiety disorders aren’t fully understood. However, anxiety may be linked to underlying health issues or life experiences. These include:
- Traumatic events: An event or series of events that cause a lot of stress. These events are marked by a sense of horror, helplessness, serious injury or the threat of serious injury or death.
- Medical causes: In some cases, anxiety signs and symptoms may be linked to an underlying health issue. These medical problems may include:
- Heart disease
- Thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism
- Respiratory disorders
- Chronic pain or irritable bowel syndrome
- Rare tumors that produce certain fight-or-flight hormones
- Medication causes: Sometimes anxiety can be a side effect of certain medications. This includes drug misuse or withdrawal, as well as withdrawal from alcohol, anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines) or other medications.
Depending on the severity of your anxiety, a good place to start is by seeing your primary care provider to find out if your anxiety could be related to your physical health. They can check for signs of an underlying medical condition that may need treatment.
However, you may need to see a mental health specialist if you have severe anxiety. To help diagnose an anxiety disorder, your mental health provider may give you a psychological evaluation. This evaluation involves discussing your thoughts, feelings and behavior to help pinpoint a diagnosis.
Treatment for Anxiety
The two main treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and medications. A combination of the two may be beneficial for severe anxiety cases.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. CBT focuses on teaching specific skills to improve symptoms and gradually return to activities you’ve avoided due to anxiety.
There are several types of medications used to help relieve symptoms. Certain antidepressants are shown to reduce feelings of anxiety. In addition, anti-anxiety medication called buspirone may be prescribed. In limited circumstances, your doctor may prescribe sedatives (also called benzodiazepines) or beta blockers. These medications are for short-term relief of anxiety symptoms and are not recommended for long-term use.
Lifestyle & Home Remedies
In addition to psychotherapy and medication, there are certain lifestyle changes that can make a difference in treating or controlling anxiety.
- Physical activities: Exercise is a powerful stress reducer and can greatly improve your mood.
- Avoiding alcohol and drugs: Alcohol and recreational drugs can cause or worsen anxiety.
- Quit smoking and cut out caffeinated beverages: Nicotine and caffeine can worsen anxiety.
- Stress management and relaxation techniques: Visualization techniques, meditation and yoga are great relaxation techniques and may ease anxiety.
- Get plenty of sleep: Getting enough sleep is vital to not only keeping a healthy body but brain as well.
- Eating healthy: Opting for vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish has been linked to reducing anxiety.
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