Anxiety Disorders

All of us experience stress and anxiety at one time or another. Anxiety as we know is excessive worrying about future events and stress is the body’s response to current events. Both stress and anxiety are part of being human, but persistent and long-lasting symptoms can impact both physical and cognitive health.

What is Anxiety disorder?

Anxiety describes a group of disorders that cause worry, nervousness, and fear. In fact, anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health concerns. Socio-demographic surveys indicate that 1 in 4 individuals would have suffered from an anxiety disorder in their lifetime, but despite this significant prevalence, anxiety remains un-cared for in a major part of the population. Surveys also indicate that women are more likely than men to suffer from anxiety disorders. Age of onset varies with some forms of anxiety disorders generally seen between 7 and 14 years of age while the others between 25 and 50 years of age.

What are Types of anxiety disorders?

The most common anxiety disorders are:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Separation anxiety disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Selective Mutism
  • Substance or medication – induced anxiety disorder
  • Anxiety disorder due to another medical condition

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

People with generalized anxiety disorder display excessive anxiety and worry about an event(s) or activity for a prolonged period of time. Some Anxiety-related symptoms may include restlessness, fatigue, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and sleep related problems.

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

People with social anxiety disorder (social phobia) have intense fear of social or performance situations in which embarrassment might occur. There is a fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected which often leads to avoidance behaviour. Symptoms may include blushing, trembling, sweating, difficulty breathing, nausea, and dizziness or light-headedness.

What is Separation Anxiety Disorder?

Separation anxiety disorder (SAD), is a psychological condition in which an individual experiences excessive anxiety and fear of separation from home or people (e.g. parent, caregiver, or siblings) with whom the individual has a strong emotional attachment. Symptom’s may include, excessive distress and worry about safety or being lost, refusal to sleep alone or repeated nightmares to name a few.

What is Panic Disorder?

People with panic disorder experience recurrent, unexpected panic attacks with persistent anxiety concerning recurrence. Sudden periods of intense fear may include symptoms of palpitation, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath and a feeling of smothering, or choking.

What is Agoraphobia?

People with agoraphobia have a marked fear or anxiety of two or more situations: for example, open spaces, closed spaces, crowds or public transportation which leads to avoidance of these situations. Symptoms may include, excessive sweating, trouble breathing, rapid heart rate, diarrhea, feeling shaky and light-headedness or dizziness.

What is Selective Mutism?

Selective Mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings for example at school, which may impede academic progression. Fortunately, these children are able to speak and communicate in settings where they are comfortable, secure, and relaxed. Symptoms may include social isolation, negativity, clinging to caregivers, compulsive traits and oppositional behavior.

Anxiety disorder due to another medical condition

Anxiety or panic attacks can also be directly caused by a medical condition, for example, vitamin B12 deficiency, thyroid disorders, low blood sugar levels, heart and respiratory health related illness.

Substance (or) Medication induced anxiety disorder

Anxiety or panic attacks can also be directly triggered by the use or sudden discontinuation of a substance. Examples include alcohol, amphetamines, caffeine, cannabis, cocaine or hallucinogens all of which can produce symptoms of anxiety.

What Risk factors precipitate the occurrence of anxiety disorders?

Risk factors that may precipitate the occurrence of anxiety disorders include;

  • Family or personal history of anxiety or mood disorders
  • Personal history of trauma
  • Parental deficiency or overprotection
  • Isolation
  • Low level of education
  • Certain chronic physical illnesses relating to cardiovascular health or diabetes.

What causes Anxiety? 

Anxiety disorders seem to be a result of a combination of biological, psychological, and other individual factors. Research has indicated that anxiety is associated with changes in activity in certain areas of the brain

Traumatic life events such as the death of a loved one, Separation and natural disasters may also trigger anxiety disorders.

Many anxiety disorders may have a genetic component. Medical conditions such as thyroid problems, low blood sugar levels and anemia can also cause symptoms of anxiety. Use or sudden discontinuation of caffeine, alcohol, and certain substances can also cause anxiety symptoms.

Taking care of anxiety disorders

Many of the relatively mild anxiety situations in response to life circumstances are time-limited. Anxiety management strategies may help without the need for medication.

Anxiety disorders could be managed with:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Dietary restrictions
  • Lifestyle, and sleep habits
  • Mindful meditation
  • Health supplements
  • Medication

Talk to your health care provider before adopting any treatment or management strategies to deal with anxiety. Early detection of symptoms and appropriate intervention can help manage anxiety disorders. Most people with anxiety need to find ways to lower their cortisol levels to lower their anxiety. Our next blog shall talk about the relationship between anxiety and the stress hormone ……  CORTISOL.

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