What is Anxiety Disorder?
Everyone, at one time or another, experiences anxiety. Common situations where one might become anxious include: facing a problem at work, the moment before taking a test, or when you must make an important decision. You or someone you know has almost certainly experienced anxiety before making an important decision, prior to speaking in public, when facing a problem at work or before taking a test. For many though, anxiety stems from the ticking of a clock, being out in the open, or even or no reason in particular.
Common anxiousness is temporary. Anxiety disorders are different. They have the ability to cause enough tension, worry, and distress in one’s life that they affect a person’s quality of life. For people with anxiety disorders, worry and fear can seem constant overwhelming. Those who suffer from this disorder cannot do anything about these thoughts and emotions. They have no control. Those who suffer from an anxiety disorder do not have a psychological condition, but a medical one.
A condition may be classified as medical if it meets three criteria:
- genetics are involved in the disease’s progression,
- the anatomy and physiology of the body is affected, and
- medicine must be used to treat it.
Anxiety disorder meets all three criteria. It’s caused by a combination of factors, including changes in the brain coupled with environmental stress. Research studies have determined that the nerve cells in people with anxiety do not transmit information properly; changes in certain brain structures that control memories linked with strong emotions are thought to occur. Current belief is that these changes create neurotransmitter imbalances, thus causing feelings of constant and random anxiety. Additionally, any traumatic or significant event may trigger anxiety disorder in people with a genetic history of the condition.
Just as anxiety disorder has different causes, it has different symptoms associated with the various types. They are centered around chronic, intrusive, distressing thoughts of a worrying nature.
There are four major types of anxiety. These include:
- Panic Disorder – A person with this condition will experience panic attacks, fear and flashes of terror that strike suddenly and constantly for no particular reason. Associated with panic attacks are excessive swearing, chest pain, feeling of choking, and palpitations (strong or irregular heartbeats). The person experiencing a panic attack may feel as though they are having a heart attack.
- Social Anxiety Disorder – Also called social phobia, people with this form of anxiety experience extreme self-consciousness and overwhelming worry about daily social situations. Commonly, there is also a strong fear of being judged, embarrassed, or ridiculed.
- Specific Phobia – This is an intense, uncontrollable fear of a specific object, situation, or belief, such as spiders, heights, open spaces, or even cultural beliefs. A phobia may cause a person to avoid common, everyday situations.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – This form of anxiety is characterized by excessive, irrational worry and tension regardless of a presence of a stressor or a reason to trigger the anxiety.
Anxiety disorders affect millions of Americans, with women having slightly higher rates of anxiety than men. Most cases of anxiety begin in adolescence or early adulthood. Anxiety is diagnosed by a medical evaluation and a physical exam. Psychologists and psychiatrists conduct their specially designed interviews and use separate assessment tools to examine a person for anxiety disorder. Typically, medication is prescribed to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or dietary and lifestyle changes may also be recommended.
Anxiety disorder affects not only the person with anxiety, but also those around that person. If you or a loved one feels that conventional medicine is not working and have not been able to get to the quality of life desired, it may be time to turn to medical research. If you are looking for a personalized and expert evaluation, feel free to schedule a free, no-obligation, and confidential appointment at the Institute for Advanced Medical Research.