Mental Health Awareness Month| Anxiety Disorder: Types, Risk Factors, Symptoms & Management

“It is much okay to be anxious from time to time, it is an expected part of life and everyone does.”

Shareh Wanjau

It is much okay to be anxious from time to time, it is an expected part of life and everyone does. You might experience anxiety in almost every situation; before making a critical life decision, when about to take a test, when about to see a physician, facing issues at work, financial troubles, changing jobs or when meeting new people. Such forms of anxiety come and go. Being anxious is a very normal response to stressing life events.

However, for someone with anxiety disorder, the feeling of being anxious does not go and gets worse over time. This escalates to an anxiety mental disorder when the symptoms of anxiety become larger surpassing the events that trigger them. This leads to the development of symptoms that may directly interfere with daily routine and life activities such as career, relationships or schoolwork.

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

American Psychiatric Association refers to anxiety as a normal reaction to stress that is beneficial to some life situations in the sense that it at times alerts us to red lights thus helping us in preparation and paying attention. The emotion varies from the usual feelings of nervousness to excessive fear or anxiety. Among the mental health disorders, around 30% of adults experience anxiety at some point in their lives. Anxiety disorders are very treatable, with several effective and right treatments and have helped most people get back to their normal lives.

Anxiety can be defined as the anticipation of a future concern and closely related to muscle tension and avoidance conduct.

Fear on the other hand refers to an emotional response to an immediate threat and more associated with flight or fight reactions; either escaping from the danger or staying to fight.

For an individual to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders, the fear must:

  • Hinder their ability to function normally
  • Be out of proportion to the age or situation appropriate

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia. This is when you feel deeply affected or concerned and worried about your day to day social situations. You experience so much worry about how others see you, what they say about you, being judged or else embarrassed in your social errands. Most people with social phobia are more likely to avoid social events. Social phobia can manifest itself in many situations varying from the workplace to school environments.

Panic Disorder. Those suffering from panic disorders are likely to experience more recurrent unexpected panic attacks. These are sudden episodes of pretty intense fear that come quickly reaching their peak within very few minutes. Triggers for panic disorders are fear of a given situation or object; either from the past or imaginary. In most cases, people with panic anxiety disorders live with the fear of the next occurrence thus trying to prevent through avoiding situations, things, people places or behaviors they associate with panic attacks. The attacks can also occur with other mental disorders such as PSTD or depression. During a panic anxiety disorder, one may experience a combination of;

 

  • Shaking or trembling
  • The feeling of being out of control
  • Accelerating heartbeat rate
  • Breath shortness and smothering
  • Sweating
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Chest pains
  • Abdominal pains and nausea
  • The feeling of being detached from people and objects
  • Dizziness and light headed
  • Hot flashes
  • Feelings of imminent doom

Generalized Anxiety Disorder. You experience a feeling of unrealistic and excessive worry, and tension very little or no clear reason in most of the time for a minimum of 6 months. This anxiety and fear cause substantial problems in life such as in schoolwork, social life or work interactions. GAD symptoms include:

  • The feeling of being withdrawn and fatigued
  • Being on-edge or restless
  • Experiencing muscle tension
  • Difficulties in controlling feelings of worry or fear
  • Becoming frequently irritable
  • Insomnia and unsatisfying sleep
  • Poor concentration and mind often going blank

Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Although this is mostly associated with children, there is a possibility of SAD to be diagnosed among adults. You have a constant fear of being detached from the people you are attached to.

Agoraphobia. This is the worry or fear of being in a situation where the escape may be difficult or else might not be available in the experience of panic. Agoraphobia may last longer than 6 months thus causing issues in general functionality. Diagnosis of agoraphobia is only possible when the situation is intensely terrifying and thus affecting daily routine in a big way. When you have agoraphobia you may experience the fear of at least two of the below situations:

  • Life in an open space or an enclosed space
  • Being in a crowd
  • Use of public transport
  • Being away from home alone

Specific Or General Phobias. These are common and include an intense fear of an object, an animal or a situation. Some of the examples include and not limited to: heights, blood, flying, animals, injections, etc

Risk Factors

Image illustration from Verywellmind.com

 

Currently, the causes of anxiety disorders remain un-established. However, some past research has associated anxiety with environmental, psychological, developmental and genetic factors. There is a possibility of anxiety disorders running in families. This suggests a combination of environment and genetic stress accelerating the disorder. Though factors to different types of anxiety disorders may vary, some of the general risk factors include:

  • Underlying physical health conditions such as heart arrhythmia, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, medications and or other substance such as caffeine can exacerbate anxiety symptoms
  • A history of anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses among your biological relatives
  • Behavioral inhibition in childhood or undependable traits of shyness
  • Exposure to frustrating and stressful life events in childhood and early adulthood

Diagnosis and Treatment

The first thing should be a doctor visit to confirm there is no underlying physical condition responsible for the symptoms. After diagnoses, get psychiatric who will work with you through the best treatment. Regrettably, the majority of the people that suffer from anxiety are not likely to seek the help of treatment at all. Most of them end up not realizing the illness having potential treatments.

There are two main types of treatments; medications and psychotherapy (talk therapy) they either go alone or both.

Management of Anxiety Symptoms

  • Give rest time priority. Sleep issues and anxiety go hand in hand in most cases. Plan and follow a bedtime relaxing routine
  • Reduce intake of foods that contain caffeine such as energy drinks, coffee cola, chocolate, etc. these are mood-altering foods and may worsen the symptoms
  • Practice proper eating habits while eating the right types of foods, exercise, talk to people who are close to you.
  • Seek medical advice before the purchase of over the counter drugs or any forms of herbal remedies
  • Be physically active, discover new hobbies. Physical exercise triggers the brain to release chemicals that aid in cutting stress and improving mood.
2 replies
  1. Research planet
    Research planet says:

    i like your work, detailed and to the point, and good work. Many people need this during this hard times. can you give us some hacks to manage mental health during the pandemic? Be sure it will be of help to many. Thank you and keep reaching more people!

    Reply

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