Anxiety Disorders

Everyone has anxiety in their lives. Anxiety is a natural reaction to stress and although it is usually unpleasant it can be helpful in pushing us to respond to stressful situations. However, when anxiety becomes chronic, interferes with daily life and leads to serious physical discomfort, it can be classified as a mental disorder.

Prevalence of Anxiety Disorder

According to the NIH, 18% of the U.S. adult population suffers from an anxiety disorder during any given 12-month period. Children are widely affective as well - the average age of anxiety disorder onset is 11 years old. Women are 60% more likely than men to suffer from anxiety disorders over their lifetime. Additionally, non-Hispanic blacks are 20% less likely and Hispanics are 30% less likely to experience an anxiety disorder during their lives.1 It is unclear whether these discrepancies are due to genetic factors, cultural differences or simply due to reporting variances (e.g., women are generally more likely than men to seek medical help).

 

Types of Anxiety Disorders and Their Symptoms

A wide variety of well-known mental health disorders are classified as anxiety disorders. Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder are among the most common and are characterized by symptoms common to many anxiety disorder.

GAD

The most general – Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), also known as chronic anxiety – manifests symptoms such as persistent worries, obsessions, resltlessness/edginess, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle pain or tension, tremors, insomnia, sweating, nausea, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and rapid heartbeat.

As you can see, these symptoms are not unique to anxiety disorder which is why it is so important to be diagnosed by a qualified professional.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is an acute condition, characterized by sudden, repeated "attacks" that often manifest physical symptoms. It is the recurrence of these attacks that define "disorder" as opposed to an isolated incident of a panic attack.

Panic attacks may include a combination of any of these symptoms: rapid heart rate, chest pain, sweating, trembling, difficulty breathing, chills, hot flashes, nausea, dizziness, headache, feeling faint, and trouble swallowing.

These symptoms can occur at any time and may be severe enough to resemble a heart attack.

Several anxiety disorders are detailed on this site; click to learn more about different types of anxiety disorder:

 

Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Always keep in mind that an "anxiety disorder" is not the same thing as daily anxiety, stress and worry. Anxiety disorders are persistent conditions and should not be self diagnosed; a full assessment by a licensed mental health professional is required for diagnosis.

The types of treatment used for anxiety disorders varies widely depending on severity and individual patient profile; medical and in-person therapy treatments are both options and often used in conjunction.

Therapy treatments for anxiety disorder include (click to learn more):

Medical Treatments for anxiety disorder include (click to learn more):

Self care for Anxiety

There are many care options that you can take advantage of if you suffer from excessive anxiety. Self-care options can and should be combined with any treatment suggested by your doctor, and can help some individuals regain a sense of control over their lives. Below are some self-care suggestions.

Diet

Anxiety disorders are conditions where the chemical flight-or-fight response may be tuned to react very strongly to minimal stress. Because of this physical component, some individuals find that they become far less anxious when they identify and remove allergens from their diet or eat a healthier diet. Any foods that are hard to digest or process strip nutrients from the system, and may themselves trigger an adrenalin response and contribute to muscle tension.

Avoid refined sugar, soft drinks, white flour products, and sweetened fruit juice. These high carbohydrate foods contain few nutrients and can cause blood sugar to fluctuate wildly . If you are hypoglycemic, this can be especially important as high sugar foods may trigger unpleasant side effects. Whole fruits and unprocessed fruit juices, however, are important sources of nutrients and contain substances which make their sugar content less problematic. Include more whole fruit in your diet as often as possible, and try to get used to substituting it for sweet snacks and desserts.

Fresh or steamed (but not boiled) vegetables and whole fruit should be eaten as often as possible. When eating grain products, try to choose whole grain foods over refined foods. While organic produce and grain may have a higher nutrient content, all fresh whole foods are better sources of nutrition than highly processed or refined foods. If your susceptibility to stress is worsened by a depletion of vitamins and minerals, you can improve the situation by replacing empty calories with useful ones.

Try drinking more mineral water, which can improve the balance of trace minerals. Naturally sparkling water or spring water is preferred; avoid sweetened or artificially carbonated water drinks.

Exercise & Lifestyle

A regular exercise program has proven beneficial for many mood disorders, including anxiety and panic attack. The chemicals released in the body during exercise have a positve and stabilizing effect on mood and a person's sense of well-being.

Participating in an aerobic activity such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling, racquetball, or tennis for 30-40 minutes three times per week is a healthy goal. Exercise can help the production of chemicals in the body that make people feel good naturally, and helps many feel truly relaxed when not exercising.

Be sure to pay attention to your sleeping habits as well. When subjects are deliberately deprived of adequate rest their emotional wholeness begins to deteriorate. If you consistently feel tired, even in the morning, or have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep, consider getting evaluated for a sleep disorder. Waking early is sometimes considered to be a marker for anxiety, but can be caused by other conditions.

Tobacco and caffeine are both stimulants. Avoiding these substances can have a positive influence on the steadiness of your mood and thoughts. While a feeling of well-being may result when caffeine and tobacco peak in your system, they cause your pulse to rise, blood vessels to dilate, and generally put your body in a state of over-heightened alertness. They may interfere with digestion by diverting blood away from the digestive system after a meal, which can create significant physical stress and malabsorption. Detoxifying these substances also strips valuable nutrients out of the body, and this can make the body more vulnerable to stress.

Try to remove stress from your personal life by eliminating unnecessary activities, taking time to enjoy a private hobby, or relaxing more often with loved ones. A counselor can often help you identify the areas of your life that cause the most concern to you, and may be able to help you come up with creative ways to improve your situation. It can be particularly helpful to have an objective opinion if you feel that you need to make major changes in your life to reduce tension, or if you feel that working on your communication skills could help you resolve certain difficulties.

References

 
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