Anxiety Disorder

Overview

 Anxiety is a type of stress that is a normal part of life. However, when anxiety does not go away and begins to interfere with daily activities, it is considered a mental health condition that requires treatment. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There are several treatment options available for people with anxiety disorders, including therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

There are several types of anxiety disorders, all with different symptoms. Some of the most common disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and phobic disorder. The primary symptom of all anxiety disorders is persistent, intense anxiety that negatively affects a person’s day-to-day life. General symptoms of anxiety include feeling powerless, feeling a sense of doom, increased heart rate, rapid breathing (hyperventilation), sweating, trembling, and feeling tired.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive worrying about everyday life, instead of specific situations. GAD can cause difficulty concentrating and is often accompanied by depression and other anxiety disorders. Panic disorder causes sudden, severe panic attacks that include extreme fear when there is no real danger. Panic attacks can cause physical symptoms such as fast heartbeat, chest pain, difficulty breathing, sweating, and numb hands. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which obsession over certain thoughts and fears leads to compulsive behaviors, such as hand washing, cleaning, or counting items. These obsessive habits can get in the way of life because they cannot be ignored. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) involves anxiety triggered by a traumatic event that continues even after the stress is over. People with PTSD may have flashbacks, trouble sleeping, and anger. Phobic disorders involve an overwhelming, irrational fear of something specific that does not pose real danger. There are many types of phobias, including fear of heights, flying, water, and animals. Other common phobias are agoraphobia (fear of public places) and claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces). Phobias cause people to avoid the things they are afraid of; if they cannot, they may have a panic attack. In addition to the major anxiety disorders, people may experience severe anxiety due to other causes, such as a medical condition or substance abuse.

The first step in diagnosing anxiety disorders is a physical exam to check for an underlying medical condition. Doctors will also ask about medical history and administer a psychological questionnaire. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is used to diagnose anxiety disorders according to certain criteria, which are different for each disorder. Continue reading for Causes, Prevention, and Treatment Information . . .

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