Anxiety is a normal state of apprehension, tension, and uneasiness in response to a real or perceived threat. Although anxiety is considered a normal response to temporary periods of stress or uncertain situations, prolonged, intense, or inappropriate periods of anxiety may indicate an anxiety disorder.
The most common types of anxiety disorders are: phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. Anxiety and anxiety disorders are often complicated by the presence of alcohol/drug abuse and depression.
Anxiety has psychological and physical symptoms.
Psychological symptoms may include :
- Worry or dread
- Obsessive or intrusive thoughts
- Sense of imminent danger or catastrophe
- Fear or panic
- Trouble concentrating
Physical symptoms may include :
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Sweating, especially the palms
- Dry mouth
- Flushing or blushing
- Muscle tension
- Shortness of breath
- Lightheadedness or faintness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Choking sensation
- Frequent urination
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feeling of "butterflies" in the stomach
- Sexual difficulties
Anxiety may result from many factors including :
- Appropriate response under stressful circumstances
- Drugs that affect the nervous system, such as:
- Some herbal medications
- Biological factors:
- Brain chemistry imbalances (eg, serotonin and norepinephrine)
- Personality traits
- Faulty perceptions and irrational beliefs (eg, phobias)
- Unresolved emotional History of physical or psychological trauma
Health Professionals will ask about symptoms and medical history. They will perform a psychiatric evaluation. They may also perform a physical exam and diagnostic tests.
Effective treatment usually involves a combination of interventions, including :
Lifestyle Changes :
- Get sufficient rest and sleep
- Avoid tobacco
- Reduce or eliminated caffeinated beverages
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Avoid illicit drugs
- Reduce exposure to stressful environments
- Exercise regularly
Relaxation Techniques :
- Deep breathing
- Deep muscle relaxation
- Engaging in pleasurable activities
Social Support :
- Strong support system of family and friends
- Counseling to improve coping skills
- Support groups
- Psychotherapy addresses thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that play a role in anxiety
- Psychotherapy helps you work through unresolved psychological trauma and conflict
For severe anxiety or anxiety disorder, medications may be needed such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants
To help prevent anxiety, consider taking the following steps :
- Avoid situations, occupations, and people that cause stress.
- If unavoidable, confront and overcome situations that provoke anxiety.
- Find a relaxation technique that works for you and use it regularly.
- Develop and maintain a strong social support system.
- Express your emotions when they happen.
- Challenge irrational beliefs and counterproductive thoughts.
- Correct misperceptions; ask others for their views.
- Work with a psychotherapist or marriage and family counselor.
- Avoid using nicotine or other drugs, and drink alcohol in moderation.
Untreated anxiety can increase risk of more severe, even life-threatening conditions. These conditions include depression, suicide, substance abuse and physical illness.
Risk factors for anxiety include:
- Sex: female
- Family member with anxiety disorders
- Stressful life events
- Ineffective coping strategies
- History of physical or psychological trauma