All of us feel anxious sometimes; it is common to feel anxious before an interview, a long journey or a major presentation at work. This is normal and passes in due course of time. Anxiety disorders, however, are not temporary and do not go away, worries and fears stay for long periods of time, and can worsen. These disorders can affect daily life, family relationships, color social interactions, and impact performance at work.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive fear or anxiety that is difficult to control and substantially impacts daily functioning. These disorders can range from specific fears (called phobias), such as the fear of flying or public speaking, to more generalized feelings of worry and tension. Specific anxiety disorders, which would require a diagnosis by a mental health professional, include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
Signs and Symptoms
Although symptoms for general anxiety disorders, panic attacks and social phobia may be somewhat different for each particular kind of anxiety disorder, they cluster around unusual fear and worry which may last for several months and years. Other symptoms may include:
- Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
- Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
- Heart palpitations
- An inability to be still and calm
- Dry mouth
- Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
- Muscle tension
- Problems falling asleep, and excessive worry about small details in life
- The need to go to the bathroom frequently
- Feel constant aches and pains
- Shortness of breath
- Experience nausea, headaches and trembling.
Treating Anxiety Disorders
Visiting a doctor or a mental health professional – Prior to any treatment most mental health professionals will do a thorough evaluation of your health and talk at length about previous treatments you may have undergone.
Medications – Medication does not necessarily cure anxiety disorders, but it often reduces the symptoms. The principal medications used for anxiety disorders are antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers. Choosing the right medication, medication dose, and treatment plan should be based on a person’s individual needs and medical situation, and done under the care of a mental health professional.
There are various forms of counseling or psychotherapy, which can include talk therapy, psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, dialectical behavior therapy or a combination of the above. Psychotherapy helps people by teaching new ways of thinking and behaving, and changing habits that may be contributing to your anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. It can help with understanding and working through difficult relationships or situations that may be causing anxiety or making it worse.
National Institute of Mental Health: Anxiety Disorders
National Institute of Mental Health: Generalized Anxiety Disorders
Mayo Clinic: Overview of different types of psychotherapy and what to expect