Anxiety disorders are common mental health problems that affect many people. Approximately one-fourth of the population has an anxiety disorder that warrants treatment at some time in their life. Up to another 25% have less severe anxieties such as fears of insects and mice.
How much fear and anxiety is normal?
Fear and anxiety are normal and helpful human emotions that help us deal with danger. However, some people experience excessive and irrational worries that become constant and disturbing, interfering with their daily lives. This may indicate an anxiety disorder. Often there appears to be no apparent or logical reason for the person’s feelings. This may make an anxiety disorder even more worrying to the patient.
Symptoms of Anxiety
The main features of an anxiety disorder are fears or thoughts that are chronic, distressing, and that interfere with daily living. Other symptoms of an anxiety disorder may include avoidance behavior, physical anxiety reactions (nausea, sweating, faintness, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and trembling), and panic attacks or a fear of these.
A panic attack is a sudden feeling of intense terror that may occur in specific situations or for no apparent reason. Panic attacks are a common feature of each type of anxiety disorder. They may be related to a chemical response in the brain, caused by actual threatening or stressful events or by thinking about stressful events. The brain response leads to physiological changes, such as shallow breathing and increased heartbeat.
Panic attacks are frightening. Some people say they feel like they will die or lose their minds. They may avoid situations in which they think attacks might occur. In some cases, this may lead to the developing other anxiety disorders like claustrophobia.
Anxiety disorders can affect a person’s work, study and socialize. There are different types of anxiety disorders. These include:
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- panic disorder (and panic disorder with agoraphobia)
- social anxiety disorder
- specific phobia
- substance use disorders such as alcohol abuse
- post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD
- generalized anxiety disorder
- trichotillomania/dermatillomania or body-focused repetitive behaviors)
Anxiety disorders are distressing and debilitating. They contribute to the loss of educational and employment opportunities and family and social relationships difficulties.
Generalized anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD is excessive anxiety and constant worry about many things. The focus of the anxiety might be romantic relationships, friends, health, work, money or forgetting important appointments. You may be diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder if you find it hard to control your anxiety and if the worry has been prevalent for over half a year.
Supportive and interpersonal therapy can help with GAD. Cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) has been more researched and specifically targets thoughts, physical symptoms and behaviors including the over-preparation, planning and avoidance that characterizes GAD. Mindfulness based approaches and acceptance commitment therapy are implemented at Refresh Recovery San Diego given its evidence-based options to anxiety.