Anxiety Disorders Diagnosis and Treatment
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions that result in constant feelings of fear and anxiety. Learn more here.
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Anxiety Disorders: a General Overview
Many individuals who grapple with anxiety disorders tend to experience symptoms associated with anxiety. However, despite their high occurrence, these disorders often go unnoticed or are underdiagnosed.
When someone develops an anxiety disorder, they often intentionally avoid circumstances that may worsen the symptoms. This may lead to feelings of isolation and desolateness, only exacerbating the symptoms and worsening the individual’s overall quality of life.
What Are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions that result in constant feelings of fear and anxiety. Individuals who feel such anxiety levels may find it difficult to work, learn, or attend social gatherings. This inhibits an individual’s prospects both socially and financially.
Recognizing these Disorders
However, it’s important to recognize that managing anxiety symptoms can be more challenging for those diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and in cases of heightened severity, professional support may be necessary.
What is the Most Common Anxiety Disorder?
Most individuals with GAD often worry about basic happenings like family responsibilities, professional obligations, health, and minor challenges.
Additional symptoms of the condition include overthinking plans and solutions to possible negative outcomes and struggling with uncertainty. There are often scenarios where individuals with GAD may feel anxious for no specific reason.
How Common Are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety disorders are common in the United States, with over 19.1% of adults with the condition. Based on the population of the U.S., that accounts for 40 million adults in the country.2
Approximately 7% of children between the ages of three to seventeen experience anxiety-related conditions every year. Most children develop symptoms before reaching their late teenage years or twenty-one.
Even though anxiety disorders are treatable, statistics show that only 36.9% of those experiencing the condition get treatment. GAD, being the most common type of disorder, affects approximately 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the entire United States population.
Regardless of the prevalence, only 43.2% of individuals receive treatment with generalized anxiety disorder medication.
Anxiety Disorder Causes, Risk Factors, and Complications
There are several causes and risk factors of anxiety disorders, including environment and genetics. Like other types of mental health conditions, the causes are unique from one person to another.
What Causes Anxiety Disorders?
Here are some of the notable causes:
- Pregnancy: Due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, it may affect the chemicals in the mother’s brain. Pregnant women with anxiety may experience poor sleep quality, inability to concentrate, and excessive worry.
- Work stress or job change: Anxiety is a common problem in most work environments. However, a toxic work culture, unhealthy pressures, and extreme demands may worsen the symptoms.
- Relationship and family problems: Different problems between partners can cause severe anxiety disorder in both partners or one. Financial challenges in a family or health conditions can also result in anxiety.
Anxiety Disorder Risk Factors
Here are some of the risk factors that may contribute to an individual developing anxiety:
- Environmental: Some environmental factors that increase the risks of anxiety disorders include family composition and cultural upbringing. Studies show a relationship between childhood trauma (environmental factor) and increased risk of anxiety.
- Biological: Some individuals are at high risk of developing anxiety disorders due to genetic predisposition. If a parent has tendencies to develop anxiety symptoms, the child is at a greater risk of the condition. Hence, some individuals are born with higher risks of anxiety disorders than others.
- Developmental: Examples of developmental risk factors of anxiety disorders include childhood parental loss/separation, maternal and paternal attachment, and psychological disorders. Other conditions may also include severe trauma due to turbulent family occurrences.
Without professional intervention, untreated anxiety can manifest in a multitude of ways. Some of these mental and physical complications include:
- Substance abuse
- Low quality of life
- Problems with work or school
- Chronic pains and headaches
- Digestive problems
- Suicidal thoughts
Anxiety Disorder Types
A Social Anxiety Disorder Phobia
Some common instances include being in a queue, standing among the crowd, or sitting in public transportation. Individuals with the condition typically don’t feel safe in public areas with lots of people and often end up spending significant amounts of time at home.3
Unlike some other mental health conditions, many professionals recommend exposure therapy for this condition, wherein individuals are confronted with their fears during treatment.
Anxiety Disorder Due to a Medical Condition
Anxiety can arise as a direct consequence of physical health issues. Common medical conditions associated with anxiety include diabetes mellitus, parathyroid disease, pheochromocytoma, and thyroid disorders.
The development of anxiety disorders is also associated with a higher likelihood of experiencing cardiovascular disease, cardiac events, or frequent panic attacks. Certain medical conditions that can manifest with symptoms resembling anxiety include cardiac disorders such as arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction, and cardiac tamponade.
In a manner similar to how medical conditions can lead to the development of anxiety, individuals may also encounter specific medical issues as a result of anxiety itself.
For instance, anxiety has the potential to influence the body’s inflammatory response. It’s worth noting that some individuals may experience illness anxiety disorder even in the absence of any underlying medical condition.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
In generalized anxiety disorder and unspecified anxiety disorder cases, individuals may feel excessive levels of worry or tension for no apparent reason. People with this condition typically expect bad things and continue to worry about them. Some of these worries may include money, family, health, school, or work.
These conditions typically do not stem from a related medical condition, and the symptoms may last up to twenty-four weeks. Some common signs of the condition include sleeping problems, muscle tension, and an unrealistic view or approach to problems.
Like other anxiety disorders, risk factors of GAD include genetics, brain chemistry, and other potential environmental factors or stressors.
Panic attacks typically last between five to twenty minutes. However, there are scenarios where they last up to an hour. Depending on the severity of the condition, attacks occur at different times. Hence, it is essential to seek professional help early.
In cases of selective mutism, the expectation from others for them to talk creates a trigger or freeze response that causes panic. With time, such individuals may learn to anticipate situations that force them to speak and avoid them. Note that people with selective mutism can often speak to certain people, such as close relatives or friends, without a freeze response.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
SAD typically occurs due to biological or environmental factors. For example, some children develop the tendency to become anxious due to genetics. Biologically, it may also be due to norepinephrine and serotonin, two significant brain chemicals responsible for blood pressure and mood stabilization.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a prevalent condition characterized by excessive anxiety concerning everyday social scenarios. Those grappling with social phobia often harbor apprehensions about potential humiliation, rejection, embarrassment, or being negatively judged in social interactions or gatherings, which consequently hinders their ability to engage in conversations with others.
The persistent debilitating effects of social phobia negatively impact an individual’s ability to work efficiently, learn, or develop close relationships with others. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately fifteen million people have symptoms of social phobia. Doctors may recommend antidepressants for social anxiety disorder treatment.4
Each phobia or fear of those specific situations has its unique terms. For instance, claustrophobia describes the fear of confined spaces, while acrophobia is the fear of heights. People experiencing specific phobias may have problems functioning normally due to those fears. Some individuals also develop physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, breathing problems, or profuse sweating.
Substance-induced Anxiety Disorder
Some prescription medications that cause anxiety disorders include analgesics, anticholinergics, antipsychotics, antihistamines, anticholinergics, mood stabilizers, and antidepressants.
Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
Some of the symptoms common to all anxiety disorders include: 5
- Excessive fear: This symptom is one of the major challenges related to anxiety disorder. Individuals with an anxiety disorder may often find themselves fearful about everyday situations. In some cases, these individuals also have panic attacks.
- Increased heart rate: Feeling heart palpitations is a common sign of the disorder. People often feel that their hearts are racing or fluttering.
- Sweating: Anxiety causes stress, which leads to a rise in body temperature. For this reason, individuals’ sweat glands begin to produce sweat.
- Rapid breathing: When anxious, the person experiences chest tightening, shortness of breath, and increased breathing rate.
- Concentration problems: Due to hyperventilation, many individuals experiencing the disorder easily lose concentration. Note that hyperventilation signifies rapid breathing, causing less blood flow to the brain.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
Given that GAD is one of the most commonly diagnosed forms of anxiety, it’s crucial to be able to identify its symptoms. These symptoms can include:6
- Insomnia: GAD can cause people to develop severe sleep problems and challenges in sleep patterns. Due to the body’s sense of fear and worry, it becomes difficult to sleep.
- Muscle tension: One of the common general anxiety disorder symptoms is muscle tension. Muscle tension causes stiffness and pain in most body areas.
- Fatigue and exhaustion: The hormonal rush from anxiety may cause the body to feel tired. Even after resting, the feeling of exhaustion typically remains.
Social Anxiety Symptoms
Here are some of the common social anxiety disorder symptoms:7
- Fear of judgment: Children experiencing social anxiety tend to harbor a fear of being scrutinized or judged by their peers during social gatherings, and this anxiety often manifests in their school or daily routines. Similarly, adults may experience apprehension about being judged, particularly in work or other social contexts.
- Worry about self-humiliation: Individuals with social anxiety regularly worry about embarrassing or humiliating themselves. For that reason, they often avoid any occasion that may require their presence or input.
- Identification of flaws: Individuals with anxiety often have a distorted sense of self-worth. Many individuals with social anxiety analyze or point out their ‘flaws’ to themselves. Typically, they will convince themselves they are unworthy of certain activities, such as speaking at a gathering or event.
Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis
When seeking treatment, individuals can anticipate that a licensed mental health provider will begin the process with a physical examination to establish an accurate diagnosis. This examination serves the purpose of investigating whether the symptoms of the anxiety disorder are linked to an underlying medical condition or medication.
At J. Flowers Health Institute, individuals will meet with our knowledgeable and compassionate team and be recommended to our Comprehensive Diagnostic Evaluation Program.
Following this, the doctor may order a urine test and other tests to ascertain the illness. Other necessary steps for proper diagnosis include asking detailed questions about medical history and using questionnaires. For proper diagnosis, the medical professional will follow the DSM-5 standards to ensure that the criteria are being met.
Anxiety Disorder Treatment Options
Anxiety disorders are highly treatable. Here are the significant anxiety disorder treatments to note:
- Medications: Doctors prescribe several types of medications to treat the disorder. Examples include antidepressants, buspirone, and benzodiazepines. Choosing the right anxiety disorder medication requires knowledge of the cause or underlying medical condition.
- Psychotherapy: Another name for psychotherapy is talk therapy. It usually involves cognitive–behavioral therapy to teach the individual how to manage their worries and return to daily activities to improve overall well-being.
- Coping and support: Some coping strategies that facilitate treatment include increasing physical activities, eating proper diets, and prioritizing sleep. Talking to a loved one or joining a support group also proves efficient in helping with anxiety symptoms.
Receive Concierge, Cutting-Edge Treatment at J. Flowers Health Institute
At J. Flowers Health Institute, we are committed to your long-term wellness and recovery. We know how debilitating anxiety can feel and we’re here to provide you with the resources to manage and overcome your symptoms of discomfort and regain your autonomy.
After determining the cause or contributing factor of the condition, our team of experts can determine the best course of action for you and your unique needs, circumstances, and goals.
Reach out today and begin healing.