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.
Table of Contents
Anxiety Disorder Definition
Compared to other psychiatric disorders, anxiety disorders remain one of the most common. Most individuals experiencing the condition may also notice symptoms that relate to anxiety. Despite the prevalence of these disorders, they remain underrecognized.
When someone develops a health anxiety disorder, they avoid circumstances that may worsen the symptoms. What are the symptoms of anxiety disorders, and how do health experts reach an appropriate diagnosis? Keep reading to learn more about the condition.
What Are Anxiety Disorders?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), anxiety disorders are conditions that share symptoms of excessive fear and anxiety. The condition also describes individuals experiencing added behavioral disturbances.1
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. People experiencing the condition also avoid any activity that may worsen the condition’s symptoms.
Recognizing these Disorders
Individuals with anxiety may often observe physical symptoms of anxiety. Examples of such signs include profuse sweating and a fast heartbeat.
When an individual has an anxiety disorder, it may extend as long as six months. However, it is advisable to seek professional help before that precise time. In most cases, anxiety relates to a certain situation, medical history, or physical and mental wellness. Hence, they occur in different timelines for different individuals.
In most cases, anxiety will not last if the event responsible for the condition gets better. When such occurs, individuals are likely to know how to handle their anxieties. Note that it is more difficult to handle symptoms in the case of anxiety. Hence, the severity may require different treatment methods.
What is the Most Common Anxiety Disorder?
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most prevalent type. Individuals with GAD often feel excessive fear and worry over different events or activities. The persistent worry from symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder affects a person’s daily activities. In most cases, it is also followed by physical symptoms like feeling on edge, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating.
Most individuals with GAD often worry about basic happenings like family responsibilities, job obligations, health, and minor issues. Some other symptoms of the condition include overthinking plans and solutions to possible negative outcomes and struggling with any uncertainty. There are 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 of America, with over 19.1% of adults with the condition. Based on the population of the US, 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
What Causes Anxiety Disorders?
Most of the causes of anxiety disorders in young adults or older individuals are due to a build-up of stressful life occurrences. Here are some of the notable causes:
- Pregnancy: Due to the hormonal changes during pregnancy, it may affect the chemicals in the mother’s brain Mapping. 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
Since the major cause of anxiety may vary from person to person. Here are some of the risk factors of the condition:
- 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 family occurrences.
Anxiety disorders can result in different complications without immediate or early medical attention. Some of these mental and physical complications are:
- 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
Agoraphobia is when someone avoids places or situations that make them feel trapped. People with the condition may also avoid places that cause them to panic or feel helpless. 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.3
Unlike some other mental health conditions, agoraphobia may include facing your fears to treat it. Common symptoms of the condition include fear of enclosed spaces like elevators, fear of a crowd waiting in line, and fear of leaving home alone.
Anxiety Disorder Due to a Medical Condition
People may develop anxiety due to reasons that directly relate to a physical health challenge. Common medical conditions that cause anxiety include diabetes mellitus, parathyroid disease, pheochromocytoma, and thyroid disease.
Developing anxiety disorders is also related to an increased occurrence of cardiovascular disease, cardiac outcomes, or common panic attacks. Some conditions that may present themselves as anxiety also include cardiac illnesses like arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction, and cardiac tamponade.
Similar to developing anxiety due to a medical condition, individuals may experience certain medical conditions due to anxiety. For instance, anxiety can cause an alteration in the body’s inflammatory response. Note that some people may have illness anxiety disorder without having 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.
Generalized anxiety disorder ICD aren’t due to a 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.
A person with panic disorder experiences regular anxiety, stress, and panic for no specific reason. Individuals with the condition typically avoid certain situations that may trigger another attack. Panic attacks are also symptoms of panic disorder. Signs include trembling, hot flushes, chills, and nausea.
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.
Selective mutism defines a condition where a person cannot speak in specific social situations. Examples of such situations include talking with classmates or relatives. Most conditions of selective mutism start during childhood and may extend to adulthood without appropriate treatments.
In selective mutism, the expectation from people 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 speak to certain people like close relatives or friends without a freeze response.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is where people are overly fearful about separation from close friends or family. For example, a child with SAD may worry about separating from their favorite family relatives or closest friends. Such individuals develop a fear of losing their loved ones due to accidents or any other bad occurrence.
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 is a common condition where individuals feel overwhelming levels of worry about everyday social situations. Another name for the condition is social phobia. Individuals experiencing social phobia feel scared about getting humiliated, rejected, embarrassed, or looked down on in social interactions or gatherings. Hence, they have problems talking to people.
Due to the persistent debilitating effects of social phobia, it affects an individual’s ability to work efficiently, learn, or develop close relationships with people. 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
Specific phobias may include fear of specific objects or situations, including heights and nature. In cases of specific phobia, a person’s fear is beyond the normal reactions of other individuals. When a person is experiencing a specific phobia, it is typically due to situations that pose no real danger but provoke high anxiety levels.
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 also develop physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, breathing problems, or profuse sweating.
Substance-induced Anxiety Disorder
The use of certain medications or illicit substances can trigger symptoms of anxiety. In some cases, the condition also occurs due to withdrawal from those substances. Some of the common psychoactive substances that may cause the condition include caffeine, alcohol, cannabis, inhalants, cocaine, phencyclidine, amphetamine, and other hallucinogens and stimulants.
Some prescription medications that cause anxiety disorders include analgesics, anticholinergics, antipsychotics, antihistamines, anticholinergics, mood stabilizers, and antidepressants.
Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
- Excessive fear: This symptom is one of the major issues of anxiety disorder. Individuals with anxiety disorders 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
- 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 that 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 with social anxiety are typically scared of getting judged by others in social gatherings. Hence, the effects typically show in their school or day-to-day activities. Adults may fear judgment at work or in other social settings.
- Worry about self-humiliation: Individuals with social anxiety always worry about embarrassing or humiliating themselves. For that reason, they avoid any occasion that may require their presence or input.
- Identification of flaws: Many individuals with social anxiety analyze or point out their flaws to themselves. Hence, they consider themselves unworthy of certain activities like speaking in a gathering or event.
Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis
The mental health professional may start by performing a physical examination for proper diagnosis. The purpose of the examination is to check and confirm if the signs of anxiety disorder connect to an underlying medical condition or medication.
If the anxiety is due to a medical condition, 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 the health professional, a misdiagnosis will lead to the wrong medications or treatment methods. Hence, following the DSM-5 standards for diagnosis is typically imperative.
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.
JFHI Concierge Approach for Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis and Treatment
At J. Flowers Health, we use efficient assessment tools, including a specially designed interview session with a doctor to reach a proper diagnosis. Health providers at JFHI also consult the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) to follow the accepted steps to diagnosis.
After determining the cause or contributing factor of the condition, our team of professionals can determine if and what type of medication is needed. We also offer psychotherapy sessions, including cognitive-behavioral therapy. Reach out today to start your journey to recovery.