Anxiety affects an estimated 19 million Americans
and it occurs slightly more often in men than women. However,
anxiety disorders don't recognize age, race or class, so it's
tough to determine who will develop an anxiety disorder. Anxiety
is an overwhelming feeling of a combination of worry, dread and
fear. People with anxiety disorders may find it extremely difficult
to lead a normal life and because an anxiety disorder is a serious
mental illness, it is important to identify the type of anxiety
disorder in order to begin treatment.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several types of anxiety disorders
• Generalized Anxiety Disorder: More common
in women, this disorder is characterized by an on-going feeling
of worry and fear, but the anxiety isn't "focused" on
any one thing in particular. People with GAD may develop insomnia,
headaches, heart palpitations or dizziness. The condition makes
it tough to cope with every day life.
• Panic Disorder: More severe than GAD,
people with panic disorder experience short attacks of terror
and dread that cause difficulty breathing, sweating, shaking,
dizziness and trembling. Panic attacks may seem to strike unexpectedly,
but oftentimes, they occur as a result of a prolonged and severe
stress, frightening experiences and sometimes, after exercise.
• Specific Phobias: An uncontrollable,
irrational and intense fear of specific situations or objects
like heights, flying, spiders, snakes, elevators, etc.
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: People
with OCD have constant thoughts and fears (obsessions) that cause
them to perform certain activities or rituals (compulsions) over
and over again. For example, checking the locks on your car five
or six times before walking away, constantly checking to make
sure the oven is off or brushing your teeth 10 times a day.
• Social Anxiety Disorder: People with
social anxiety disorder have a constant fear of being judged by
others. Because of this, they tend to avoid everyday social situations
for fear they might embarrass themselves or be ridiculed.
• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: This
type of disorder usually occurs after the sufferer experiences
a traumatic or terrifying event. People with PTSD are generally
emotionally numb and often have horrible thoughts and memories
of the event.
Causes and Treatment
Anxiety disorders may be caused by a number of
factors including: chemical imbalances or brain chemistry, environmental
stress and even genetics. Treatments range from anti-anxiety medications
and anti-depressants to psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy,
self-help and a variety of herbal treatments.
Psychotherapy can help patients to better deal
with the disorder by talking through it and understanding it better,
while cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches the person how to identify
and adjust behaviors and thought patterns that lead to feelings
of anxiety. Self-help includes: relaxation techniques, breathing
exercises, exercise, regular sleep patterns, healthy diet, laughter,
brisk walks, etc. While there are obviously no side effects from
self-help, psychotherapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy, many
prescribed medications do have side effects. The number one side
effect of anxiety and anti-depressant medications is addiction.
Addiction to many anti-anxiety medications can occur in as little
as two weeks due to the rapid onset and half life in the bloodstream.
Anxiety disorders cannot be prevented, but they
can be controlled by taking the necessary steps to reduce the
symptoms. Limiting or eliminating alcohol, caffeine, chocolate,
drugs and other stimulants, which can aggravate the condition,