What are Anxiety Disorders?

Monday 23 November 2020
Mental Health

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Jubil Tom, MD
on 28 January 2021

Table of Contents


I. Overview

II. Types of Anxiety Disorder

a. Generalized Anxiety Disorder

b. Panic Disorders

c. Social Anxiety Disorder

d. Separation Anxiety

e. Specific Phobias

III. How to Treat Anxiety Disorders

a. Medication

b. Psychotherapy


Overview

Anxiety is a normal human emotion. There are plenty of things that can make people anxious, including upcoming exams, job interviews, or speeches. Even longer-term anxiety can also be normal and caused by work-related stress, financial worries, or health problems. However, for people that have anxiety disorders, feelings of anxiety can be constant and overwhelming. These feelings can lead to persistent distress and can significantly affect a person’s ability to lead a normal life. 

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions, affecting around 40 million adults in the United States. [1] There are several different types of anxiety disorders. Keep reading to learn more, including their symptoms, causes, and how they can be treated using anti-anxiety medications such as buspirone.

Types of Anxiety Disorder

a. Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is as the name suggests. GAD is anxiety based on common or general activities and situations, including financial worries, family health, or less important matters such as chores or upcoming appointments.

Those with generalized anxiety disorder may feel anxious all of the time and are not triggered by any one thing. Instead, there is just a feeling of ‘general’ anxiety that moves from one thing to another. However, GAD is more than simply feeling anxious because patients feel persistent and excessive anxiety. This anxiety may be out of proportion to the circumstance and cause physical symptoms, including restlessness, concentration problems, sleeping problems, and muscle tension. [2]

A calculator and a pen on top of a bill

b. Panic Disorders

Most people experience a panic attack once or twice during their lives. [3] Experiencing a panic attack, or even having regular panic attacks, does not mean that you have a panic disorder. Panic attacks usually occur quickly and can cause increased heartbeat, breathing difficulties, chest or stomach pain, dizziness, sweating, and other symptoms. A panic attack usually reaches its peak within ten minutes, although it may take a while before the symptoms subside. [4] People that have panic disorders not only have regular panic attacks but live with a constant fear of having another panic attack. It is this constant fear that results in a mental health anxiety disorder. 

c. Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder (or social phobia) is a form of anxiety that causes overwhelming fears and worries about social situations. People with social anxiety disorder may try and avoid social interactions and events. If they do go to these events, they will often endure the event with great distress. Worries may involve a fear of embarrassing themselves or being judged by others. This disorder is not a fear of one specific major social event, such as an upcoming wedding, but is a day-to-day condition that lasts for more than six months. [2]

A group of people having a meeting

d. Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety disorder is very common in children and is a normal part of development. While this anxiety usually subsides once an infant is around 18 months old, it can persist past this age. [5] This disorder may affect people of any age, causing anxiety about separating from another person. Symptoms can include being constantly worried about losing a specific loved one, nightmares, and distress when your loved one leaves your sight. [6]

e. Specific Phobias

People have many different fears or phobias. Common examples include claustrophobia (fear of small spaces), acrophobia (fear of heights), and arachnophobia (fear of spiders). These phobias can cause anxiety or panic attacks when you are exposed to your fear. 

Agoraphobia is a common anxiety disorder in itself. Agoraphobia is the fear of becoming trapped in a place where you will be unable to escape or get assistance. People with this phobia may avoid certain places or situations. Common situations can include public transport, enclosed spaces, large open spaces, or even being outside alone. Agoraphobia can also include being unable to leave a situation or area as you think it may cause embarrassment. [7]

A black and white image of people sitting on the subway

How to Treat Anxiety Disorders

a. Medication

Anxiety disorders are usually treated with prescription medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. There are several different medications that are available to help relieve the symptoms of an anxiety disorder. The most common of these are benzodiazepines, which are very effective but should only be used on a short-term basis as they can be physically addictive. 

For longer-term treatment, your doctor may prescribe buspirone. This medication works by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Alternatively, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants such as Celexa (citalopram), Prozac (fluoxetine), or Surmontil (trimipramine). [8]

b. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling) involves working to reduce the feeling of anxiety and other related symptoms. A common form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT involves gradually and safely introducing you to the object or situation that triggers your anxiety. This can allow you to develop skills and build confidence so that your anxiety symptoms will be reduced when you encounter the situation. [9]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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