Occasional anxiety is a part of life and feeling anxious in situations that are stressful and challenging is normal. However, when anxiety persists and rather exacerbates with time, it becomes a disorder. Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses that lead to uncontrollable feelings of anxiety and fear.
One of the most common mental illnesses in the U.S., anxiety afflicts nearly 40 million adults and approximately 8 percent children and teens. Most people develop symptoms before turning 21 years old. Anxiety disorder can become disabling and interfere with a person’s everyday functioning in school and at work. It might also affect relationships. Though anxiety disorders are treatable at anxiety disorder treatment centers, unfortunately only about 33 percent patients receive treatment.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), anxiety disorders are now classified under three separate categories. These include anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and trauma and stressors-related disorders. All these three categories have different disorders under them.
This subhead categorizes disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder or social phobia, separation anxiety disorder, selective mutism, specific phobias, and agoraphobia.
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): People battling GAD worry too much on an everyday basis. They worry about work, their personal health, social interactions and routine circumstances. The constant fear and anxiety they feel might interfere with their school or work outcomes and even affect their relationships. When this irrepressible worry is observed for a minimum period of six months, it may be diagnosed as GAD.
The symptoms of GAD are manifested as feelings of restlessness, irritability, lack of concentration, muscle tension, getting easily tired, difficulty in controlling feelings of worry and disturbed sleep patterns.
- Panic disorder: People with panic disorder experience persistent and unanticipated panic attacks several times during a fixed time interval. Panic attack can lead to feelings of fear that can peak within a few minutes. Attacks can be unexpected or arise due to a trigger which could be an object, a person or a situation. People struggling with a panic disorder might devote a lot of time in avoiding situations and behaviors that may trigger an attack.
During a panic attack, a person might experience heart palpitations, elevated heartbeat, and an increased heart rate. A person might tremble and sweat a lot. They may feel choked and totally out of control.
- Social anxiety disorder or social phobia: People struggling with social anxiety disorder might fear social interactions and falsely believe that they are being judged. This fear can be so crippling that one might start avoiding people and start living in a shell of their own.
Fear of interacting with people can be manifested as sweating, trembling and even panic attacks. These people put a lot of effort in avoiding people and situations that exacerbate their anxiety. They often face difficulty in making and retaining friends and acquaintances.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
This subhead contains disorders like OCD, hoarding disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, excoriation disorder, and trichotillomania.
- Obsessive compulsive disorder: A person dealing with an OCD obsessively completes some rituals or behavior and repeats them often. Such an obsession can affect their work, relationships, and day-to-day life. Those with OCD might think that something bad will happen if they do not perform their rituals. They are unable to control their behaviors, thoughts, or the rituals they follow diligently.
Trauma and stressor-related disorders
This classification includes disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder, adjustment disorder, disinhibited social engagement disorder, reactive attachment disorder, and acute stress disorder.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A mental illness, PTSD manifests when one experiences or witnesses any traumatic event. The traumatic event might cause nightmares, flashbacks, extreme anxiety, and irrepressible thoughts about the event. Millions of people across the globe experience traumatic events and find it hard to adjust to their surroundings or cope for a few days. However, when the disturbing symptoms persist for months or even years, one might be diagnosed with PTSD.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder
Even though each anxiety disorder might have distinct symptoms, some of the common symptoms are feelings of intense fear and dread. Other symptoms common to all anxiety disorders include:
- Muscle tension
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Partial or full insomnia
- Inability to stay calm or still
- Cold and sweaty hands, dry mouth
- Feelings of pain, fear, and uneasiness
- Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
- Abnormal behaviors like repeatedly washing hands
- Inability to control one’s thoughts, recurring thoughts, and flashbacks
Those with GAD may also suffer from additional symptoms like phobias, depression, panic disorder, substance abuse, and PTSD.
Sometimes, a person struggling with an anxiety disorder might also be suffering from another coexisting mental illness or other problems like substance abuse. When a mental illness is accompanied by substance abuse, it is known as dual-diagnosis. All the conditions must be treated simultaneously at mental health treatment centers for the complete recovery of a person.
Causes of Anxiety Disorder
An anxiety disorder occurs due to a blend of several triggers. Things like genetics, biology, environment, trauma, and life experiences can act as factors affecting an individual leading to the development of this disorder. Those with a family history of anxiety disorders often have a higher risk of developing it themselves. Additionally, women are more prone to anxiety disorders compared to men.
Two parts of the brain play an important part in developing an anxiety disorder: the amygdale (the communication center of the brain) and the hippocampus (the memory storage center of the brain). The amygdale passes any fear messages to parts of the brain which trigger the fight-or-flight response. Additionally the emotional memory part of the amygdale plays a role in anxiety disorders as it can send false signals of trouble when there are none. Conversely, the hippocampus stores memories that let a person know when to be afraid. In some cases, researchers have found abnormalities in the structure of these brain parts in those diagnosed with anxiety disorders.
Diagnosis of Anxiety Disorder
It is important that those with a possible anxiety disorder visit a treatment center for anxiety disorder in order to identify and diagnose any underlying causes for different symptoms. Mention all existing symptoms to the doctor in order to help them identify the problem. It may take some people a longer time to get an accurate diagnosis as many people would go to the doctor for help with physical symptoms without recognizing that these may indicate a mental illness.
In order to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder a person must:
- Have extreme anxiety or worry which is not due to another mental health condition
- The anxiety or worry must disrupt their daily life activities
- The anxiety or worry must last at least six months
Additionally, the person must also have at least three of the following symptoms:
- Muscle tension
- Trouble sleeping
- Lack of concentration
As there is no specific lab test to diagnose an anxiety disorder, a doctor might conduct physical examinations and mental interrogations to determine the disorder. This is essential as a timely diagnosis is the basis of an effective treatment for anxiety disorders.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorder
The anxiety disorder treatment centers will normally incorporate medications and psychotherapy in the treatment protocol. Medications usually include anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills. A patient should stay in constant touch with their doctor about changes and side effects while on these medications as they can take a while to work. Some people may also need beta blockers in order to treat the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help treat anxiety disorders successfully. This is because CBT changes how one thinks about and responds to anxiety.
Invictus Health Group and Anxiety Disorder
Invictus Health Group offers its patients evidence-based treatment for anxiety disorders using a combination of medications, individual, and group psychotherapy through its partnerships with treatment centers across Southern California. Patients are given a confidential assessment in order to provide them with the best possible program that is individualized to their needs and addresses any and all underlying conditions in order to prevent a relapse.
For more information on how our inpatient mental health treatment centers can help you or a loved one manage their mental health, admissions process, and financial options, call our helpline 866-548-0190 and speak to a member from our admission team. You can also chat online with a representative for further assistance.