7 Signs That You Have Anxiety Disorder Did you know that about 30 percent of adults between the ages of 18 to 54 in the United States suffer from anxiety? Of those 40 million people, only one third will receive treatment, and of those 13.3 million, only ten percent will receive proper treatment. The good news is, if you’re reading this article, you’re one step closer to taking your wellbeing into your own hands and actually doing something for yourself or a loved one! So you’re not alone! I, for once, have compiled knowledge from numerous reputable sources after struggling with anxiety for quite some time. Following the loss of a close member of my family, a stroke of a 24-year-old employee of mine and a series of highly stressful work-related situations, I simply crashed one evening and started having severe, to moderate, to now mild and infrequent anxiety issues. For the same reason of me wanting to help others, you may be reading this in order to get some help for someone you care about. Let’s start, and, hopefully, by the time you have read this article, the reality of anxiety disorders will be a little brighter. 7 Signs Of Anxiety Anxiety usually feels different for different individuals. You may experience some of the signs below, but you may also have other symptoms which aren’t listed here: Restlessness or feeling on edge Being easily fatigued Difficulty concentrating or having their minds go blank Irritability Muscle tension Panic, fear, and uneasiness Sleep problems (difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep) Another thing is, some of the above may be symptoms of other states or disorders. For example, if your blood sugar is low, you may feel fatigued. If you are stressed about something, or if your sleep routine has been off for some reason, you might be having problems with normal sleep. If this is the case, you can usually pinpoint the cause but with the anxiety, the cause is not that easy to establish. In fact, there are quite a few possible external causes for anxiety. Common external causes that can cause anxiety Stress at work Stress from school Stress in a relationship or marriage Financial stress and worries Stress from a severe emotional trauma such as the death of a loved one Stress from a medical illness Side effect of medication Use of various drugs, such as cocaine Experiencing a symptom of a medical illness (such as heart attack, heat stroke or hypoglycemia etc) Lack of oxygen due to nicotine overdose, high altitude sickness, emphysema, or pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the vessels of the lung) Anxiety effects on your body How about the effects anxiety may cause to your body and mind? Sometimes it all becomes a vicious circle so you can’t distinguish the symptoms from the effects. You get more and more upset, agitated, and afraid. Soon enough, a possible panic attack may follow as a result. You may: have a churning feeling in your stomach feel light-headed or dizzy feel pins and needles feel restless or unable to sit still have headaches, backache or other aches and pains faster breathing a fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat sweat excessively or feel hot flushes be grinding your teeth, especially at night feel nauseous need to go to the toilet more or less often than usual feel changes in your sex drive When does anxiety become a mental-health problem? Anxiety may turn into a mental health problem if it affects your ability to live your life as you used to prior to your anxiety episode. Anxiety may become a problem if: your feelings of anxiety are fairly strong or last for a long time your fears are out of proportion to the situation you start avoiding situations that, in your mind, might cause you to feel anxious your worries feel very distressing and difficult to control you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks you find it difficult to go about your everyday life or do things you would normally enjoy If your symptoms fit a set of certain medical criteria, you might be diagnosed with a particular anxiety disorder. However, you can also experience problems with anxiety without getting a particular diagnosis. This refers to mild cases of social anxiety. What Is Anxiety? Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid about things that are about to happen, or about things we only think might happen to us, usually in the near future. Although it’s a perfectly natural human response, when we perceive that we are under threat, we start to feel anxious. Anxiety can be experienced through our thoughts, our feelings and even physical sensations. The majority of people feel anxious at times. It’s a common state when we are trying to cope with stressful events or changes in our lives. The bigger their possible impact, the more anxious we may feel. Sometimes it’s all about hormones. When we feel threatened, our bodies react by releasing hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones make us feel more alert, so we can act faster. They also make our hearts beat faster, quickly sending blood to where it’s needed most. Sometimes the threat is real, like when you are just about to cross a road only to jump back onto the pavement when you realize the light has just turned red. Sometimes the threat may not be rational. For instance, you are about to take an oral exam, speak in front of a lot of people or thinking you’re about to have a heart attack because your heart has missed a beat, or two. Now, after we feel that the threat has passed, our bodies release some other hormones to help our muscles relax. This can sometimes cause us to shake. Our physiological response to real or imaginary threats is usually called the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response. As this is something that happens automatically in our bodies, we have no control over it. However, there are usually signs which indicate that we are becoming anxious in certain situations. What Is Social Anxiety Disorder? People with social anxiety disorder feel a fear of social situations. This is because they expect to feel embarrassed, judged or rejected. It is not uncommon to have a fear of offending or hurting other people emotionally. Symptoms of social anxiety disorder can include: feeling very anxious about being with other people and having a hard time talking to them feeling very self-conscious in front of other people and worried about possibly being humiliated, embarrassed, or rejected being fearful of offending other people around you feeling terrified because other people may judge you worrying long in advance before an event where there be a lot of people staying away from places where there are more people having a hard time making friends and keeping them blushing, sweating, or trembling around other people feeling nauseous or sick to your stomach when other people are around Anxiety risk factors According to studies, not only our lifestyle but also genetic and environmental factors play a role of risk factors for anxiety disorders. Specific factors are: Behavioral inhibition in childhood Being female Having sparse economic resources Being divorced or widowed Exposure to stressful events in childhood and adulthood Anxiety disorders in close biological relatives Parental history of mental disorders What can you do about the anxiety you are experiencing? Diagnostic process for an anxiety disorder often begins with a visit to your doctor. Some physical health conditions, such as an overactive thyroid or low blood sugar, as well as taking certain medications, can imitate or worsen an anxiety disorder. A thorough mental health evaluation will help because anxiety disorders often co-exist with other related conditions, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. From there on, you will get help with overcoming, or at least, learning how to deal with anxiety. Treatments And Therapies Anxiety disorders are usually treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both. Psychotherapy Psychotherapy can help people with anxiety disorders as long as they have trust and positive expectations from the process. To be effective, psychotherapy needs to be directed at the person’s specific anxieties as well as tailored to his or her needs. A possible “side effect” of psychotherapy is temporary discomfort which is caused by with thinking about confronting unpleasant situations and issues raised in sessions. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) CBT is a type of psychotherapy that can help people with anxiety disorders by teaching them different ways of thinking and reacting to anxiety-causing situations. CBT can also help people learn and practice social skills. This is crucial for treating social anxiety disorder, for example. Two specific components of CBT used to treat social anxiety disorder are cognitive therapy and exposure therapy. Cognitive therapy focuses on identifying, challenging, and then neutralizing unhelpful thoughts underlying anxiety disorders. Exposure therapy focuses on confronting the fears that cause anxiety disorder in order to help people engage in activities they have been avoiding due to inability to function normally in a social context and interact with other people. Exposure therapy is used along with relaxation exercises. A study called a meta-analysis pulls together all of the previous studies and calculates the statistical magnitude of the combined effects. According to the results of this study, cognitive therapy was superior to exposure therapy for treating social anxiety disorder. CBT may be conducted individually or in a group of people who have similar problems. Group therapy is particularly effective for social anxiety disorder. Some people with anxiety disorders might benefit from joining a self-help or support group and sharing their problems and achievements with others. Internet chat rooms might also be useful, but any advice received over the Internet should be taken with caution because not all the people who are willing to help you have the necessary skills and knowledge. Talking with a trusted friend or member of the family can also provide support, but it is usually not a sufficient alternative to care from an expert clinician. Stress-Management Techniques Stress management techniques and meditation can help people with anxiety disorders to calm themselves and may enhance the effects of therapy. While there is evidence that aerobic exercise has a calming effect, the quality of the studies is not strong enough to support its use as treatment. Still, a healthy lifestyle will certainly do you good! Since caffeine, certain illicit drugs, and even some over-the-counter cold medications can sometimes aggravate the symptoms of anxiety disorders, avoiding them should be considered unless your doctor says they’re safe to use. So, consult your physician or pharmacist before taking any additional medications. The family can be important in the recovery of a person with an anxiety disorder. Ideally, the family should be supportive but not help perpetuate their loved one’s symptoms. Medication Medication might not cure anxiety disorders but will often relieve the symptoms. Medication can only be prescribed by a medical doctor (such as a psychiatrist or a primary care provider). Medications are sometimes used as the initial treatment of an anxiety disorder. Medications are also used if there is a suboptimal response to a course of psychotherapy. In research studies, it is observed that patients treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication to have better outcomes than those treated using only one or the other method. The most common classes of medications used to combat anxiety disorders are antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers. Be aware that some medications are effective only if they are taken regularly and the symptoms of anxiety may recur if the medication is stopped. Again, your doctor should prescribe the right drug. Not your best friend, your partner or your mom. Anti-Anxiety Medications Anti-anxiety medications help reduce the symptoms of anxiety. They can also be used in case of panic attacks, or extreme fear and worry. The most common anti-anxiety medications are called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are first-line treatments for generalized anxiety disorder. With panic disorder or social anxiety disorder, benzodiazepines are usually second-line treatments, right after antidepressants. Antidepressants Antidepressants are used to treat depression, but they can also be helpful for treating anxiety disorders. They usually take several weeks to start working and may cause side effects such as a headache, nausea, or difficulty sleeping. The side effects are usually not a problem for most people, especially if the dose starts off low and is increased slowly over time. When it comes to taking you off the meds, your doctor will instruct you to decrease dosage gradually, as well. Beta-Blockers Beta-blockers, such as Propranolol and Atenolol, can also be helpful in the treatment of the physical symptoms of anxiety, especially social anxiety. Physicians prescribe them to control rapid heartbeat, shaking, trembling, and blushing in situations which trigger anxiety Choosing the right medication, dosage and treatment plan should be based on a person’s needs and medical condition and done under an expert’s care. Only an expert can help you decide whether the medication’s ability to help is worth the risk of its side effects. Your doctor may try several drugs before finding the right one if he or she decides that they would be beneficial for you. You should ask your doctor about: how well medications are working or might work to improve your symptoms benefits and side effects of each medication you are using risk of serious side effects based on your medical history the likelihood of the medications requiring lifestyle changes other alternative therapies, medications, vitamins, and supplements you are taking and how these may affect your treatment how the medication should be stopped slowly under a doctor’s supervision costs of each medication It will certainly be helpful to get familiar with the risk factors so that you can connect the cause and the effect and rationalize otherwise often irrational fears. Finally, remember that this is only an informational article and do not rely solely on what we have learned together. Do consult a specialist! Take care and think positive!