Anxiety is a normal and often healthy emotion. However, when a person regularly feels disproportionate levels of anxiety, it might become a medical disorder. Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.
When an individual faces potentially harmful or worrying triggers, feelings of anxiety are not only normal but necessary for survival.
It causes a rush of adrenalin, a hormone and chemical messenger in the brain, which in turn triggers these anxious reactions in a process called the “fight-or-flight’ response. This prepares humans to physically confront or flee any potential threats to safety.
Anxieties now revolve around work, money, family life, health, and other crucial issues that demand a person’s attention without necessarily requiring the ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction.
While a number of different diagnoses constitute anxiety disorders, the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) will often include the following:
1. Restlessness, and a feeling of being “on-edge”
2. Uncontrollable feelings of worry
3. Increased irritability
4. Concentration difficulties
5. Sleep difficulties, such as problems in falling or staying asleep
The causes of anxiety disorders are complicated. Many might occur at once, some may lead to others, and some might not lead to an anxiety disorder unless another is present.
Possible causes include:
1. Environmental stressors, such as difficulties at work, relationship problems, or family issues
2. Genetics, as people who have family members with an anxiety disorder are more likely to experience one themselves
3. Medical factors, such as the symptoms of a different disease, the effects of a medication, or the stress of an intensive surgery or prolonged recovery
4. Brain chemistry, as psychologists define many anxiety disorders as misalignments of hormones and electrical signals in the brain
5. Withdrawal from an illicit substance, the effects of which might intensify the impact of other possible causes
Treatments will consist of a combination of psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, and medication.
Alcohol dependence, depression, or other conditions can sometimes have such a strong effect on mental well-being that treating an anxiety disorder must wait until any underlying conditions are brought under control.
In some cases, a person can treat an anxiety disorder at home without clinical supervision. However, this may not be effective for severe or long-term anxiety disorders.
There are several exercises and actions to help a person cope with milder, more focused, or shorter-term anxiety disorders, including:
1. Stress management: Learning to manage stress can help limit potential triggers. Organize any upcoming pressures and deadlines, compile lists to make daunting tasks more manageable, and commit to taking time off from study or work.
2. Relaxation techniques: Simple activities can help soothe the mental and physical signs of anxiety. These techniques include meditation, deep breathing exercises, long baths, resting in the dark, and yoga.
3. Exercises to replace negative thoughts with positive ones: Make a list of the negative thoughts that might be cycling as a result of anxiety, and write down another list next to it containing positive, believable thoughts to replace them. Creating a mental image of successfully facing and conquering a specific fear can also provide benefits if anxiety symptoms relate to a specific cause, such as in a phobia.
4. Support network: Talk with familiar people who are supportive, such as a family member or friend. Support group services may also be available in the local area and online.
5. Exercise: Physical exertion can improve self-image and release chemicals in the brain that trigger positive feelings.
A standard way of treating anxiety is psychological counseling. This can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, or a combination of therapies.
A person can support anxiety management with several types of medication.
Medicines that might control some of the physical and mental symptoms include antidepressants, benzodiazepines, tricyclics, and beta-blockers.
1. Benzodiazepines: A doctor may prescribe these for certain people with anxiety, but they can be highly addictive. These drugs tend to have few side effects except for drowsiness and possible dependence. Diazepam, or Valium, is an example of a commonly prescribed benzodiazepine.
2. Antidepressants: These commonly help with anxiety, even though they also target depression. People often use serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), which have fewer side effects than older antidepressants but are likely to cause jitters, nausea, and sexual dysfunction when treatment begins.
3. Other antidepressants include fluoxetine, or Prozac, and citalopram, or Celexa.
4. Tricyclics: This is a class of drugs older than SSRIs that provide benefits for most anxiety disorders other than OCD. These drugs might cause side effects, including dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, and weight gain. Imipramine and clomipramine are two examples of tricyclics.
Additional drugs a person might use to treat anxiety include:
i) Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
There are ways to reduce the risk of anxiety disorders. Remember that anxious feelings are a natural factor of daily life, and experiencing them does not always indicate the presence of a mental health disorder.
Take the following steps to help moderate anxious emotions:
1. Reduce intake of caffeine, tea, cola, and chocolate.
2. Before using over-the-counter (OTC) or herbal remedies, check with a doctor or pharmacist for any chemicals that may make anxiety symptoms worse.
3. Maintain a healthy diet.
4. Keep a regular sleep pattern.
5. Avoid alcohol, cannabis, and other recreational drugs.