Anxiety disorders cause individuals to experience excessive worry and fear

Anxiety: What You Need to Know

Anxiety disorders share the common symptoms of excited, intense, and enduring fear, or concern in circumstances where a person typically wouldn’t feel scared or worried. Individuals suffering from an anxiety disorder often experience intense sustained distress and nervousness, and the condition can range from mild to severe.

While everyone experiences anxiety at some point, nearly one in five people (18% of the US) will develop an anxiety disorder, possibly needing treatment. Pervasive untreated anxiety can easily become debilitating. Types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Anxious girl

Effects of Anxiety

Several factors may influence the development of an anxiety disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are some of the more common risk factors for developing an anxiety disorder:

  • Trauma
  • Family history of anxiety disorders
  • Stress
  • Other mental health conditions
  • Use of drugs or alcohol

An individual may also be predisposed to anxiety based on his or her personality traits. In fact, anxiety disorders can be brought on by a number of factors, but it’s important to know that these disorders can be managed with therapeutic intervention.

Processing trauma, reducing stress, and decreasing substance use can be significant in reducing anxiety. An individual may seek out substances to self-medicate symptoms of anxiety, leading to the development of a co-occurring disorder. Anxiety and addiction should be treated in the same setting for the best chance of long-term recovery from both conditions.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

To be diagnosed with the most common form of anxiety, GAD, an individual must experience symptoms most days for a period of six months.

Key symptoms of GAD:

  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
  • Being irritable
  • Experiencing muscle tension
  • Finding it difficult to control feelings of worry
  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

Individuals with other anxiety disorders may experience a number of additional symptoms, such as a sense of panic, heart palpitations, fixation on a particular subject or object, or intense fear. Those with panic disorders are likely to avoid crowded public areas, such as shopping malls or airplanes. Some associate their frequent panic attacks with a specific location, such as a bridge, building, or railroad tracks.

Anxiety can worsen and impair a person’s livelihood if left untreated. People with anxiety disorders may struggle to keep jobs and maintain relationships, withdrawing from social connections and places that trigger their symptoms. However, counseling, therapy, and sometimes assistive medications can allow those with anxiety to heal and even thrive again.

The Stats on Anxiety

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

  • Anxiety disorders affect 40 million US adults every year.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder affects 3.1% of the US population, but less than half are receiving treatment.
  • Women are twice as likely to be affected by anxiety disorders as men.
  • Social anxiety disorder affects 15 million US adults every year.
  • Over 2 million US adults suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders.

“Up to 18% of people in the United States experience an anxiety disorder in any given year.”
-Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Treating Anxiety

Treatment for anxiety may include assistive medications as well as therapy. Medications are designed to help individuals reach a state of calm and reduce debilitating symptoms in the short-term, but therapy is designed for long-term management of anxiety. With therapy, Individuals can learn new coping skills and establish healthier patterns that prevent anxiety from becoming overwhelming and life-disrupting. Practicing self-care, such as eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, sleeping well, and avoiding substances like drugs and alcohol can allow a person to feel better and regulate his or her anxiety more easily.

While a person may initially reach for drugs or alcohol to manage anxiety, substances can actually worsen a person’s symptoms and ability to maintain a healthy mindset. Decreasing the use of mood-altering substances, moderating the use of caffeine, practicing mindfulness, and working with a therapist can all help an individual find long-term recovery from an anxiety disorder.

Group therapy

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