Anxiety Disorder – Causes, Symptoms And Treatments

anxiety causes symptoms and treatments

Anxiety Disorder – what causes it and what are some common symptoms? What are some treatment options? Learn more about this prevalent but treatable disorder.

What is Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety is a medical condition characterized by persistent, excessive worry. While stress and worry are logical responses to a stressful situation, these feelings of worry usually disappear once the stressful situation has passed or the stressor is removed. However, anxiety becomes a disorder when these feelings persist or occur without any particular reason.

Furthermore, there can be many forms of anxiety. It ranges from mild to so distressing that it affects a person’s ability to carry out and take pleasure in routine activities. Additionally, individuals may suffer from more than one form of anxiety. Moreover, some individuals may also experience depression alongside their anxiety, putting them at risk of developing problems such as alcohol or drug abuse.

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, one in four people experiences anxiety at some stage of their life. In a 12-month period, over two million Australians suffer from anxiety.

Do I have anxiety?

You can observe and note your symptoms to assess if you have anxiety or not. The signs and symptoms of anxiety problems are sometimes not clear as they often develop slowly over time. It can be hard to know how much worry is too much worry.

Normal anxiety tends to be limited in time and is associated with stressful situations or events, such as a job interview or an examination. The type of anxiety experienced by individuals with an anxiety condition is more frequent, persistent and not always connected to an obvious challenge.  While each form of  anxiety condition has its own distinct features, there are some common symptoms such as:

Physical symptoms: panic attacks, heart racing, hot and cold flushes, tightening of the chest, rapid breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense.

Psychological symptoms: excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking.

Behavioural symptoms: avoiding situations that make you feel anxious which can affect your study, work or social life.

What causes anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are considered to be caused by a combination of multiple factors. Most patients may have a genetic susceptibility to developing an anxiety disorder. Personality traits and a buildup of more minor stressful life situations may trigger the condition or worsen it. Everyone has the possibility of developing an anxiety disorder during their life. Often it is a combination of stressful life events, medical and social problems that tip normal temporary feelings of anxiety into a prolonged medical illness.

How is anxiety diagnosed?

A doctor will take a complete history of signs and symptoms and perform a general physical examination to diagnose an anxiety problem. Doctors may advise a blood test to see if underlying conditions such as heart, cardiovascular or thyroid problems are contributing to your symptoms. The doctor will need to understand any medications that you might be taking that could be exacerabting symptoms.

How to deal with anxiety?

Anxiety is entirely treatable.

It’s really important that if you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety that are persistent in your daily life, you make an appointment with a general practitioner. The doctor will need to understand your medical and social circumstances to be able to make the diagnosis accurately and develop a mental health care plan.

An effective treatment plan helps you learn how to control your anxiety, so it doesn’t affect your routine activities. The type of treatment will depend on the particular form of anxiety you’re experiencing. There are various types of anxiety disorders and the doctor must also make sure that you are not experiencing thoughts related to depression or suicide. The treatment will be based on the severity and length of your symptoms.

Your doctor might suggest lifestyle changes for mild symptoms, such as regular physical activity and relaxation techniques. You can also try online e-therapies, most of which are free, anonymous and easily accessible. In additional, virtual reality could also help people relax. When symptoms of anxiety are moderate to severe, psychological and medical treatments are likely to be needed.

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What are the psychological treatments for anxiety?

Psychological treatments can help you change your thinking patterns so you can keep your anxiety under check and minimize abnormal thought processes.

There are various types of effective psychological treatments for anxiety, as well as different delivery methods. Some individuals prefer to work one-on-one with a professional, while others benefit from a group environment.

  1. Relaxation training
  2. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
  3. Behaviour therapies based on graded exposure
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with a psycologist is very effective at reprogramming thought processes.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with a psycologist is very effective at reprogramming thought processes.

What are the medical treatments for anxiety?

Research shows that psychological therapies are the best treatment option for people with anxiety disorders. However, if symptoms are severe, medical intervention is required. Common medications used in the treatment of anxiety are antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Get an online prescription with Medmate Mental Health.

How do I get help?

If you think you are suffering from excessive anxiety disturbing your daily life activities, take some time to reflect on your feelings. Identify the triggers that are causing the symptoms. At the same time, you may start adopting some lifestyle changes. Talk with your friends and family and consult your healthcare professional if the anxiety is persistent and severe.

Key Takeaways

Anxiety is excessive and persistent worrying without any apparent stressful situation. It can take many forms. Management of stress aims at changing behaviours and adopting stress-relieving strategies. Medical treatment may be required if the anxiety persists despite lifestyle changes and psychological interventions. Stay connected with friends and family. You may also join support groups. #YouCanTalk is a joint national campaign aimed at giving people the confidence to respond to friends and family when they need help and guide them to the right support services.

If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services 000 or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

 References

  1.  Ströhle, A., Gensichen, J., & Domschke, K. (2018). The Diagnosis and Treatment of Anxiety Disorders. Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 155(37), 611–620. https://doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2018.0611
  2. Craske, M. G., Rauch, S. L., Ursano, R., Prenoveau, J., Pine, D. S., & Zinbarg, R. E. (2009). What is an anxiety disorder?. Depression and anxiety, 26(12), 1066–1085. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.20633
  3. Bystritsky, A., Khalsa, S. S., Cameron, M. E., & Schiffman, J. (2013). Current diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 38(1), 30–57.
  4. Munir, S., & Takov, V. (2021). Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.
  5. Gale, C., & Davidson, O. (2007). Generalised anxiety disorder. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 334(7593), 579–581. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39133.559282.BE
  6. Bandelow, B., & Michaelis, S. (2015). Epidemiology of anxiety disorders in the 21st century. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 17(3), 327–335. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2015.17.3/bbandelow
  7. Robinson L. (1990). Stress and anxiety. The Nursing clinics of North America, 25(4), 935–943.
  8. Sunderland, M., Newby, J. M., & Andrews, G. (2013). Health anxiety in Australia: prevalence, comorbidity, disability and service use. The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science, 202(1), 56–61. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.111.103960
  9. McEvoy, P. M., Grove, R., & Slade, T. (2011). Epidemiology of anxiety disorders in the Australian general population: findings of the 2007 Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. The Australian and New Zealand journal of psychiatry, 45(11), 957–967. https://doi.org/10.3109/00048674.2011.624083
  10. Henderson, S., Andrews, G., & Hall, W. (2000). Australia’s mental health: an overview of the general population survey. The Australian and New Zealand journal of psychiatry, 34(2), 197–205. https://doi.org/10.1080/j.1440-1614.2000.00686.x

About the Author

  • Dr Ganesh Naidoo

    BSc(biomed), MBBS, FRACGP is an Australian General Practitioner. He has significant clinical experience in multiple regions of Australia and has a passion for health transformation to improve clinical outcomes for all patients.

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