Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a state of dread, tension, and unease. It is considered a normal response to stress or uncertain situations. Feeling anxious for long periods of time or at intense levels may mean that you have an anxiety disorder. You may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder if the anxiety: The most common types of anxiety disorders are: Anxiety may occur with other conditions, such as alcohol abuse , drug abuse , and depression .

  • Causes

    Anxiety disorders may result from a combination of factors, such as:

    • Genetics
    • Factors in the environment

    Chemical imbalances in the brain (e.g., serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA) may also play a role.

  • Definition

    Anxiety is a state of dread, tension, and unease. It is considered a normal response to stress or uncertain situations. Feeling anxious for long periods of time or at intense levels may mean that you have an anxiety disorder. You may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder if the anxiety:

    • Occurs without an external threat (called "free-floating" anxiety)
    • Is excessive or unreasonable for the situation or threat
    • Negatively affects how you function during the day

    The most common types of anxiety disorders are:

    • Specific phobias
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder
      (PTSD)
    • Panic disorder
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
      (OCD)
    • Social anxiety disorder
    • Generalized anxiety disorder


    Anxiety may occur with other conditions, such as
    alcohol abuse
    ,
    drug abuse
    ,
    and
    depression
    .

  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a psychiatric evaluation. Your doctor may also do a physical exam and order tests to look for other causes of your symptoms. You may be referred to a psychotherapist for further evaluation.

  • Prevention

    To help prevent anxiety, consider taking the following steps:

    • Avoid situations, occupations, and people that cause you stress.
    • If unavoidable, confront and overcome situations that provoke anxiety.
    • Find a relaxation technique that works for you. Use it regularly.
    • Develop and maintain a strong social support system.
    • Express your emotions when they happen.
    • Challenge irrational beliefs and thoughts that are not helpful to you.
    • Correct misperceptions. Ask others for their points of view.
    • Work with a
      therapist.

    • Avoid using nicotine or other drugs. If you drink alcohol, drink only in
      moderation
      .

  • Risk Factors

    Anxiety disorders are more common in females. Factors that may increase the risk of anxiety disorders include:

    • Family member with anxiety disorders
    • Stressful life events
    • Poor coping strategies
    • History of physical or psychological trauma
    • Chronic medical illness
    • Substance abuse

  • Symptoms

    Psychological symptoms may include:

    • Worry or dread
    • Obsessive or intrusive thoughts
    • Sense of imminent danger or catastrophe
    • Fear or panic
    • Restlessness
    • Irritability
    • Impatience
    • Ambivalence (uncertainty)
    • Trouble concentrating

    Physical symptoms may include:

    • Headache
    • Fatigue
    • Chest pain
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Sweating (especially the palms)
    • Dry mouth
    • Flushing or blushing
    • Muscle tension
    • Shortness of breath
    • Feeling lightheaded or fainting
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Shaking
    • Choking sensation
    • Abdominal discomfort
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Feeling of "butterflies" in the stomach
    • Sexual difficulties
    • Tingling sensations
    • Nail biting or other habitual behavior
    Symptoms of Anxiety
    Physiological effects of anxiety
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Treatment

    Effective treatment usually involves a combination of interventions, including: