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Anxiety - Diagnosis, Symptoms and Treatments


There are many types of anxiety disorders that include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is a human emotion that everyone will experience at some time in his or her lifetime. A lot of individuals have feelings of anxiousness and nervousness when they are faced with issues at home, work or before making important decisions. However, just as each individual is different so is the manner in which he or she experiences anxiety. This condition can cause significant distress resulting in the interference of day-to-day activities.

Anxiety disorder is a mental illness and thereby must be treated as such. This condition can be overwhelming, with constant feelings of fear and worry.

Types of Anxiety Disorder

There are a variety of recognized types of anxiety disorders, which include:

  • Panic disorder: Individuals that suffer with panic disorders have continuous feelings of terror that occur without warning. Additional symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks can include irregular heartbeats, chest pains, excessive sweating, and the feeling that one is choking.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Individuals who suffer with OCD have constant fears and thoughts that can cause them to perform a variety of routines. The bothersome thoughts are called obsessions, and the routines are referred to as compulsions.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a condition that usually presents itself after a traumatizing life event. Some examples are physical or sexual assault, the unexplained or unexpected death of a family member of close friend.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Considered a social phobia, this particular disorder involves an individual being worried about social issues that occur on a daily basis. The overwhelming worries are usually focused on fears of being judged by others or acting in such a way that could lead to embarrassment or even ridicule in some cases.
  • Specific phobias: A specific phobia can be an overwhelming fear of something specific. This can be a phobia of heights, flying or snakes. The amount of fear for the situation is generally exaggerated.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder: Unrealistic and excessive feelings of tension and worry are associated with this phobia.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Symptoms vary depending on the type of anxiety disorder, but general symptoms include:

  • Feelings of fear, uneasiness and panic
  • Thoughts that are uncontrollable
  • Traumatic experience flashback
  • Nightmares
  • Ritualistic behaviors, such as repeated hand washing
  • Problems sleeping
  • Cold hands
  • Sweaty hands
  • Palpitations
  • Inability to sit still and stay calm
  • Dry mouth
  • Numbness in the hands and feet
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tightness
  • Dizziness

Causes of Anxiety

There is no known exact cause for anxiety disorders. It is important that we realize anxiety disorders, as with other mental disorders are not a flaw in character or a form of weakness. While researchers continue to study mental illnesses, it has become evident that mental disorders are generally the result of a number of factors, which include environmental stresses or brain changes.

Just like a health issue such as diabetes, anxiety disorders can be the result of a chemical imbalance within the body. Research shows that long- lasting or chronic stress can alter the chemical balance in the brain that controls mood. Additionally, reports show that anxiety disorders are hereditary meaning one or even both parents passed it down just as they do hair or eye color.

Diagnosis of Anxiety

If anxiety disorder symptoms are present, the physician will ask a series of questions pertaining to your medical history and will give you an examination. Although specific anxiety disorders can’t be diagnosed from a laboratory test the doctor may still check to be sure there are no physical illnesses that are causing the symptoms. If no physical illness is found, you may be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist, or other mental health professionals who are specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for an anxiety disorder.

Treatment of Anxiety

Within the last 20 years, a great deal of progress has been made in regards to the treatment of mental illness including anxiety disorders. Although the approach for treatment depends highly on the specific disorder, either one or a combination of therapies can be used in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

  • Medication: Medications that are used to reduce symptoms associated with anxiety disorders can include anxiety-reducing or anti-depressant drugs.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, which is a form of counseling, focuses on the emotional reaction to mental illnesses. Medical health professionals are trained to help individuals by discussing different ways to deal with their disorder.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: Individuals who are suffering from anxiety disorders generally participate in this kind of counseling where the person learns to identify and make needed changes to their thought patterns and actions that can lead to bothersome feelings
  • Lifestyle and dietary changes
  • Relaxation therapy

How to Prevent Anxiety

Although there is no cure for anxiety disorders, there are a few steps you can take to lessen or control your symptoms.

  • Reduce caffeine intake
  • Check with your physician and pharmacy personnel prior to consuming any non-prescription medications or herbal medications. Most medications may include harmful chemicals that will heighten symptoms of anxiety.
  • Look for support and counseling after you have experienced a disturbing or traumatic event.