Anxiety is an emotion that is referred to as a feeling of unease, worry, and fear. Anxiety has both emotional and physical effects. Its symptoms include feelings of nervousness, panic and fear as well as physical changes like sweating, trembling, dizziness, rapid breathing and heartbeat, increased blood pressure, muscle tension, and gastrointestinal distress. Emotionally, anxiety can affect the concentration and mood of the person. This causes irritability and restlessness. Sleep deprivation occurs due to worry and fear. This can worsen anxiety and stimulate a negative cycle involving insomnia and anxiety disorders.
It is natural to experience anxiety in stressful and fearful situations and prepares our bodies for these situations and makes us more alert to danger. It functions as a motivator and helps us to perform better. When the distress becomes excessive it results in anxiety disorders which are a group of mental illnesses. They cause extreme and constant anxiety and fear.
Women are more likely than men to experience anxiety disorders.
Types of anxiety disorders
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a long-term condition characterized by continuous and excessive worry. People with GAD feel anxious about a wide range of situations rather than one specific event. They have anxious feelings almost all the time and have difficulty letting go of worries. They just feel anxious but are unable to determine what they are anxious about.
Symptoms of GAD are; feeling nervousness, irritability, sense of impending danger, trembling, sweating, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, difficulty in concentration, sleeping problems, feeling weak, fatigued, and gastrointestinal problems.
There is no apparent reason for GAD. Research has suggested the following biological, environmental, and genetic factors that cause GAD.
1. Family background of GAD
2. History of drug abuse
3. Certain health conditions like heart diseases or thyroid problems
4. Painful health conditions for a long period of time
5. Stressful or traumatic life experiences such as personal and family illness, domestic violence, child abuse, or bullying
6. Overactivity in brain areas that are involved in emotions and behavior.
7. Biological imbalances in serotonin and noradrenaline which are involved in the control and regulation of mood
2. Panic Disorder:
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by an unexpected and spontaneous attack of intense fear or panic. There are regular feelings of anxiety, stress, and panic at any time and often for no apparent reason. In between panic attacks the person has a severe fear of having another attack.
During a panic attack, there is a rush of intense mental and physical symptoms. These symptoms include accelerated heart rate, trembling, sweating, nausea, abdominal pain or distress, chest pain, shortness of breath, choking sensation, dizziness or faintness, chills or hot flushes, numbness, feeling unreal or detachment from self, fear of losing control, fear of dying. Panic attacks last from several minutes to an hour. Mostly it lasts between 5 to 20 minutes.
The exact cause of the panic disorder is not known. It is probably caused by a combination of physical and psychological factors that are; traumatic life experiences, imbalance of the brain neurotransmitters, family history, increased sensitivity to carbon dioxide (breathing techniques can overcome the panic attack), substance abuse problems.
3. Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder):
Social Phobia, also called Social Anxiety Disorder, is a long-term anxiety disorder characterized by persistent and intense anxiety or fear of being judged, humiliated, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social situation. 1. People suffering from social anxiety disorder worry about appearing visibly anxious or being viewed as awkward, stupid, or boring. Due to this reason, they tend to avoid social or performance situations. If a situation cannot be avoided, they experience significant anxiety and distress.
2. It is normal to worry occasionally about social situations but people suffering from social anxiety feel overly worried before, during, and after these situations.
3. These people worry about daily routine activities.
4. They worry a lot about social activities and fear that they will act in an embarrassing way, thus they avoid these activities.
5. They may have panic attacks because of an extreme sense of fear and anxiety.
6. As they may feel like they are being watched and judged all the time so they have difficulty doing things while others are watching.
7. They have fear of being criticized by people.
8. They may have weeks of anxiety before any social event or an event where they have to perform.
9. They usually avoid eye contact and have low self-esteem.
10. They usually have symptoms of feeling sick, rapid heartbeat(palpitations), sweating, and trembling.
4. Obsessive Disorder (OCD):
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by frequent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Obsessions are recurrent unwanted and unpleasant thoughts causing feelings of anxiety, disgust, or unease. Compulsion is a repetitive behavior that the person feels the need to do in order to temporarily ease the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought.
Common obsessions include concerns about safety, contamination, cleanliness, need to do the right thing (scrupulosity), need for order or symmetry, aggressive impulses. Common compulsions include checking (eg iron, locks, stove), cleaning, washing hands, touching/tapping objects, arranging, confessing/seeking reassurance, list-making.
5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after extremely terrifying or traumatic event. Traumatic events that can cause PTSD include violent personal assaults, accidents, natural or human-caused disasters, serious health problems, military combat, crime.
Sometimes people experience PTSD immediately after a disturbing event and sometimes PTSD takes weeks, months, or even years to develop.
PTSD is often relived through nightmares and flashbacks and the person may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. There may be sleeping problems and difficulty in concentration. These symptoms affect a person’s day-to-day life because they are often severe and persistent.