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What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behavior, such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints, and rumination. It is the subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events, such as the feeling of imminent death.

Anxiety PillAnxiety PillAnxiety is not the same as fear, which is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat, whereas anxiety is the expectation of future threat. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, uneasiness, and worry, usually generalized and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing. It is often accompanied by muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue and problems in concentration. Anxiety can be appropriate, but when experienced regularly the individual may suffer from an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is not the same as fear, which is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat, whereas anxiety is the expectation of future threat. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, uneasiness, and worry, usually generalized and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing. It is often accompanied by muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue and problems in concentration. Anxiety can be appropriate, but when experienced regularly the individual may suffer from an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety PillAnxiety Pill

People facing anxiety may withdraw from situations which have provoked anxiety in the past. There are various types of anxiety. Existential anxiety can occur when a person faces angst, an existential crisis, or nihilistic feelings. People can also face mathematical anxiety, somatic anxiety, stage fright, or test anxiety. Social anxiety and stranger anxiety are caused when people are apprehensive around strangers or other people in general. Furthermore, anxiety has been linked with physical symptoms such as IBS and can heighten other mental health illnesses such as OCD and panic disorder.

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

Everyone feels anxious now and then. It’s a normal emotion. Many people feel nervous when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision.

Anxiety disorders are different, though. They can cause such distress that it interferes with your ability to lead a normal life.

This type of disorder is a serious mental illness. For people who have one, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be disabling. But with treatment, many people can manage those feelings and get back to a fulfilling life.

Understanding anxiety disorders

Anxiety Pill

Anxiety is the body’s natural response to danger, an automatic alarm that goes off when you feel threatened, under pressure, or are facing a stressful situation.

In moderation, anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, anxiety can help you stay alert and focused, spur you to action, and motivate you to solve problems. But when anxiety is constant or overwhelming, when it interferes with your relationships and activities, it stops being functional—that’s when you’ve crossed the line from normal, productive anxiety into the territory of anxiety disorders.

What Are the Types of Anxiety Disorders?

There are several kinds, including:

Panic disorder. People with this condition have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. Other symptoms of a panic attack include sweating, chest pain, palpitations (unusually strong or irregular heartbeats), and a feeling of choking. It can feel like you’re having a heart attack or “going crazy.”

Social anxiety disorder. Also called social phobia, this involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. The worry often centers on a fear of being judged by others, or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or lead to ridicule.

Specific phobias. These are intense fears of a specific object or situation, such as heights or flying. The level of fear is usually inappropriate to the situation and may cause you to avoid common, everyday situations.

Generalized anxiety disorder. This is excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there’s little or nothing to provoke the anxiety.

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders?

It depends on the type of anxiety disorder, but general symptoms include:

  • Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
  • Problems sleeping
  • Cold or sweaty hands or feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Not being able to be still and calm
  • Dry mouth
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tension
  • Dizziness

What Are the Causes of Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety Pill

The exact cause of anxiety disorders is unknown, but anxiety disorders — like other forms of mental illness — are not the result of personal weakness, a character flaw, or poor upbringing. As scientists continue their research on mental illness, it is becoming clear that many of these disorders are caused by a combination of factors, including changes in the brain and environmental stress.

Signs and symptoms

Anxiety PillThe symptoms of anxiety conditions are sometimes not all that obvious as they often develop slowly over time and, given us all experience some anxiety at various points in our lives, it can be hard to know how much is too much.

Normal anxiety tends to be limited in duration and connected with some stressful situation or event, such as a job interview. The type of anxiety experienced by people with an anxiety condition is more frequent or persistent, not always connected to an obvious challenge, and impacts on their quality of life and day-to-day functioning.

How Are Anxiety Disorders Diagnosed?

If symptoms of an anxiety disorder are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by asking you questions about your medical history and performing a physical exam. Although there are no lab tests to specifically diagnose anxiety disorders, the doctor may use various tests to look for other medical illness as the cause of the symptoms.

How Are Anxiety Disorders Treated?

Fortunately, much progress has been made in the last two decades in the treatment of people with mental illnesses, including anxiety disorders. Although the exact treatment approach depends on the type of disorder, one or a combination of the following therapies may be used for most anxiety disorders:

  • Medication: Drugs used to reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders include many antidepressants, certain anticonvulsant medicines and low-dose antipsychotics, and other anxiety-reducing drugs.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy (a type of counseling) addresses the emotional response to mental illness. It is a process in which trained mental health professionals help people by talking through strategies for understanding and dealing with their disorder.

Medication for anxiety disordersAnxiety Pill

If you have anxiety that’s severe enough to interfere with your ability to function, medication may help relieve your symptoms. However, anxiety medications can be habit forming and cause unwanted side effects, so be sure to research your options. Many people use anti-anxiety medication when therapy, exercise, or self-help strategies would work just as well or better—minus the side effects and safety concerns. It’s important to weigh the benefits and risks of anxiety medication so you can make an informed decision.

Common Medications for Anxiety Disorders

Here you will first find a list of all the major medications and the problems they address.  Then you will see each of the major problems (panic attacks, generalized anxiety, and so forth), with descriptions of the commonly recommended medications for that difficulty.

BENZODIAZEPINES

  • alprazolam (Xanax)panic, generalized anxiety, phobias, social anxiety, OCD
  • clonazepam (Klonopin)panic, generalized anxiety, phobias, social anxiety
  • diazepam (Valium)generalized anxiety, panic, phobias
  • lorazepam (Ativan)generalized anxiety, panic, phobias
  • oxazepam (Serax)generalized anxiety, phobias
  • chlordiazepoxide (Librium)generalized anxiety, phobias

BETA BLOCKERS

  • propranolol (Inderal)social anxiety
  • atenolol (Tenormin)social anxiety

TRICYCLIC ANTIDEPRESSANTS

  • imipramine (Tofranil)panic, depression, generalized anxiety, PTSD
  • desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofrane and others)panic, generalized anxiety, depression, PTSD
  • nortriptyline (Aventyl or Pamelor)panic, generalized anxiety, depression, PTSD
  • amitriptyline (Elavil)panic, generalized anxiety, depression, PTSD
  • doxepin (Sinequan or Adapin)panic, depression
  • clomipramine (Anafranil)panic, OCD, depression

If a physician recommends a combination of a benzodiazepine and an antidepressant, two approaches are possible. One is to take the antidepressant daily and use a benzodiazepine as needed for increased periods of anxiety or panic. Another method is to use the benzodiazepine with the antidepressant during the first month or two of treatment. As the primary effects of the antidepressant begin, after 4 to 8 weeks, the patient then slowly tapers off the benzodiazepine.