Anxiety Disorders

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Anxiety is a regular human emotion that every person experiences at times. Anxiety disorders, however, are different. Anxiety disorders are a category of mental disorders characterised by feelings of anxiety and fear, where anxiety is a worry about future events and fear is a reaction to current events. These feelings may cause physical symptoms, such as a racing heart and shakiness and can cause such distress that it hampers a person’s ability to lead a normal life. Millions of children and adult suffer from these disorders.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

There are several recognised types of anxiety disorders, which include:

  • 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 and a feeling of choking.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Also called social phobia, social anxiety disorder 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.
  • Phobias: A specific phobia is an intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as snakes, heights, or flying. The level of fear is usually inappropriate to the situation and may cause the person to avoid common, everyday situations.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder: This disorder involves excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to provoke the anxiety.

Symptoms

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

  • Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
  • Problems sleeping
  • Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dry mouth
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Muscle tension

Causes

The main identified causes of anxiety disorders are:

  • Drugs (alcohol, caffeine etc.)
  • Stress
  • Genetics

Treatment

One or a combination of the following therapies may be used for most anxiety disorders:

  • Medication (anti-depressants and anxiety-reducing drugs)
  • Psychotherapy
  • Dietary and lifestyle changes
  • Relaxation therapy