Worries and anxiety are an unfortunate part of life. First dates, applying for a job promotion, health or financial difficulties – feeling anxiety is normal in these situations. But what if your worries are overwhelming? What if you feel your anxieties are interfering with your daily life?
Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder:
- Feeling worried, tense, on edge, or panicked
- Trouble sleeping
- Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet, or numbness and tingling
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations*
- Constant fidgeting, inability to be still and/or calm
- Dry mouth
- Muscle tension
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Fatigue*Heart palpitations are the feeling that your heart is beating too hard or too fast, skipping a beat, or fluttering. You may notice heart palpitations in your chest, throat, or neck. These may be a symptom of anxiety, or a more serious medical condition.
What Causes Anxiety Disorders?
The exact cause or causes are unknown but anxiety (and other mental illnesses) are not caused by a personal flaw or weakness, or a person’s upbringing. Scientists postulate that anxiety disorders are caused by a malfunction in the brain circuits that regulate fear and emotions. There may be a genetic link, and those assigned female at birth are more likely to experience anxiety disorders.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are six main types of anxiety disorders.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is characterized by constant feelings of worry, even when you don’t know what is causing the worry. Anxiety related to GAD often shows up as physical symptoms like insomnia, stomach upset, restlessness, and fatigue.
- Panic Disorder. Panic disorder is most commonly characterized by panic attacks. Panic attacks often involve shortness of breath or hyperventilation, heart palpitations and/or chest pain, trembling, shaking, or dizziness, and/or nausea.
- Obsessive Compulsive DIsorder (OCD). OCD can manifest itself in many ways. Those with OCD may fear catastrophic consequences if they do not complete an action correctly (such as closing a door, washing their hands, or arranging their shoes), or they may have obsessive worries about particular objects or events. Those with OCD often cannot suppress the compulsion to perform certain actions.
- Phobia. A phobia is an extreme fear of a particular object, activity, or situation.
- Social Anxiety Disorder. Social Anxiety Disorder is a debilitating fear of being seen in a negative light or humiliated by others, often to the point of avoiding social situations altogether. This is distinct from agoraphobia, which is the fear of having a panic attack in front of others.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is normal, after a traumatic event, to feel fear and have difficulty trusting, but these feelings typically fade with time. Not so for those suffering from PTSD. Those with PTSD may mentally re-live the event, numb themselves to the world around them, or feel constant and unrelenting fear, vigilance, and sometimes guilt. Learn about our specific treatments for PTSD here.
What To Do
Remember: you do not have to live like this. There are a variety of treatment options that we can explore. Psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and relaxation therapy are known to relieve feelings of anxiety. In some cases, dietary and lifestyle changes may also help. Finally, medication is also an option.
Know that you are not alone. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting 18% of the adult population – that means that about 1 in 5 American adults are also battling an anxiety disorder. Our expert counselor, Elaine Shepherdson, is also here to help. Fill out the form below to contact Elaine.