Anxiety isn’t necessarily a problem. But when it becomes persistent, powerful and interferes with daily life, it’s called an anxiety disorder. It can affect about one in 20 people. But sadly, only a tiny proportion of sufferers will seek treatment.
Anxiety disorders are the most common of all the mental disorders. At the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the Federal agency that conducts and supports research related to mental disorders, mental health, and the brain, scientists are learning more and more about the nature of anxiety disorders, their causes, and how to alleviate them. NIMH also conducts educational outreach activities about anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses.
Causes of anxiety disorder
Genetic predisposition. Anxiety disorders tend to run in families, suggesting there’s a genetic factor involved in the cause. Studies show that if one identical twin has an anxiety disorder, the second twin is more likely to have an anxiety disorder than if they were unrelated.
Personal characteristics. Researchers believe that people who have low self-esteem and poor coping skills may be prone to anxiety disorders.
What Are the Types of Anxiety Disorders?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – OCD is characterized by unwanted thoughts or behaviors that seem impossible to stop or control. You may be troubled by obsessions, such as a recurring worry that you forgot to turn off the oven or that you might hurt someone. You may also suffer from uncontrollable compulsions, such as washing your hands over and over.
Post-traumatic stress disorder: PTSD is a condition that can develop following a traumatic and/or terrifying event, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, or a natural disaster. People with PTSD often have lasting and frightening thoughts and memories of the event, and tend to be emotionally numb.
Symptoms of Anxiety
mood and other emotional problems, eating pattern changes, sleep pattern changes, mental changes, social problems, physical problems, childhood or adolescent depression
The anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms present for more days than not for the past 6 months; children don’t need to meet as many criteria).
Treatment of anxiety disorder
The choices of treatment include cognitive behavioral therapy, lifestyle changes, and/or pharmaceutical therapy (medications). Mainstream treatment for anxiety consists of the prescription of anxiolytic agents and/or antidepressants and/or referral to a Psychologist/cognitive-behavioral therapist. Treatment controversy arises because some studies indicate that a combination of the medications and behavioral therapy can be more effective than either one alone, however others studies suggest pharmacological interventions are largely just pallative, and can actually interfere with the mechanisms of successful therapy.
It’s important to understand what anxiety treatment can and can’t do. An accurate diagnosis and proper treatment increase the odds that your symptoms will lessen significantly or disappear altogether. Once symptoms are under control, treatment can keep them from flaring up again and can help prevent a second anxiety disorder from developing. Treatment often improves or controls the problems caused by anxiety. For example, if anxiety is impairing your ability to work or creating friction between you and your family and friends, treatment can help you function better and improve your relationships.