Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses that causes constant, overwhelming and crippling anxiety, worry and fear. Anxiety is a normal emotion. It is the brain’s way of reacting to stress and alerting you of potential danger ahead. Occasional anxiety is normal but anxiety disorders are different. Excessive anxiety can interfere with a person’s normal life. It can make you avoid work, family get-together, and other social situations that might trigger or worsen your symptoms.
The exact cause of anxiety disorder is unknown. Possible causes for the condition are:
- Brain chemistry
- Environmental stress
- Drug withdrawal or misuse
- Medical conditions
Symptoms vary for different anxiety disorders. The common symptoms are:
- Excessive fear, worry, uneasiness or panic
- Shortness of breath or hard to breathe
- Cold, sweaty, or numb hands or feet
- Inability to stay calm and still
- Nausea or dizziness
- Obsessively avoiding feared objects or places
- Ritualistic behaviours
- Repeated thoughts of traumatic experiences
- Sleep problems, nightmares
- Feeling weak or tired
- Experiencing gastrointestinal problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Heart palpitations
- Dry mouth
- Muscle tension
Diagnosis of anxiety disorders include:
- Review of signs and symptoms
- Medical history
- Physical examination
- Tests to rule out other health conditions (No specific lab test for anxiety disorder)
- Psychiatric evaluation
- DSM-5 (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – fifth edition) criteria for anxiety disorders may be used by a psychologist or your mental health professional.
Anxiety disorders cannot be prevented. Measures to control the symptoms include:
- Avoid caffeines, alcohols and drugs
- Regular exercise
- Healthy and balanced diet
- Manage stress
- Seek help or talk to dear ones
- Stay active.
Treatment measures for anxiety disorders include:
- Medications such as antidepressants, beta blockers, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics and anxiety-reducing drugs are used in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
- Psychotherapy: a type of counselling that addresses the emotional response to mental illness.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy: type of psychotherapy that teaches you how to turn negative thoughts to positive ones.
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