Generalized Anxiety

About

Generalized Anxiety

What is anxiety?

Do you constantly worry about daily activities or encounters?  Do you experience fear in situations that are beyond your control?  If so, you may be suffering from a condition known as anxiety. Anxiety disorders may negatively impact a person’s life as their fear may be out of proportion to the actual event, which may cause the person to avoid places or situations.

How common are anxiety disorders?

Having some minor anxiety is very common at some point in our lives. This may include being anxious about a new job or trying to make a major decision. However, when anxiety is persistent or uncontrollable, it can begin to impact a person’s quality of life. This is when it is considered a mental illness that may require medical attention.

Who suffers from this type of disorder?

Anxiety is the most common mental disorder in the United States. Over 40 million Americans are diagnosed with some form of anxiety annually. Anxiety can begin as early as childhood and progress throughout that person’s life. 8% of children are diagnosed with anxiety every year, and most people who have this mental illness are diagnosed by the time they are 21.

What are the different types of anxiety disorders?

There are several types of anxiety disorders that exist. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder: extreme worry and fear regarding minor everyday routine events. This type of anxiety may be hard to manage and has physical manifestations. It must be present for at least six months to be diagnosed.
  • Social anxiety disorder: involves avoiding certain social situations due to extreme fear of judgment from others or self-consciousness. It may manifest itself in various situations but is most commonly seen in school or work environments.
  • Specific phobias: are seen when extreme fear or anxiety occurs when exposed to a particular object or situation. It may also cause panic attacks.
  • Separation anxiety: is usually seen in children and is related to separation from their parents or those with an attachment to them. This can also occur in adults. It is considered a disorder when it negatively impacts the person's ability to function without a loved one being present.
  • Panic disorder:  involves sudden episodes of extreme fear and worry that can occur within minutes- known as panic attacks. These attacks may cause someone to avoid situations to prevent these episodes.

Many other anxiety disorders may also need medical attention from a mental healthcare provider.

Causes

What causes anxiety?

The exact causes of anxiety disorders are not well understood at this time. However, it is believed that there are multiple risk factors that multiple risk factors may contribute to the development of this mental illness.

What risk factors are there for developing anxiety?

  • Personality types- certain personality types are more prone to developing anxiety disorders. Naturally shy people have been linked to suffering from anxiety.
  • Genetic factors-  Genetics is believed to play a role in the development of anxiety as parents who suffer from anxiety may notice similar symptoms in their children. 
  • Traumatic life events- There is some evidence that people who may have been exposed to traumatic life events, such as abuse, may be more prone to anxiety disorders.
  • Substance and alcohol abuse- individuals that participate in drug and alcohol use may develop anxiety or cause their already present anxiety to get worse. 
  • Stress- stressful life events or stress from dealing with an illness may trigger anxiety.

What medical conditions are associated with developing anxiety disorders?

Certain medical conditions are linked to anxiety which is normally one of the first signs that the medical condition may exist. Certain medications have also been linked to anxiety as a side effect. Some medical conditions that cause anxiety include:

  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Drug withdrawal 
  • Chronic pain
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Breathing problems
  • Cancer

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Symptoms

What are the common symptoms of anxiety disorders?

Signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders may include:

  • Nervousness
  • Extreme tension
  • Intense feeling of panic or fear
  • Gastrointestinal pain
  • Constant worry takes over life
  • Avoiding things or places that trigger anxiety
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyperventilation
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Involuntary shaking
  • Instantaneous fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Extreme feeling of loss of control

What are the types of complications associated with anxiety disorders?

Serious mental and medical conditions may occur due to untreated anxiety disorders such as:

  • Suicide or suicidal thoughts
  • Substance abuse
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Headaches
  • Chronic pain
  • Exile from society
  • Problems with focusing on tasks
  • Diminished quality of life

Diagnosis

How is anxiety diagnosed?

A healthcare specialist is needed for a proper diagnosis of anxiety. Usually, the evaluation will determine if the anxiety symptoms are related to any underlying medical conditions. If the anxiety symptoms are severe and not managed, a referral to a mental health specialist may also be required.

What other mental illness may look like anxiety?

Anxiety may coincide with other mental illnesses or mimic them. This can make it difficult for a proper diagnosis. Fortunately, there are highly qualified healthcare professionals at TeleMed2U that may be able to help. Other similar mental illnesses include:

  •  Substance abuse
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Depression
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Learning disabilities

What are the DSM-5 criteria used to diagnose anxiety?

In order to diagnose anxiety, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed, (DSM-5) diagnostic criteria is that the symptoms must occur for at least six months, and at least three of the above symptoms must occur. For children, only one symptom is required to make a diagnosis.

Treatment

What are the treatment options available for anxiety? 

The two main treatments for anxiety include psychotherapy and medication.

  • Psychotherapy is a very common treatment for anxiety. A therapist can help you manage your symptoms and develop proper coping skills. This therapy can be conducted as a group or individually. It is recommended that it is performed weekly for at least eight weeks for best results. Some examples used for anxiety disorders include:
  1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): is the most effective and researched form of therapy for anxiety. It is used to help develop better coping skills against anxiety. The goal is to return to normal activities that may have been avoided before.
  • Exposure therapy: is a form of treatment used to confront fears so that normal activities can resume.
  1. Mindfulness-based stress reduction: uses meditation along with relaxation techniques to reduce current stressors.
  • Medication is another option for managing certain forms of anxiety, especially if it coincides with other mental illnesses.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are usually used initially to manage anxiety. Buspirone is a common anti-anxiety medication that may be prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider.
  • Anti-depressants are also sometimes provided if depression is also a concern. This is usually a second-line treatment. 
  • Beta-blockers are also an option to help manage the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate or shaking.

It is important to be aware that medication does not cure anxiety but can be used to better manage symptoms. Many times combination therapy is performed with the use of psychotherapy and medications.

What are some alternative medicine treatment options?

There are some alternative forms of treatment available to help reduce anxiety symptoms. However, most have not been properly researched. Some other nontraditional treatment options for anxiety include:

  • Music therapy
  • Aromatherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Botanicals
  • Supplements

What are some strategies used to help prevent and better manage anxiety?

There are some non-pharmacological treatments to better manage anxiety which include:

  • Regular exercise or yoga
  • Have a healthy diet
  • Get plenty of sleep and rest
  • Avoid illicit drug use
  • Do not compensate with alcohol
  • Avoid Caffeine
  • Avoid smoking

Are you noticing triggers in your life that are causing extreme fear and are negatively impacting how you act and live your life?  You may need help getting your life back. We have licensed mental healthcare providers at TeleMed2U available to help you better manage your anxiety.

Information

Medically reviewed by:

Dr Roy Kedem, MD

Dr Zenon Andreou studied medicine at University College London, graduating in 2006. His postgraduate training was in hospitals in and around London and he trained for four years in Otolaryngology before completing his training in General practice

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