Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States, with an estimated 40 million adults – about 19% – suffering from an anxiety disorder. Although anxiety can be a normal response to stressful situations and can help people cope with temporary feelings or emotions, experiencing consistent anxiety can disrupt a person’s daily life. When anxiety interferes with daily function, anxiety can become a real problem in a person’s life, and may warrant a diagnosis. Experiencing symptoms of anxiety is normal — it’s when they become persistent that it’s a cause for concern.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a mental health condition that affects one-third of Americans at some point in their lives. Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes.
People with anxiety disorders often go untreated for long periods of time, causing persistent distress and often wreaking havoc throughout a person’s life. There are different types of anxiety, and untreated anxiety can also contribute to additional psychological and medical conditions, including depression and risk of heart disease. Individuals may be unaware of the fact they are developing anxiety disorders, and as a result, symptoms can worsen over time.
The physical symptoms of anxiety can be brutal, particularly if they continue for extended periods of time without any way to relieve symptoms or feel better. Here are the important physical symptoms to look out for:
- Feeling anxious, nervous, or tense
- Sweating or trembling
- Feeling weak or tired
- Quick, labored breathing (hyperventilating)
- Rapid or increased heart rate
- Trouble sleeping
- Digestion or GI problems
Mental health disorders like anxiety can present physical symptoms as well as psychological symptoms. These refer to the emotional responses, thoughts, and triggers a person may experience from an anxiety disorder. Symptoms include:
- A looming sense of dread, fear, or panic
- Having trouble controlling worry
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Avoiding anything that may trigger anxiety
Types of anxiety disorders
Several types of anxiety disorders exist, and while many have similar symptoms, other anxiety disorders on this list present themselves in different ways.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety disorder is a condition of persistent, excessive anxiety and dread about situations, activities, and events that interfere with a person’s daily life. Those who live with generalized anxiety disorder frequently feel anxious and panicked for months (or sometimes years) at a time.
Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms typically include:
- Easily fatigued
- Feeling restless or on-edge
- Difficulty concentrating
- Being irritable and wound up
- Muscle tension, headaches, stomachaches
Social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder is a chronic mental health disorder where normal social interactions cause irrational and intense anxiety. Social anxiety disorder can interfere with relationships and everyday tasks, like grocery shopping or eating a meal in a restaurant.
Symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:
- Fear of being judged in social situations
- Intense fear of talking to strangers
- Fear of embarrassing yourself
- Anxiety leading up to a social event
- Irrational fear or anxiety during social events
- Blushing, trembling, or sweating
- Upset stomach, nausea
- Rapid heartbeat and lightheadedness
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation anxiety disorder is a very common anxiety disorder that develops during childhood and involves intense distress when someone is separated from home and people they care about.
Symptoms of separation anxiety disorder include:
- Nightmares about separation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Separation avoidance
- Difficulty sleeping
- Recurrent experiences of distress
- Fear of being alone
- Excessive worry
Those with panic disorder have frequent, unexplained panic attacks that often come out of nowhere. Panic attacks are a typical symptom of panic disorder. However, if you experience a panic attack, that does not mean you will develop panic disorder.
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers physical and psychological symptoms. People who experience panic attacks may feel like they are having a heart attack or even dying.
Regular panic attacks are a significant indication of a panic disorder, and they come with their own panic symptoms. Some of these include:
- Dizziness, lightheadedness
- Sweating, shaking, or trembling
- Choking sensation
- Chest pains, nausea
- Limb numbness
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears that lead to obsessive behaviors. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts that trigger intense, distressing feelings. Compulsions are the behaviors a person engages in to get rid of unwanted obsessions and decrease their stress levels.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms include:
- Fear of dirt, germs, or contamination
- Needing things orderly and symmetrical
- Scary thoughts about losing control and harming yourself or others
- Unpleasant sexual images
The compulsions have their own symptoms as well. These include:
- Checking things repeatedly before leaving the house
- Washing and cleaning
- Counting things to reassure yourself
- Following a strict routine
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that develops when a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic experience or scary event. It’s normal to experience a range of emotions after trauma, but most people recover naturally from the symptoms in time. PTSD develops when symptoms continue and the individual experiences additional mental health concerns.
PTSD can occur at any age. It’s common for war veterans, people who have experienced physical or sexual abuse, or been in an accident or natural disaster.
PTSD and related anxiety symptoms include:
- Staying away from places or people that remind them of a traumatic event
- Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the event
- Angry outbursts
- Difficulty sleeping
- Trouble remembering parts of the event
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
- Distorted feelings like guilt or blame
People with anxiety disorders know how uncomfortable, painful, and scary it can be to live with these types of conditions and how they affect your daily life. Fortunately, anxiety treatments can provide relief from the symptoms of anxiety disorders and help people suffering get on a path to recovery.
Here are a few methods used to treat anxiety disorders that can bring significant improvement to the physical and mental health of someone with an anxiety disorder.
Lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on stress management and the symptoms of anxiety disorders. If you have severe anxiety, lifestyle changes can be helpful when paired with other treatments like therapy and medication. Here are some lifestyle changes worth making:
- Prioritize sleep and try going to bed earlier
- Stay active and get exercise daily
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Avoid alcohol and other substances
- Practice relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques
- Practice positive thinking, forgiveness, gratitude, and kindness
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective form of talk therapy that is highly beneficial for people with anxiety and depression.
CBT focuses on interrupting negative thoughts and problematic behaviors that feed into mental disorders like anxiety disorder. CBT is effective in relieving anxiety symptoms.
Using CBT methods, patients gain coping strategies to help them handle their anxiety and learn to control the negative thoughts that impact their actions and prevent them from having healthy relationships and how they view themselves. By reframing thoughts, patients are able to discover different, more positive outcomes.
Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy, helps patients identify issues that can cause emotional distress and worsen anxiety disorders.
Through talk therapy, undiagnosed individuals may receive an anxiety or depression diagnosis after talking with a therapist for several sessions.
Once diagnosed, patients will build coping skills to reduce their anxiety, along with identifying triggers and the impact they have on their lives. Talk therapy can help patients develop stress management techniques to lessen the severity of their anxiety symptoms and positively impact their lives. It can also reduce the risk factors associated with long-term mental health conditions.
Psychiatric medication is highly effective in treating all ranges of anxiety disorders. Anti-anxiety medications help to reduce anxiety symptoms, including panic attacks and persistent fear and worry.
Antidepressant medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are common medications for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Anxiety medication is generally considered safe and effective when taken under the care of a mental health provider.
TMS therapy, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, is a highly effective treatment alternative for anxiety with little to no side effects. TMS is a non-invasive brain stimulation treatment performed in an outpatient setting.
Anxiety negatively impacts certain regions of the brain, which causes abnormally high levels of activity. The gentle magnetic pulses used in TMS target these overactive areas to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. TMS therapy is best used in conjunction with talk therapy and medication.
What to do if you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety
Experiencing anxiety can be uncomfortable and scary, but you should know that anxiety is a normal response to stress, uncertainty, and fear.
If talking to friends or family about your symptoms has not provided the relief you need, it’s time to look into finding support from a mental health professional. They can provide you with care in treating anxiety, connect you with a support group to learn about managing your condition in healthy ways, and help you forge a path forward. Talking with your doctor about anxiety symptoms and other mental health conditions is the first step toward healing and mental wellness.
Feeling anxious or overwhelmed? Not able to pinpoint the cause or reason why? We can help.
At Neuro Wellness Spa, anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health conditions our care team treats. It’s no secret that the mental health epidemic in this country is ongoing, and mental illness does not discriminate. At our center, countless patients have experienced life-changing results with our expert psychiatric care and cutting-edge treatments for total mind-body well-being.
Our world-class care team is devoted to helping you achieve your breakthrough today. Contact us today for more information about our in-person and online psychiatry services and alternative treatments like TMS therapy. Mental illness does not have to control your life; there are many options when it comes to treatment, and seeking support from a mental health specialist is the first step on the path to healing and wellness.