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Anxiety Disorders: Causes, Types, Signs, Relief and Treatment

Anxiety is a good thing when we are in a threatening or dangerous situation because it helps us respond appropriately. Other times anxiety can be a problem when it happens for no reason and is caused by irrational fears that just won't go away. People who have these irrational fears and a lot of anxiety for no reason have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are triggered or caused by many different things depending on the person. The causes of an anxiety disorder need to be discovered so the right treatment can be recommended.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorder is a general term that describes fears that are irrational or not based on fact. There are many types of anxiety disorders, including panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, and different phobias. Some people experience these feelings so severely that it interferes with their ability to cope with daily life.

It's not uncommon for people to suffer from more than one type of anxiety disorder - for example, someone experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder may also feel frequent panic attacks. Obsessive compulsive disorder can also be tied to depression, and so on.

There is help - whether it's cognitive behavioral therapy or medication there is a solution out there that can help you regain control of your life. A qualified professional can guide you to the right treatment for your anxiety, no matter what you are suffering from.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Anxiety can strike without warning. Most of us know when we are being attacked by stress. However, how would you feel if that level of panic permeated through your day, everyday? This is what it feels like to suffer from a Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

A person who suffers from a Generalized Anxiety Disorder never loses the feelings of stress or panic. They constantly operate with a level of fear and worry coursing through their veins. They cannot control their worry and their stress is not central to any one activity or idea.

If you are an adult who has a Generalized Anxiety Disorder you may worry to the extreme over very common stressors such as money, family matters, your health or the health of a loved one, or issues at work.

In addition, children are known to exhibit issues with Generalized Anxiety Disorders and those who suffer from this tend to express an overt amount of stress and energy worrying about their performance in school sports, the approval of a parent, or a grade on test. A child who suffers from anxiety might also exhibit other problems in social settings and they may have a hard time making friends. (See hereGAD in Children)

Finally, there are also physical symptoms involved when an individual has an anxiety disorder. Sometimes these symptoms mimic a heart attack and other times can be associated with feelings of tiredness and exhaustion, as well as issues with falling asleep easily or staying asleep. A person is also likely to feel nauseous, have stomach pains, and feel light headed.

An anxiety disorder also will leave a person feeling on edge and someone who suffers from this problem can have problems with concentrating and show symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Anxiety has also been proven to manifest itself through other issues such an Irritable Bowel Syndrome and incontinence.

  Read more here onSome of the Anxiety Disorder Symptoms which are commonly experienced

If you exhibit any of these feelings or if you feel out of control with worry, it is important that you contact a health professional.

Anxiety Disorder Causes

The direct cause of an anxiety disorder cannot be pinpointed nor can it be attributed to a certain type of person or behavior. However, there are some studies that suggest an anxiety disorder could be genetic and could possibly be suffered by multiple members of a family.

There are some underlying conditions that can be a trigger for an anxiety disorder including hyperthyroidism. It will be necessary for your physician to do a thyroid test to make sure that your anxiety does not stem from a glandular issue.

Finally, it is wise to consult with your doctor if you currently use or are on a variety of medications that could cause additional stress, erratic behavior, and/or increased anxiety. Medications and drugs such as caffeine and any drug that is made with amphetamines, such as Ritalin, could make anxiety symptoms worse.

Additionally, if you suffer from anxiety it is always wise to avoid the use of illegal stimulant drugs such as cocaine, which can be detrimental to the health of your heart and nervous system.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD is one of the most diagnosed types of anxiety disorder conditions and is characterized by long lasting anxiety that is not based on any sort of rational fear or any threat to your well-being.

At some point in each person's life they experience some form of Generalized Anxiety. The unwarranted lack of ability to shake off stress and worry can manifest itself into Anxiety. Anything you find difficult to deal with can trigger nervousness and anticipation but if the feelings are more intense and prominent than you feel the situation need cause, you are most likely to be suffering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

People with general anxiety disorder have a hard time explaining just what they are so worried about and fearful of. It can last for as long as six months or more and is characterized by symptoms that include dizziness, racing heartbeat, terrible headaches, trouble sleeping, and other physical symptoms that can come on with little or no warning.

Symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder include:
  • Exaggerated Worry
  • Shaking
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is among the most common treatable mental disorders. Behavioral therapy and/or relaxation techniques are the most common treatment for this disorder.

[Read more here on → Generalized Anxiety Disorder]


Other people have an anxiety disorder called a phobia, which is an irrational fear or a place, a thing or a situation not based on any real danger. Everyone has things they are afraid of but with a phobia, the fear is much more intense and felt very strongly.

This type of anxiety disorder causes people to feel sick to their stomach, causes their heart to race and make them feel shaky and out of breath.

[Read more here on → Phobia]

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is another common type of anxiety disorder that occurs after a person faces an extreme physically (or emotionally) dangerous, threatening or traumatic event in his life (e.g., accident, witnessing a crime, death of a loved one). Elevated stress at this level is caused usually by a person being harmed themselves or being witness to a harmful event.

People with this type of anxiety disorder have a sudden and severe reaction to a stimuli like a person, place or situation that reminds them of the traumatic event they went through and that brings on their post-traumatic stress disorder.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was originally recognised and brought to our attention by war veterans, although it can be induced by any variety of traumatic incidents including natural disasters.

Not every person Involved in a traumatic incident develops Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The symptoms would usually take form within three months of the incident but in rare cases they may not initially take affect for some years.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder include:
  • Easily Startled
  • Emotionally Numb
  • Irritable
  • Aggressive
A combination of psychotherapy and anti-depressants are most frequently used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

[Read more here on → Post-traumatic stress disorder]

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD causes people to have thoughts and ideas in their head that they just cannot get rid of so they are forced to act on these thoughts over and over again. They simply are not able to get the fears, thoughts or ideas out of their mind.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is often used to describe people in an offhand manner for being an extremely meticulous person. Although this is not entirely incorrect, a person suffering from this disorder is often characterized for their obsessive, intrusive thoughts and related compulsions. This rituals when performed attempt to neutralize the obsession somewhat and create a feeling of control.

Someone carrying such traits as perfectionism or fixation are not necessarily suffering from OCD; you must have either obsessions and/or compulsions and the individual must realize these are excessive.

Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder include:
  • Persistent Thoughts/Impulses
  • Reoccurring Images
  • Repetitive Behaviors
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder usually responds well to certain medications but exposure based psychotherapy has proven most beneficial to individuals suffering from a common compulsion.

[Read more here on → Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)]

Panic Disorder

Whilst suffering from panic disorder you are susceptible to having feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. It is likely that you will suffer from anxiety between episodes due to the fact you cannot predict when the next attack will occur.

Because of the unpredictability of this and the constant worry it is very common for depression or alcoholism to accompany this type of disorder. Panic Disorder often causes a phobia of the specific place your panic attack previously occurred and may cause you to avoid such a place again.

Panic disorder often affects young adults between the age of 18 and 24 and can last from a few months through to many years depending on how the symptoms are treated.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder:
  • Dizziness
  • Shaking
  • Elevated Heart Beat
  • Trouble Breathing
In most cases medication is issued and the panic attacks will clear in a matter of weeks, but in other instances counselling may be required to help you cope with reoccurring panic attacks.

[Read more here on → Panic and Anxiety Disorder]

Social Anxiety Disorder: Social Phobia

Social Anxiety Disorder is a fear of people and social situations which is typically caused by not wanting to be judged negatively, embarrassed or criticized, be it publicly or on a one to one level. People with this condition dread everyday activities such as working, school, shopping and generally socializing. This forms such an ordeal with them as they are marked by persistent feelings of anxiety and self consciousness.

More specific deeper rooted causes are the phobia of speaking in public, eating in public and dealing with authority figures.

Physical symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder include:
  • Trembling
  • Blushing
  • Sweating
The two treatments to manage social phobia are psychological counseling and medicines. These two may be used in combination.

Read more here on → Social Anxiety Disorder
See also: Glossophobia: Fear of public speaking

Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety Attacks: Panic Attacks

People suffering from many anxiety disorders (including social anxiety) commonly experience anxiety attacks, which are also called panic attacks. An anxiety attack is far more intense than just feeling anxious or stressed.

The symptoms of an anxiety attack include:
  • a raging heartbeat,
  • difficulty breathing,
  • hyperventilating,
  • paralyzing terror,
  • dizziness,
  • light-headedness,
  • nausea,
  • trembling,
  • sweating,
  • shaking,
  • choking,
  • chest pains,
  • hot flashes,
  • sudden chills,
  • tingling fingers or toes,
  • fear that you are losing your mind or dying.
A person may experience all, or some, of these symptoms during a panic attack. Different people will experience the symptoms to varying degrees.

If a person who has never experienced an anxiety attack before has one, it can be a very frightening experience. Statistics show that one out of every seventy-five people will experience at least one anxiety attack within their lifetime.

Anxiety attacks reach their maximum intensity within the first couple of minutes, then slowly diminish over the next several hours. The anxiety attack can even be completely over in as little as thirty minutes. After a person’s first anxiety attack, medical treatment should be sought, to be sure that it was, in fact, an anxiety attack, and not a more serious problem.

Medical researchers have found that there are three different types of anxiety attacks: Spontaneous attacks, specific attacks, and situational predisposed attacks.
  • Spontaneous attacks are associated with panic disorder. These attacks give no warning, and can occur for absolutely no apparent reason.
  • Specific anxiety attacks are triggered by a specific feared situation or place. The anxiety attacks that people with Social Anxiety often experience fall into this category.
  • Situational predisposed attacks are also a sign of panic disorder. Some people may be predisposed to having an anxiety attack in a certain situation or place, even though they have no known fear of the situation or place.
Anxiety attacks are sometimes treated with medication, however, they are best treated with more natural therapy, such as counseling and deep breathing. While anxiety attacks are not fully understood, often, a person is able to get to the true cause of the attacks with counseling. Furthermore, just because a person experiences one anxiety attack, it does not necessarily mean that they will ever experience another one in their lives.

    Read more:

Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder involves psychological therapy and, depending on the severity of this condition, medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are used.

The treatments used are applied relaxation therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Applied relaxation therapy is centered on your ability to imagine yourself in calm situation. Your therapist will work with you to help you relax in this method.

In cognitive-behavioral therapy, you will learn how to think positive thoughts and apply these thoughts to your everyday life. It will center on your ability to project good ideas into your life when you feel stressed or worried.

Both antidepressants and antianxiety medications are used to treat anxiety disorders. The first medication specifically approved for use to treat OCD was the tricyclic antidepressant clomipramine. The SSRIs, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, and sertraline are now used for the treatment of OCD. Paroxetine is used for social anxiety disorder (social phobia), GAD, and panic disorder; and sertraline is used for panic disorder and PTSD. Venlafaxine is used for GAD.

Types of Medications:
  • Anti-Anxiety Drugs such as benzodiazepines, Buspirone, Clonazepam
  • Beta-Blockers such as propranolol
  • SSRIs also known as selective Serotonin re-uptake inhibitors
  • MAOIs also known as Monoamine Oxidase inhibitors
  • TCAs also known as Tricyclic anti-depressants
  • SNRIs also known as Serotonin and Noradrenaline re-uptake inhibitors

Some of the drugs related to SNRI’s and SSRI’s come with side effects related to sleeplessness and generally these side effects will disappear as the medicine works its way into the system of the patient. The medicines, of course, can all have different effects based upon the unique make up of each patient, and therefore, it is important that you have an open conversation with your doctor about symptoms and the way you feel. The length of time for treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder will vary patient by patient.

Conclusion : You are not Alone

If it is any consolation, you are not alone. Anxiety symptoms are felt by millions of people every year.
For many though, this becomes a part of life and often requires professional help to manage, treat, and yes, cure.
There is hope. You won’t have to live with an anxiety disorder forever if you seek medical attention and do exactly what your doctor prescribes.

    Read alsoHow to Deal with Anxiety: Basics and Beyond


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