People with anxiety can’t seem to get rid of their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants.
Anxiety is debilitating and is one of the most common issues facing people today. It can be stimulated by a specific event, a recurring phobia or felt as free-floating. Feelings of being worthless, inadequate, weak or unlovable may also create intense anxiety, as can dormant memories of abuse, emerging for the first time.
There are many different types of anxiety disorders. The good news is they are highly treatable.
One disorder which is associated with specific life stressors such as health, finances, relationships or life stressors is Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
People with GAD can’t seem to relax, startle easily and have difficulty concentrating. Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 6.5 million adult Americans, about twice as many women as men, suffer from GAD. There is no specific age of onset for anxiety. Children suffer from anxiety as do adults.
The disorder comes on gradually and can begin across the life cycle, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age. It is diagnosed when someone spends at least six months worrying excessively. There is evidence that the tendency to develop them may run in families.
Physical symptoms that often accompany the anxiety include:
- Muscle tension
- Muscle Aches
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Having to go to the bathroom frequently
- Feeling out of breath
- Hot flashes
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is also associated with specific fears such as:
- Fear of failure
- Fear of death
- Fear of abandonment
- Fear over loss of health or fitness
- Fear of rejection or humiliation
- Fear of loss of control
When their anxiety level is mild, people with GAD can function socially and hold down a job. Although they don’t avoid certain situations as a result of their disorder, people with GAD can have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities if their anxiety is severe.
Other anxiety disorders, depression, or substance abuse often accompany GAD, which rarely occurs alone. GAD is commonly treated with medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy, but co-occurring conditions must also be treated using the appropriate therapies.
Panic disorder is a real illness that can be successfully treated. It is characterized by sudden attacks of terror, usually accompanied by a pounding heart, sweatiness, weakness, faintness, or dizziness. During these attacks, people with panic disorder may:
- Feel flush or feel chilled;
- hands may tingle or feel numb
- may experience nausea, chest pain, or smothering sensations
- have a sense of unreality
- have a fear of impending doom
- have a fear of losing control.
Early treatment is important with panic disorder, because it is highly treatable. Not everyone who experiences panic attacks will develop full blown panic disorder. Some people have just one attack and never another. For a full-blown panic disorder diagnosis, there needs to be recurrent and persistent panic attacks. There is some evidence the tendency to develop panic disorder runs in families.
Panic attacks can seemingly occur at any time. Many people who experience panic attacks become highly anxious and begin to fear leaving their own homes. In between is the endless worrying and dread of another attack. Before the disorder progresses to this stage, it is hoped the sufferer seeks help.
Because panic disorder is often accompanied by other issues such as depression and substance abuse, proper evaluation is important.
Treatment of Anxiety Disorders
In general, anxiety disorders are treated with medication, specific types of psychotherapy, or both. Treatment choices depend on the problem and the person’s preference.
Before treatment begins, a careful diagnostic evaluation must be made to determine whether a person’s symptoms are caused by an anxiety disorder or a physical problem. If an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, the type of disorder or the combination of disorders that are present must be identified.
Sometimes, alcoholism, depression, or other coexisting conditions have such a strong effect on the individual that treating the anxiety disorder must wait until the coexisting conditions are brought under control.
Once any needs for medication are addressed, there are many psychotherapeutic ways of working with anxiety. Making sure clients are grounded in reality-based thinking is one way.