Anxiety

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. These disorders affect how we feel and behave, and they can manifest real physical symptoms. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating, having a serious impact on daily life.

People often experience a general state of worry or fear before confronting something challenging such as a test, examination, recital, or interview. These feelings are easily justified and considered normal. Anxiety is considered a problem when symptoms interfere with a person's ability to sleep or otherwise function. Generally speaking, anxiety occurs when a reaction is out of proportion with what might be normally expected in a situation.

Anxiety disorders can be classified into several more specific types. The most common are briefly described below.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder

What Causes Anxiety?

Environmental and external factors

Environmental factors that are known to cause several types of anxiety include:

  • Trauma from events such as abuse, victimization, or the death of a loved one
  • Stress in a personal relationship, marriage, friendship, and divorce
  • Stress at work
  • Stress from school
  • Stress about finances and money
  • Stress from a natural disaster
  • Lack of oxygen in high altitude areas

Medical factors

Anxiety is associated with medical factors such as anemia, asthma, infections, and several heart conditions. Some medically-related causes of anxiety include:

  • Stress from a serious medical illness
  • Side effects of medication
  • Symptoms of a medical illness

Genetics

It has been suggested by some researchers that a family history of anxiety increases the likelihood that a person will develop it. That is, some people may have a genetic predisposition that gives them a greater chance of suffering from anxiety disorders.

Brain chemistry

Research has shown that people with abnormal levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain are more likely to suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. When neurotransmitters are not working properly, the brain's internal communication network breaks down, and the brain may react in an inappropriate way in some situations. This can lead to anxiety.

What Are Common Symptoms Of Anxiety?

The following is a list of physical symptoms associated with GAD:

  • Trembling
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Backache
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating/flushing
  • Restlessness
  • Easily tired
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability

Treatments for Anxiety

Anxiety historically has been treated with a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Some common benzodiazepines include:

  • Diazepam (D-Pam)
  • Alprazolam (Serelam)
  • Clonazepam (Epiclon)

Anti-depressants - especially those in the class of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) - are also commonly used to treat anxiety even though they were designed to treat depression. Some anti-depressants include: