Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders in the United States. It is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. However for some people anxiety can become more than just an occasional feeling. It can become a debilitating condition that affects every aspect of their lives.
A number of different studies show a link between anxiety and obesity. But it is not known whether the obesity can contribute to feelings of anxiety or if people with anxiety disorders may be at a higher risk for obesity. One study, described in General Hospital Psychiatry, March/April 2008, and completed by the Division of Adult and Community Health in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicates that people with anxiety disorders are 30 percent more likely to be obese than those without anxiety.
There are many types of anxiety disorders each with its own set of symptoms. As a result there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating anxiety. And there are several effective therapies that can help people manage their anxiety and live relatively normal lives.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. It is typically accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, and a sense of impending doom.
Anxiety is caused by a variety of factors including genetics, brain chemistry, and life events. And stressful life events are a common trigger for anxiety attacks.
What Causes Anxiety?
There is no one cause of anxiety. Rather it is a combination of factors that can include genetics, brain chemistry, life experiences and temperament.
Anxiety can run in families. And this suggests that anxiety may be partially due to genetic factors. But if anxiety runs in your family that does not mean you will automatically develop the disorder.
The imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain is linked to anxiety disorders. These include serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid.
Traumatic or stressful life events such as abuse, loss of a loved one, or witnessing violence can trigger symptoms of anxiety.
Some people are simply more prone to anxiety than others.
Types Of Anxiety Disorders
There are several types of anxiety disorders, each with its own symptoms. However, the most common types of anxiety disorders are:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD):
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive worry and tension that interferes with daily activities. As a result, people with GAD may have difficulty concentrating, sleeping, and managing everyday tasks.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD):
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is characterized by obsessive thoughts that lead to compulsions: repeated behaviors or mental acts. It may be excessive hand washing or checking things multiple times.
Panic Disorder is characterized by sudden and unexpected episodes of intense fear. It is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and dizziness. People with panic disorder may live in fear of having another attack and may avoid situations that trigger their anxiety.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD):
Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by intense feelings of anxiety and self-consciousness in social situations. People with SAD feel extremely anxious when around others and may avoid social interactions. They may worry about being embarrassed or judged.
These are intense fears of specific objects or situations, such as heights, animals, flying, or blood. People with specific phobias may go to great lengths to avoid the things they are afraid of and may experience severe anxiety when exposed to them.
Risk Factors for Anxiety Disorders
There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder, including:
- Family history of anxiety disorders
- Personal history of mental health disorders
- Stressful life events
- Exposure to violence or trauma
- Use of alcohol or drugs
You may be at increased risk for anxiety if you have a family history of anxiety disorders, a personal history of mental health disorders, or exposure to stressful life events or trauma. In addition, if you use alcohol or drugs, you may also be at increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety can cause a variety of physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can be temporary or long-lasting.
- Rapid heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Avoiding situations that trigger anxiety
- Seeking reassurance from others
- Engaging in compulsive behaviors (such as handwashing)
Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t wait to get help. Instead, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about what you’re going through. You can manage your anxiety and live a healthy, happy life with proper treatment.
There are many different treatment options available for anxiety, and what works for one person may not work for another.
Some of the most common and effective treatments include:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on helping people change their negative thinking and behavior patterns. CBT is shown to be an effective treatment for anxiety disorders. And it can help people learn how to better manage their anxiety and fear.
Exposure therapy is another type of CBT that involves gradually exposing yourself to the things that trigger your anxiety. This can help you learn to better cope with your fears and eventually overcome them.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction:
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a form of mindfulness meditation shown to be helpful in reducing anxiety. MBSR can teach you how to better control your thoughts and emotions and how to better deal with stress.
Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, can help you reduce your overall anxiety levels. These techniques can also help you better cope with stressful situations when they do arise.
Medication may be necessary in order to manage anxiety. There are a variety of different medications to treat anxiety disorders. And your doctor can help you determine which one is right for you.
EMDR therapy is a type of psychotherapy that is shown to be effective in treating anxiety disorders. By using an EMDR kit, EMDR therapy can help you learn to better manage your thoughts and emotions and how to better deal with stress.
Anxiety disorders are treatable but only about one-third of people with anxiety seek treatment. If you are struggling with anxiety, there are many effective treatments available. Talk to your doctor about what might be best for you.
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