The Ins and Outs of Anxiety Disorders & Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Everyone gets tense and uptight from time to time. However, when that tension and uptightness is ongoing and you have no ability to resist being wound up and fretting about seemingly everything, you may have what’s known as generalized anxiety disorder. It’s an extremely common ailment for people in North America, and often it results from a combination of a person’s genetic predisposition for it and continued exposure to life stressors.

There are a number of different types of anxiety disorders, and all of them are classified as mental illnesses. This tends to suggest that an anxiety disorder is especially debilitating for people. Those with severe anxiety will certainly agree that it is debilitating and makes it difficult for them to go through their day-to-day lives. More mild anxiety isn’t going to be as problematic, but it is still a mental illness in the same way and should be the focus of some type of relief therapy approach.

One of the biggest issues with anxiety disorders is that anxiety disorder symptoms are often ones that are both difficult to spot for people close to the individual, and then it’s also quite common for these individuals to dismiss them without realizing the scope of the problem. More acknowledgement of the seriousness of anxiety disorders is needed, so let’s start by looking at the types of anxiety disorders and the causes of anxiety disorders.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

The medical community and mental health experts agree that there are 4 main types of anxiety disorders. The most common one is generalized anxiety disorder, and the reason it’s called generalized anxiety disorder is because it can be the result of any number of different factors / triggers and have a whole spectrum of anxiety symptoms that stem from it.

The common one of these anxiety disorder symptoms that is seen in generalized anxiety disorder is feeling excessive, unrealistic worry and tension for little or no real reason. Many people with GAD have said the same thing; that their nervous system seems to make them tense and uneasy ‘for the sake of being tense and uneasy’ and there’s really not much if anything they can do to stop it.

The remaining 3 types of anxiety disorders are not seen as frequently, but many people would say they’re much more debilitating when they occur. They are:

  • Panic disorder – This type of anxiety disorder usually involves the individual overreacting strongly to a perceived threat, and their response with chest pains, heart palpitations, sweating, limb tremors, and more is usually something that sufferers are unable to control. In severe cases the individual may feel that they are choking or having a heart attack.
  • Social anxiety disorder – This type of anxiety disorder is also called social phobia, and it involves feelings of extreme mental discomfort and unease along with overbearing feeling of negative self-consciousness when the sufferer is away from their home and in social situations. Often the individual will be unable to stop obsessing about what others think of them, or very afraid of being judged, embarrassed, or ridiculed – even if there is no logical reason to expect this.
  • Specific phobia anxiety disorder – Phobia means fear, and of all the anxiety disorders this one may be the most traumatic for people prone to experiencing it. Sufferers will feel intense fear of a specific object or situation, and this fear will result in an elevated heart rate, inability to focus or concentrate on anything except the perceived threat, as well as general hysteria which raises cortisol levels in the blood.

Causes of Anxiety Disorders

The consensus on the causes of anxiety disorders seems to be that there is uncertainty on exactly what causes them. Research into the causes of mental illness have not progressed as quickly and thoroughly as they have for other types of illnesses. One thing that medical professionals do agree on is that genetic predispositions and changes in brain chemistry play a large part in whether a person is likely to develop anxiety disorders

As it regards brain chemistry, the belief is that faulty circuits in the parts of the brain the control fear and other emotions may be one of the primary causes of anxiety disorders. The last consideration is that environmental and life stressors can cause anxiety, particularly when the person experiencing them never has a reprieve from them.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

There are general anxiety disorder symptoms that are seen in all types of anxiety disorders. They include:

  • Panic, fear, and uneasiness
  • Inability to stay calm and in control of emotions and expressions
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sleep problems
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold, sweaty, numb, or tingling hands or feet
  • Dry mouth
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tense muscles
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

Anxiety Disorder Treatments

Certain antidepressant medications have shown themselves to be very effective for treating anxiety disorder symptoms. Most notable among them are Prozac and Lexapro. Sometimes physicians will also prescribe anxiolytic drugs like Xanax and Klonopin, and these meds are regarded as working well to treat generalized anxiety disorders as well as social anxiety disorder and panic attacks.

Psychotherapy is also very beneficial for treating anxiety disorders, and especially so when it addresses the emotional responses to mental illness. At the forefront of this approach is cognitive behavioural therapy, which is built on the belief that if you can change your way of thinking, you can change your relief. Many of the basic principles of CBT can be used to reduce the severity of anxiety disorder symptoms.