Dealing With Anxiety
Revised: May 21, 2014
Anxiety disorders are very common psychiatric conditions and are very responsive to treatment. At one time or another everyone has experienced anxiety or fear. Anxiety and fear are the same emotional condition, but they can be experienced in different ways. The feeling of anxiety is generally characterized as diffuse, unpleasant, a sense of apprehension or worry, and has physical symptoms that may include headache, muscle tension, perspiration, restlessness, tension in the chest and mild stomach discomfort. Anxiety can produce confusion, memory problems, as well as distortions of reality and the meaning of events. Anxiety becomes a disorder when the symptoms are severe, pervasive, lasting and interfere with normal life. Panic disorder is another common psychiatric condition. Panic is a spontaneous, unexpected, recurrent, intense and overwhelming form of anxiety. The feeling of panic is characterized as extremely unpleasant, a feeling of fear or dread, and may include symptoms of rapid heart beat, chest tension or pain, impaired breathing, dizziness and tingling sensations, etc Anxiety disorders can develop gradually over long periods of time or very quickly. These disorders can become disabling and interfere with school, relationships, social activities and work.
There is reason to be concerned if the symptoms of anxiety or panic are severe, prolonged, unexpected, seem unusual or have no apparent cause. Recognizing the symptoms of anxiety and panic can help you deal with these conditions and seek help from a qualified mental health professional.
Symptoms Of Anxiety
Serious And Critical Symptoms
Chest pain Weakness or paralysis Dizziness, fainting or passing out
Weakness or paralysis
Dizziness, fainting or passing out
How Symptoms are Reinforced
Once a fear or anxiety response has been elicited, the response tendency can be maintained in a number of ways. A few of these are:
Symptoms and Behaviors Associated With Anxiety
There Are Roughly 11 Diagnostic Categories Associated With Anxiety Disorders.
There is a tremendous amount of research regarding the biological and psychological basis of anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders occur in 10 to 15 percent of the population. Panic disorder occurs in approximately 2 to 4 percent of the population. Approximately one half of all patients with panic disorder have an immediate blood relative with panic disorder. Studies of identical twins have shown that panic disorder may occur with one twin but not the other. Most people experience an anxiety disorder purely on the basis of psychological, social and environmental influences. Anxiety disorders are not necessarily inherited although some people appear to inherit a risk or vulnerability for an anxiety disorder from family. Brain imaging studies have produced minimal data to suggest there is a single defect or problem in the brain that causes or contributes to anxiety.
Dealing with symptoms of anxiety and panic requires an understanding as to whether the symptoms are a normal reaction, the result of a psychological disorder, or the result of a medical problem or condition. There are a number of medical problems and conditions that can look and feel like anxiety and panic. Anxiety disorders are usually the result of a psychological disorder or a medical condition when they are severe, interfere with our ability to function or are prolonged. Approximately 50% of all cases involving symptoms of panic disorder are actually caused or triggered by an unrecognized and untreated medical problem.
Common Treatment Approaches
A large number of treatment strategies have been developed for the treatment of anxiety related disorders. Some of these are:
There are numerous anti-anxiety medications that are routinely used with adults. Benzodiazapenes are the largest class of these drugs and are referred to as sedative-hypnotics. Sedative-tranquilizers are used in some cases but less frequently. Each of these drug categories are moderately to highly addictive and are effective in reducing or eliminating symptoms. They do not cure the disorder. While there a number of medications available for anxiety disorders, their side effects limit their use.
In general, anxiety disorders are very responsive to psychotherapy. Panic disorder is one of the most responsive. Effective therapy must include evaluation of the patient's entire biological, psychological, social and cultural background. Medications can be helpful, but the side effects of these medications and the potential for addiction with some medications must be considered. Psychotherapy can be a very effective alternative to the use of medications. In most cases, there must be changes in the patients environment and social support system for treatment to be successful. Families of people with anxiety disorders can fail to see how they reinforce the disorder. Families are often resistant to change despite expressed dedication of support and a desire to do whatever is necessary. Embarrassing or punishing an anxious person will only make the disorder worse. There are effective and ineffective therapies. While some professionals prefer to emphasize that psychotherapy is effective, it is worth recognizing that effective therapies can be used incorrectly by well intended therapists. Competence, commitment as well as outstanding interpersonal qualities in a therapist are crucial for treatment to be successful.
Psychotherapy requires significant commitment of time while treatment of anxiety and panic disorders with medication requires less effort. Since normal anxiety can improve over time without therapy, a brief period of medication can relieve symptoms, restore functioning and not necessarily require long term or life long reliance on medication. Use of medication in some cases can result in a dependence on that medication to manage anxiety. Psychotherapy is almost always the first treatment of choice except in cases where anxiety or panic is so severe that immediate relief is necessary to restore functioning and to prevent immediate and severe consequences. Medication is usually the second choice after a comprehensive and competent trial of psychotherapy. Combined use of medications and psychotherapy at the onset of treatment can confuse an evaluation of treatment effectiveness. It is harder in a combined medication and therapy approach to tell which approach is or is not helping and how much it is helping.
Psychotherapy, or the psychotherapist, can generally be considered ineffective if a trial of 3 months has not produced a measurable and noticeable improvement. A decision to change therapists or to start a medication may be necessary at this point. Several trials of psychotherapy or medications may be necessary to successfully treat anxiety or panic disorders.
Information And Steps You Can Take
copyright 1998 to 2002, Michael G. Conner