Anxiety Disorder: Causes and Treatment

Anxiety Disorder: Causes and Treatment

Anxiety is a natural brain response during stressful conditions. Occasional anxiety is a normal cerebral process, but an anxiety disorder is a clinical condition that needs psychological intervention and, in severe cases, may require medical assistance. An anxiety disorder is a psychological or mental illness that can be identified when:

  • Anxiety interferes with the functioning ability of the individual.

  • An individual overreacts over a specific emotion

  • The behavioral responses are out of control to difficult situations.

  • Logical explanations fail to address the worries causing anxiety.


Though the causes of anxiety are not fully known, a combination of factors, including heredity, chemical imbalance in the brain, underlying health issues, life experiences, and environmental conditions, are suspected of playing a significant role in triggering anxiety disorders.


Types of Anxiety Disorders


Agoraphobia is a fear and avoidance of places, events, or situations that might cause discomfort and panic. An agoraphobic person may fear using elevators, leaving home, or public transport.


Generalized anxiety disorder is a chronic condition that characterizes persistent and excessive worry and anxiety about non-specific, trivial, and routine issues. It is the most common anxiety disorder wherein people cannot identify the root cause of their fear.


Panic disorder involves repeated episodes of intense anxiety, fear, or terror, symptomized by shaking, dizziness and nausea, shortness of breath, chest pain, and heart palpitations. It occurs suddenly and escalates rapidly which may last for hours. Panic attacks usually occur after frightening experiences or prolonged stress but may also occur without a trigger.


Specific phobias are characterized by irrational fear and avoidance of particular triggering conditions that may range from situations and animals to everyday objects. Phobias may also provoke panic attacks in some people.


Selective mutism is an extreme form of social phobia generally faced by children. It is characterized by the inability to speak in certain places or situations, such as school, even when they have good communication skills at home or around familiar people, thus interfering with their functioning.


Separation anxiety disorder is a childhood disorder characterized by high levels of anxiety associated with separation from parents or place that provides feelings of security or safety.


Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) involves a fear of negative judgment from others, leading to avoidance of social situations. It may include stage fright, fear of rejection, anxiety due to embarrassment or humiliation, etc.


Some anxiety disorders can be caused due to a medical condition or substance-induced resulting from drug misuse, certain medications, exposure to toxic substances, or drug withdrawal.


Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder


The primary symptom of anxiety disorders is excessive fear or worry, which interferes with daily functioning causing difficulty breathing, disturbed sleep, mental unrest, and troubled concentration. Though specific symptoms depend on the type of anxiety disorder, general signs of an anxiety disorder include:


  • Physical symptoms:

    • Cold or sweaty hands and Dry mouth

    • Sweating, or trembling

    • Increased heart rate and heart palpitations

    • Nausea and dizziness

    • Shortness of breath or rapid breathing

    • Gastrointestinal problems

    • Muscle pain and fatigue

  • Mental symptoms:

    • Feeling panic and fear

    • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense

    • Difficulty in concentrating and logical thinking

    • Uncontrollable worry and obsessive thoughts

    • Repeated thoughts of traumatic experiences

  • Behavioral symptoms:

    • Inability to be composed and calm.

    • Trouble sleeping, insomnia, and nightmares

    • Avoidance or escapism from the triggering situations

    • Irritability


Treatment and Prevention of Anxiety Disorders


Anxiety disorder treatment strategies help to overcome the symptoms and manage day-to-day living, thus improving the overall quality of life. Different approaches that help cope with anxiety disorders are as under:

  • Self-treatment – Mild and short-term cases of anxiety can be treated without clinical supervision by employing self-management techniques that include:

  • Stress management: Effective stress management can help limit potential triggers and manage extreme fear.

  • Relaxation techniques: Simple activities like deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, long baths, etc., can help soothe the mental and physical signs of anxiety.

  • Mental exercises: Training the mind to prevent negative thoughts and focus on positivity can help cope with anxiety events.

  • Physical workouts: Regular exercise and physical activity can help relieve mental stress and reduce anxiety.

  • Support network: Healthy communication with family and friends may reduce stress and control anxiety.  

  • Natural Remedies – Various anxiety disorders can be managed by adopting healthy lifestyle measures such as:

  • Eating healthy diet

  • Getting good, sound sleep

  • Being physically active

  • Meditation

  • Quitting tobacco and alcohol

  • Avoiding caffeine

  • Psychotherapy - Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” includes -

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy - It educates people about different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to trigger situations.

  • Exposure response prevention - Exposure therapy focuses on facing and confronting the fear situations by engaging the people in activities they have been escaping.

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy - ACT takes a different approach by using strategies such as mindfulness and goal setting to overcome anxiety. 

  • Medication – Severe cases of anxiety may require a prescription to treat the condition. The doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs and may also recommend counseling depending upon the type and severity.


Tips for Preventing and Managing Anxiety Disorder Symptoms


  • Be aware of your disorder and learn ways to manage your stress.

  • Stick to your treatment plan and follow your medication regimen.

  • Cut down on foods and drinks containing caffeine.

  • Live a healthy lifestyle by eating the right food and being physically active.

  • Restrict the use of alcohol and other drugs.

  • Be socially involved and interact with family and friends.

  • Indulge yourself in yoga, meditation, and other mindful practices to maintain a healthy state of mind.

  • Stay relaxed and get a good sleep.

  • Think positively and manage your negative thoughts with the help of cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.

  • Consult your doctor or seek medical assistance if necessary.


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Mrs. Mayuri Mathur

Mrs. Mayuri Mathur is a Senior Medical Writer (Patient education and digital) and seasoned content creator with a rich tapestry of expertise spanning over ten years. With a diverse background in content creation, she brings a wealth of experience to the table, from crafting insightful medical articles to developing comprehensive patient education materials, dynamic press releases, and captivating brochures and website content. Throughout her illustrious career, she has demonstrated an exceptional knack for distilling complex medical concepts into easily understandable content, making her a trusted resource for both professionals and lay audiences alike. Her meticulous attention to detail and innate creativity have enabled her to deliver content that not only informs but also engages and inspires. Whether elucidating intricate medical procedures or crafting compelling marketing materials, her versatility and dedication shine through in every project she undertakes. Her passion for writing, coupled with her profound understanding, makes her an invaluable asset to any team or project. In a constantly evolving digital landscape, where effective communication is paramount, Mrs. Mayuri Mathur stands out as a beacon of excellence, consistently delivering top-notch content that resonates with audiences across diverse platforms.

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