Anxiety Disorders: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, Panic Disorder & Phobias
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Anxiety Disorder Basics
Anxiety Disorder Basics .pdf version - Anxiety Disorder article
Anxiety Disorder Basics
Anxiety Disorder Basics
Quick Reference Guide by Amanda Ross, Ph.D.
Anxiety disorders are treatable illnesses that bring on feelings of overwhelming fear that is strong enough to affect everyday life. In the United States, about 40 million adults (18% of the population) are affected by anxiety disorders every year. Many adults experienced anxiety symptoms or disorders as early as childhood.
Anxiety disorders are not the same as the brief worry that goes along with a stressful event, like a test or first date. Anxiety disorders last at least 6 months and may get worse or lead to further complications if not treated. Anxiety disorders affect the mind, body, and behavior and can cause difficulty at work, school, and in relationships with family and friends.
The National Institute of Mental Health describes five common types of anxiety disorders:
v Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Excessive anxiety and worry, along with other physical and behavioral problems, that lasts for at least six months. GAD can also impact children.
vSocial Phobia (commonly referred to as Social Anxiety Disorder): A constant fear of situations in which a person may be exposed to possible judgment from others Other common phobias include fears of spiders, snakes, or the dark. It is not unusual for children at certain ages to have common fears.
vPanic Disorder: A sudden, uncontrollable attack of terror that can show itself as racing heartbeat, dizziness, shortness of breath, pani, needs to escape, and a feeling of being terribly frightened or out of control.
v Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Repeated, interfering, intrusive or unwanted thoughts that cause anxiety. This is often combined with ritualized behavior that relieves the anxiety. Common compulsions include checking, counting, handwashing, hoarding, or even compulsive sexual behaviors, compulsive shopping, or gambling. Children may also exhibit childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder.
vPost-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Caused when someone experiences an extremely distressing or traumatic event. Common symptoms are recurring nightmares, flashbacks, and unprovoked anger.
Assessment should begin with a medical evaluation to rule out physiological causes of excessive anxiety such as thyroid or other metabolic or medical conditions.
Left untreated anxiety disorders can become worse with time and can wear down coping skills, resulting in a secondary major depressive disorder, sleep difficulties, psychosomatic symptoms, and even increased suicide risk.
Maladaptive attempts to self-medicate can result in alcohol or substance abuse and dependence disorders, which usually make anxiety symptoms worse.
In some cases of panic disorder, development of profound avoidance (agoraphobia) can develop and interfere greatly with daily functioning.
Anxiety disorders can co-occur in medical disorders such as chronic pain syndromes, or in individuals or families impacted by serious medical disorders such as cancer, heart-disease, and neurological illness. Though commonly referred to as post-partum depression, post-partum depression can also be marked by very prominant anxiety, obsessions or worries.
Common Anxiety Symptoms
Worry or fear that something bad might happen
Trembling, twitching, or feeling shaky
Chest tightness or shortness of breath
Muscle tension, restlessness,
Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
Fast heartbeat or breathing rate
Sweating, cold, or clammy hands
Dry mouth, nausea, or diarrhea
Irritability, impatience, easily distracted
Memory or concentration problems
Hot or cold flashes
Feelings of apprehension or dread
Tension or jumpiness
Being hypervigilant to signs of threat or danger
Headaches or GI complaints
Anxiety Disorder Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
FAQ: What Causes Anxiety Disorders?
Genetics, biochemistry, environment, and a person’s psychological profile seem to contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder. Typically, a thorough examination is performed to verify the cause of the anxiety before treatment can begin. It is not unusual for anxiety to be misdiagnosed. If anxiety is primarily caused by a medication or substance abuse, then it is not considered an anxiety disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that most anxiety disorders are accompanied by other health problems such as depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, or other mental illness.
FAQ: How are Anxiety Disorders Treated?
Anxiety disorders are treated in many ways, but the most effective forms of treatment are cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Treatment options depend on each person’s situation and preferences. Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches several techniques to stop unwanted thoughts and behaviors. Some of these techniques are deep breathing exercises and changing thinking patterns. Exposure therapy is also effective and it encourages patients to gradually face a feared situation with the intention of overcoming fears.
FAQ: What about medication for anxiety disorder?
Medication is prescribed when symptoms of anxiety cause problems in everyday life. Antidepressant medication, cardiac medication and anti-anxiety medications may be used. Some have risks of addiction and should be monitored closely, especially in individuals with hisotry of addictions. It is also important to note that many patients can reduce or discontinue psychiatric medication with a course of effective psychotherapy for anxiety. Group therapy, hypnotherapy, and self-help support groups can also be effective.
If a person experiences anxiety for longer than 6 weeks, a mental health professional should be consulted.
If you feel you might have an anxiety disorder and wish to schedule an appointment for an initial assessment or treatment, call Clinical Psychology Associates of North Central Florida at 352-336-2888 to schedule an intake appointment for assessment or treatment.