Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Disorders

Dr.Selvizhi Subramanian profile Authored by Dr.Selvizhi Subramanian on 28 Aug 2014 - 12:30.

Anxiety disorders are a group of illnesses that cause people to feel distressed, frightened, or uneasy during or before the situations in which most other people remains calm. These disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States of America (USA) affecting 20 percent of the population at any given time.

It can interfere with a person’s ability to lead a normal life. It can commonly be classified into the following types:

  • Panic disorder: It is characterized by sudden feelings of terror that can thump repeatedly without a warning. It is generally accompanied by a pounding heart, weakness, sweatiness, faintness, or dizziness.
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder: It is characterized by repetitive, intrusive, irrational and unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or rituals that seem impossible to control (compulsions). Common rituals are a need to frequently check/touch/count things in a particular sequence.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder: It develops after a terrifying experience that involved a physical harm or the threat of physical harm.
  • Phobias: It is developed when people become overwhelmingly anxious and extremely self-conscious in everyday social situations.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder: It is diagnosed when a person overly worries about a variety of everyday problems for a minimum of 6 months. The most common symptom is severe, chronic, exaggerated worrying about everyday events.
  • Social anxiety disorder: It is an extreme fear of social situations that leads to difficulties with personal relationships and at the workplace or in school. Individuals with social anxiety disorder often have an irrational fear of being humiliated in public for “saying something stupid,” or not knowing what to say.
  • Separation anxiety disorder: It is most commonly observed in childhood when a kid is separated from his/her parents or a place.
  • Situation anxiety disorder: It is observed when an individual is exposed to a situation which makes him/her uncomfortable.

Some anxiety disorders such as OCD are linked to genes, whereas others are caused due to medical illnesses or physical damage to the brain. Anxiety is an initial sign for certain medical conditions like:

Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Nervousness
  • Feeling powerless
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak/tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry

Criteria specified in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) or International classification of diseases (ICD-10) should be fulfilled to confirm the diagnosis of the disorder.

Although all the disorders of anxiety share the features of excessive fear, diagnostic criteria are different for each type of disorder.

  • Females are at higher risk than men
  • Victims/witnesses of traumatic events
  • Stress
  • Family members with anxiety disorder
  • Mental disorders
  • Drug and alcohol addicts

Fortunately there are good treatment options for anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, some people do not undergo treatment for their illness because of two main reasons:

  • They do not realize the severity of their symptoms.
  • They are too ashamed to seek help.

Management of Anxiety disorders depend on Psychotherapy and medications:

  • Psychotherapy is a psychological way of counseling the patients to reduce their symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy that teaches you to perform those activities which you have avoided due to Anxiety. The initial success achieved from the therapy eventually leads to an improved behavior.
  • Medication therapy is only started when non-medicinal approaches fail or if a patient does not want to try those approaches. Classes of drugs which can be used in the treatment are as follows:
  • SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are considered as first line of treatment.
  • Benzodiazepines are associated with cognition impairment and dependence as a result these are considered as a secondary option for the treatment.
  • Buspirone is an anxiolytic psychotropic agent primarily used for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It does not cause physical dependence or withdrawal symptoms.
  • MAOIs (Mono Amino Oxidase Inhibitors) are basically anti-depressant drugs but can be helpful in treatment-resistant cases.


Anxiety can lead to:

  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
  • Bowel problems
  • Headaches
  • Poor quality of life
  • Suicide

Lifestyle modification:

  • Avoid caffeinated drinks as it can cause anxiety along with muscle twitching and headache.
  • Exercise regularly to get relieved from stress
  • Develop and follow a routine to stay physically active
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking as it can worsen the symptoms
  • Try meditation through yoga to reduce stress
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat healthily to include lots of vegetables, fruits, fish and whole grains.
*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.