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What is Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders (including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder) are disorders of the brain which affect a person’s ability to cope with stress in daily life; the symptoms are severe, and can affect how a person thinks, feels, and handles their daily activities. There is no single definition, because each of these three main anxiety disorders and the host of other anxiety disorders manifest differently and present different symptoms; but there are some over-arching points mental health professionals look at to make a diagnosis.

What are some common signs and symptoms of Anxiety Disorders?

The symptoms of anxiety stem from natural biological, physiological, and behavioral processes and patterns that occur for every individual, including neuro-typical persons without this disorder. The difference is that people with anxiety experience these symptoms at levels far beyond the normally accepted levels in everyday life. A person with anxiety will experience symptoms that are more severe and occur more frequently; the symptoms will last longer than any neurotypical bout of feeling “anxious” or “stressed”, and these symptoms will also interfere with and reduce the quality of the person’s functions socially, at school, or in their career. For a person to be diagnosed with any of the host of anxiety disorders, their symptoms must have been present months, at levels that impact their functioning and coping in everyday life. These symptoms can include:

  • Irritability – This can include “lashing out” at family and friends, or just a general “foul” mood or outlook.
  • Feeling restless, wound-up, on-edge – Some people with anxiety disorders describe this feeling as a constant worry that “everything” hangs in the balance, or a feeling of inability to complete tasks and function at the level they must.
  • Problems sleeping – This can include difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, and reports of feeling unrested after sleep (unsatisfying sleep).
  • Easily fatigued – The constant drain on a person’s resources from dealing with the heightened worries and anxieties these disorders induce can affect the individual’s ability to function at the levels they need or want to.
  • Difficulty concentrating – Some individuals report a “blank” feeling when they are faced with tasks that require their concentration. This “black-out” is a symptom associated with the mental overload that characterizes anxiety disorders.

How is it determined that someone has Anxiety?

An official diagnosis of anxiety, or any other mental health condition, can only occur after a comprehensive evaluation; this evaluation must be performed by a licensed clinician. A pediatrician, physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist with expertise in diagnosing and treating anxiety is preferred. Generally, the symptoms the person has been experiencing must be reported as

  • Impairing the individual’s functioning
  • Chronic
  • Long-lasting

Many persons with anxiety are diagnosed in their adolescent and adult years. While the symptoms can often be seen by untrained laypeople as “feeling stressed-out,” only a professional with experience diagnosing and treating anxiety can find the defining factors that make the difference. If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be showing symptoms of an anxiety disorder, contact a certified mental health professional today; it is important to refrain from self-diagnosis as much as possible, as the nuances of diagnosis are often very subtle and require careful attention to detail.

How is anxiety being handled and treated in today’s society?

While there is currently no cure available for anxiety, there are treatments available to help reduce the impact of symptoms in everyday life and improve a person’s functioning. One of the most-prescribed options is psychotherapy, which involves visiting with and speaking to a therapist to modify behaviors and learn to cope with symptoms of anxiety in everyday life; this therapy is used either with or without the option of medication-based therapies. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an option that has been successful in treating the symptoms of anxiety for many individuals. This type of therapy teaches different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations that produce symptoms of anxiety. This therapy can also help people to learn and practice social skills, which makes it particularly effective at treating the symptoms of social anxiety disorders. For more information on some of the common psychotherapy options available today, view the National Institute of Mental Health’s information page.

Another great option for individuals with anxiety disorders is any of a variety of medication-based treatments. Sometimes, anxiety disorders are treated with modified forms of treatments for other mental health disorders. Antidepressants are sometimes used to treat anxiety disorders under medical supervision. There are also options for specific “anti-anxiety” drugs and beta-blockers. For a more detailed discussion, view the National Institute of Mental Health’s Medications page.

There are always risks when using a prescription regimen; it is important to follow all of your prescriber’s recommendations and orders to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Some people also successfully treat their anxiety with herbal supplements. While natural remedies and herbal solutions are rapidly becoming top-sellers on nutrition-store shelves, there are concerns about safety and effectiveness. Never begin an herbal supplement regimen without discussing your intentions with your healthcare provider. While there is not a single pathway for individuals with anxiety to take to better their lives and improve their functioning, there are options available. Mental health disorders like anxiety are highly individualized; everyone is different, and it may take some trial and error before the best treatment plan for a person with anxiety is found. With the help of doctors and therapists, individuals with anxiety are able to live full lives and find their place in a modern world.

For more information on ANXIETY symptoms and general treatment options, view the National Institute of Mental Health’s website. If you or a loved one needs more targeted mental health treatment, contact Prime Behavioral Health today for a consultation.

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