Anxiety is a normal physiological process which we are all likely to experience during our life. It is related to the ‘fight or flight’ response, a way of coping with potential or actual threat. In contrast, anxiety disorder is a group of pathological, mental disorders where the sufferer experiences inappropriate or uncontrollable anxiety to the detriment of their quality of life. Anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and phobias. GAD affects around 5% of the UK population with slightly more women being diagnosed than men. If your anxiety is having a significant negative impact on your life, visit your GP or psychiatrist to get advice and treatment.
Generalised anxiety disorder is characterised by a combination of psychological and physical symptoms. Physical symptoms include fast breathing, heart palpitations, sweating and hot flushes, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating and nausea. Psychological symptoms include feeling nervous, having a sense of dread, feeling numb and thinking about negative experiences over and over again.
We still do not fully understand why some people experience pathological anxiety disorders and others do not. It is likely that certain environmental stimuli and past experiences work in combination with various genetic predispositions to the disorder.
Past experiences, especially childhood experiences seem to have a significant impact on the development of anxiety disorder. Negative or traumatic past events may cause us to worry about facing similar situations again. However, in many instances it is difficult to identify a specific cause. It has been suggested that in some cases, simply growing up around people that view the world as a hostile place may contribute to the development of anxiety disorder
Exacerbating factors that can initiate or worsen anxiety disorder include stress, long working hours, lack of sleep, pressure at work or school, financial and marital problems. Furthermore, things in your diet, including caffeine and sugar can trigger anxiety disorder. Finally, if you suffer from other mental health issues such as depression, you may be more vulnerable to anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorder can be severely debilitating. If you think you are suffering from the disorder, please see your GP or psychiatrist to gain a better understanding of the disorder and the various treatment avenues. These include talking therapy and pharmacological medication as well as self-help.
In terms of medication, four main classes of drugs may be useful in managing anxiety. These are beta blockers, antidepressants, tranquilisers (benzodiazepines) and pregabalin. Beta blockers address some of the physical symptoms of anxiety, but do not address the psychological symptoms. Antidepressants may help you feel more calm, but take around 3 weeks to start working and are associated with several side effects. Benzodiazepines are useful in severe disease, but are not ideal in the long term as they are addictive and do not tackle the root of the problem. Ultimately, the best treatment depends on your own personal experience and symptoms.
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Doctify Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. In the event of an emergency, please call 999 for immediate assistance.