Anxiety disorders – Symptoms and causes

Anxiety Disorders – Overview Anxiety which is experienced occasionally is a normal part of life. However, frequently having intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations is found in people with anxiety disorders. Often, repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic […]

Anxiety Disorders – Overview

Anxiety which is experienced occasionally is a normal part of life. However, frequently having intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations is found in people with anxiety disorders. Often, repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks) are involved in anxiety disorders.

Regular activities can be interfered by these feelings of anxiety and panic and are difficult to control, are out of proportion to the actual danger and can last a long time. Places or situations may be avoided to prevent these feelings. During childhood or the teen years the symptoms may begin and continue into adulthood.

Generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), specific phobias and separation anxiety disorder are examples of anxiety disorders. More than one anxiety disorder can be experienced. Sometimes a medical condition that needs treatment has an outcome of anxiety.

Treatment of whatever form of anxiety can be helpful.


Anxiety Disorders – Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of common anxiety may include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • A sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • An increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Difficulty controlling worry
  • The urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

Various kinds of anxiety disorders exist:

  • A type of anxiety disorder in which fear and avoiding places or situations often that might cause panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed is known as Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh).
  • Symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are directly caused by a physical health problem is due to anxiety disorder because of a medical condition.
  • Continuous and excessive anxiety and worry about activities or events even ordinary, routine issues is included in generalized anxiety disorder. The worry is out of proportion to the actual situation, is hard to control and affects how feeling physically. It often happens along with different anxiety disorders or depression.
  • Repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks) are involved in panic disorder. Feelings of impending doom, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a rapid, fluttering or pounding heart (heart palpitations) may be experienced and these panic attacks may lead to worrying about them recurring or avoiding situations in which they’ve occurred.
  • A consistent failure of children to speak in certain situations in knowns as selective mutism, such as school, even when they can speak in other situations, such as at home with close family members. Selective mutism can interfere with school, work and social functioning.
  • A childhood disorder characterized by anxiety that’s excessive for the child’s developmental level and related to separation from parents or others who have parental roles is known as separation anxiety disorder.
  • High levels of anxiety, fear and avoidance of social situations due to feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness and concern about being judged or viewed negatively by others is included in what is known as social anxiety disorder (social phobia).
  • Specific phobias are classified by major anxiety when being exposed to a specific object or situation and a desire of avoiding it. Panic attacks are provoked by phobias in some people.
  • Substance-induced anxiety disorder is classified by symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are a direct result of misusing drugs, taking medications, being exposed to a toxic substance or withdrawal from drugs.
  • Other specified anxiety disorder and unspecified anxiety disorder are used terms for anxiety or phobias that don’t meet the exact criteria for any other anxiety disorders but are significant enough to be distressing and disruptive.

Doctor should be consulted if:

  • Feeling of worrying too much  which is interfering with the work, relationships or other parts of life
  • Fear, worry or anxiety is upsetting and difficult to control
  • Feeling depressed, having trouble with alcohol or drug use, or having other mental health concerns along with anxiety
  • Thought that anxiety could be connected to a physical health problem
  • Having suicidal thoughts or behaviors  if this is the case, emergency treatment immediately should be sought

Worries might not go away on their own and may get worse over the period of time if help is not sought. Doctor or a mental health provider should be consulted before anxiety gets worse. If help is sought early then it’s easier to treat


The causes of anxiety disorders aren’t completely understood. Life experiences for example traumatic events arise for triggering anxiety disorders in people who are already suffer from anxiety. A factor can also be due to inherited traits.

Medical causes

Anxiety may be connected to an underlying health issue in some people. In some cases, anxiety signs and symptoms are the first indicators of a medical illness. Anxiety may have a medical cause when investigated by the doctor then they may order tests to look for signs of a problem.

Medical problems’ examples that can be connected to anxiety may include:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism
  • Respiratory disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma
  • Drug misuse or withdrawal
  • Withdrawal from alcohol, anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines) or other medications
  • Chronic pain or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Rare tumors that produce certain fight-or-flight hormones

Sometimes anxiety can be due to certain medication’s side effects.

It’s probable that the anxiety may be because of a primary medical condition if:

  • Not having any blood relatives (such as a parent or sibling) with an anxiety disorder
  • Not having an anxiety disorder as a child
  • Not avoiding certain things or situations because of anxiety
  • Having a sudden appearance of anxiety that is not related to life events and not having a previous history of anxiety

Risk factors

Risk of developing an anxiety disorder may increase due to factors such as:

  • Abuse or trauma endured or witnessed traumatic events by children have a higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder at some stage in life. Anxiety disorders can also be developed in adults who experience a traumatic event.
  • A health condition or serious illness can cause significant worry about issues such as treatment and future.
  • Excessive anxiety can be triggered due to a big event or a buildup of smaller stressful life situations such as, a death in the family, work stress or ongoing worry about finances.
  • Certain personality types in people who are more prone to anxiety disorders than others are.
  • People with other mental health disorders, such as depression or other mental health disorders in people may often have an anxiety disorder.
  • Anxiety disorders may run in families.
  • Drug or alcohol use or misuse or withdrawal of drugs or alcohol can cause or worsen anxiety.


More than making worrisome is done if having an anxiety disorder. Other mental and physical conditions may be led to or worsened, such as:

  • Depression (which often occurs with an anxiety disorder) or other mental health disorders
  • Substance misuse
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Digestive or bowel problems
  • Headaches and chronic pain
  • Social isolation
  • Problems functioning at school or work
  • Poor quality of life
  • Suicide


There’s no way to for prediction for certainty that what will cause someone to develop an anxiety disorder, but steps can be taken to reduce the impact of symptoms if being anxious:

  • Anxiety, like various other mental health conditions, can be difficult to treat if help is not sought early.
  • Staying active by participating in activities that are enjoyed and that make feel good about yourself. Social interaction and caring relationships should be enjoyed, which can lessen the worries.
  • Alcohol and drug use should be avoided as it can cause or worsen anxiety. If addicted to any of these substances, quitting can make anxious. If you can’t quit on your own, doctor should be consulted or a support group should be found for help.



Primary care provider should be consulted first to find out if the anxiety could be related to physical health. Signs of an underlying medical condition can be checked by the health care provider that may need treatment.

However, a mental health specialist may need to be consulted if having severe anxiety. A medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions is known as psychiatrist. Diagnosing anxiety and providing counseling (psychotherapy) can be done by a psychologist or some other mental health provider.


To help diagnose an anxiety disorder, mental health provider may:

  • A psychological evaluation will be given which involves discussing thoughts, feelings and behavior to help pinpoint a diagnosis and check for related complications. Anxiety disorders often appear along with other mental health problems which may include depression or substance misuse and can make diagnosis more challenging.
  • Symptoms should be compared to the criteria in the DSM-5. Many doctors use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), to diagnose an anxiety disorder.


Psychotherapy and medications are the two main treatments for anxiety disorders. Benefit can be gained most from a mixture of the two. Some trial and error may be taken to discover which treatments work best.


Also called as talk therapy or psychological counseling, working with a therapist to reduce anxiety symptoms is involved in psychotherapy. An effective treatment for anxiety can be psychotherapy.

The most effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT which is usually a treatment of short-term focuses on teaching specific skills to improve symptoms and slowly return to the activities which were avoided because of anxiety.

Exposure therapy is included in CBT in which the object or situation is slowly encountered that triggers anxiety so confidence can be built that can manage the situation and anxiety symptoms.


Various kinds of medications are used to help in relieving symptoms, depending on the type of anxiety disorder having and whether other mental or physical health issues are also present. For example:

  • Some antidepressants are also used for the treatment anxiety disorders.
  • Prescription of an anti-anxiety medication called buspirone may be given.
  • In restricted circumstances, other types of medications may be prescribed by the doctor, such as sedatives, also known as benzodiazepines, or beta blockers. Short-term relief of anxiety symptoms is given through these medications and is not intended to be used long term.

Benefits, risks and possible side effects of medications should be discussed with the doctor.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Changes in lifestyle can play a role also while most people with anxiety disorders need psychotherapy or medications to get anxiety under control. Below is what can be done:

  • A routine should be developed for being physically active most days of the week. A powerful stress reducer is exercise which may improve mood and help in staying healthy. Begin slowly and gradually increase the amount and intensity of activities.
  • Alcohol and recreational drugs should be avoided as these substances can cause or worsen anxiety. Doctor or find a support group should be contacted to help if cannot quit on your own.
  • Quitting smoking and cutting back or quitting drinking caffeinated beverages as both nicotine and caffeine can make the anxiety worse.
  • Visualization techniques, meditation and yoga are involved in relaxation techniques and stress management that can ease anxiety.
  • Sleep should be made a priority. Do what can be done to make sure of getting enough sleep to feel rested. Doctor should be consulted if not sleeping well.
  • Focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish are involved in healthy eating and may be connected to reduced anxiety, but more research is needed.

Alternative medicine

Various herbal remedies have been studied as a treatment for anxiety, but more research is required to understand the risks and benefits. Certainty of what you’re getting and whether it’s safe is not always there. Interference with prescription medications or dangerous interactions can be caused due to some of these medications.

Doctor should be consulted before taking herbal remedies or dietary supplements, to make sure it’s safe for and won’t interact with any medications already being taken.

Coping and support

To cope with an anxiety disorder, below is what can be done:

  • Doctor or mental health provider should be consulted to find out what might be causing the specific condition and what treatments might be best. Family and friends should be involved and asked for support.
  • Treatment plan should be followed and medications should be taken as directed. Keep therapy appointments should be kept and any assignments therapist may give should be completed. Being consistency can make a big difference, especially when it comes to taking medication.
  • Learn what triggers anxiety should be learnt or causes stress. The strategies should be practiced which are developed with mental health provider for being ready to deal with anxious feelings in these situations.
  • Personal life track should be kept as it can help you and your mental health provider identify what’s causing the stress and what seems to help in feeling better.
  • An anxiety support group should be joined and remember that you aren’t alone. Compassion, understanding and shared experiences can be offered by support groups. Information can be provided on finding support through the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
  • Time management techniques should be learnt as it can reduce anxiety and can help in carefully managing time and energy.
  • Worries isolating from loved ones or activities should be avoided and socialize.
  • Take a brisk walks or delves into a hobby to refocus mind away from worries whenever feeling anxious.

Preparing for appointment

Primary care provider should be consulted at first. Then a mental health professional may be referred by the primary care provider.

A list should be made before appointment about:

  • Anxiety symptoms. Their occurrence, whether anything is making them better or worse, and how much are they affecting day-to-day activities and interactions.
  • Cause of stress including any major life changes or stressful events dealt with recently. Any traumatic experiences had in the past or as a child should be noted also.
  • Parents, grandparents, siblings or children have struggled with any mental health problems should be noted.
  • Having any other health problems including both physical conditions and mental health issues.
  • All medications being taken including any medications, vitamins, herbs or other supplements, and the doses.
  • List of questions to be made to ask the doctor to make the most of the appointment.

Ask other questions during the appointment without hesitation.

Several questions are likely to be asked by the doctor, such as:

  • Symptoms and their severity and impact on the ability to function?
  • Had a panic attack?
  • Certain things or situations being avoided because they make anxious?
  • Feelings of anxiety occasional or continuous?
  • Beginning to noticing feelings of anxiety?
  • Anything in specific seem to trigger anxiety or make it worse?
  • If anything seems to improve feelings of anxiety?
  • Traumatic experiences had recently or in the past?
  • If any physical or mental health conditions had?
  • Taking any prescription drugs?
  • Regularly drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs?
  • Having any blood relatives who have anxiety or other mental health conditions, such as depression?

To make of most of the time, prepare and anticipate questions


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