Anxiety: Causes and Treatments

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety is “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”

The DSM-5 defines anxiety as anticipation of future threat which is "more often associated with muscle tension and vigilance in preparation for future danger and cautions or avoidant behaviorus."

Anxiety disorders that need clinical attention are different from normative fear or anxiety. They also differ from transient fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorder are usually associated with having recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns.

Anxiety disorders are usually comorbid with each other. According to researchers, many types of anxiety disorders usually develop in childhood, and if not treated persist and affect the person's daily life.

These are the common anxiety disorders:

  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Selective Mutism
  • Specific Phobia
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Panic Attack Specifier
  • Agoraphobia
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Substance/Medication-Induced Anxiety Disorder
  • Anxiety Disorder due to another medical condition
  • Other Specified Anxi4ety Disorder such as limited-symptom attacks, generalized anxiety not occurring more days than not, khyal cap (wind attacks), attaque de nervios (attack of nerves) and finally,
  • Unspecified Anxiety Disorder.

The common symptoms of anxiety include:

  •  sweating
  • dizziness
  • trembling
  • increased or irregular heartbeat
  • back pain
  • restlessness and fatigue
  • muscle tension
  • being easily startled
  • recurring and ongoing feelings of worry, with or without known stressors
  • avoidance of certain situations that may cause worry, often affecting quality of life.

Treating anxiety disorders requires an in-depth assessment of various factors such as

  • environmental factors, such as financial stressors, job-related stressors, school-related stressors, personal relationships, traumatic events, genetics
  • medical factors, such as the side effects of medicine, symptoms of a condition, or stress from a serious underlying medical condition
  • brain chemistry
  • use of or withdrawal from a substance such as opioid, cocaine, cannabis, alcohols, etc.

Treatment options for anxiety disorders include various options.

Medicines such as antidepressants, benzodiazepines, tricyclics, and beta-blockers might be prescribed to manage anxiety.

Additional drugs used to treat anxiety include:

  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • beta-blockers
  • buspirone

Counseling or talk therapy is also helpful in treating anxiety. The common counseling techniques include  cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, or a combination of therapies. During the counseling sessions, the person recognizes and changes the thinking patterns associated with the anxiety and troublesome feelings, limit distorted thinking, and change the way people react to objects of situations that trigger anxiety. Also, the person learns stress management, relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, etc.

In addition to these methods of treatment, anxiety can also be managed by establishing support networks, physical exercises, and regular exercises to replace negative thoughts.