Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America. More then nineteen million American adults are affected by these debilitating illnesses each year. Children and adolescents can also develop anxiety disorders. Most people experience feelings of anxiety before and important event, such as a big exam or your own wedding. Anxiety disorders are illnesses that fill people lives with overwhelming anxiety and fear that can grog progressively worse. People with anxiety disorders are tormented by panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, and flashbacks of traumatic events, nightmares, or freighting physical symptoms.
Fortunately, through research there are effective treatments that can help. Anxiety disorders come in different forms, one form of anxiety is now as a panic disorder. Panic disorders are repeated episodes of intense fear that strike often without warning. Physical symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal distress, feeling of unreality, and fear of dying.
These sensations often mimic symptoms of a heart attack or other life threatening medical conditions. Many people with panic disorders develop intense anxiety between episodes. I t is not unusual for a person with panic disorder to develop phobias about places or situations where panic attacks have occurred. As the frequency of panic attacks increase, the person often begins to avoid situations where they fear another attack may occur or where help would not be immediately available. Panic attacks are caused by stressful life events, biological factors, hereditary and thinking in a way that exaggerates relatively normal bodily reactions. The exact cause or causes of panic disorders are unknown.
Studies in animals and humans have focused on pinpointing the specific brain areas and circuits involved in anxiety and fear, which underlie anxiety disorders such as panic disorder. Fear and emotion that evolved to deal with danger, causes and automatic, rapid protective response that occurs without the need for conscious thought. It has been found that the body's fear response is coordinated by a small structure deep inside the brain, called the amygdale. The amygdale, although relatively small, is a very complicated structure, and recent research suggests that anxiety disorders may be associated with abnormal activit ation in the amygdale. One aim of research is to use such basic scientific knowledge to develop new therapies. Treatment for panic disorders includes medications and a type of psychotherapy know as cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches people how to view panic attacks differently and demonstrates ways to reduce anxiety.
Appropriate treatment by an experienced professional can reduce or prevent panic attacks in 70% to 90% of people with panic disorder. Most patients show significant progress after a few weeks of therapy. Relapses may occur, but they can often be effectively treated just like the initial episode. Another type of anxiety disorder is known as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by six months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or much more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience.
People with this disorder usually expect the worst; they worry excessively about money, health, family or work even when there are no signs of trouble. They are unable to relax and often suffer from insomnia. Many people with GAD also have physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headaches, irritability or hot flashes. GAD is caused by stress and may be hereditary. GAD usually begins at an earlier age and symptoms may manifest themselves more slowly that in most other anxiety disorders.
Treatment for Gad includes medications and cognitive behavioral therapy. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grove physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that can trigger PTSD include personal assaults such as rape or mugging, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat. Many people wit PTSD repeatedly re-experience the ordeal in the form of flashback episodes, memories, nightmares or frightening thoughts, especially when they are exposed to events or objects reminiscent of the trauma. Anniversaries of the event can also trigger symptoms. People with PTSD also experience emotional numbness and sleep disturbance, depression, anxiety, and irritability or outbursts of anger.
Feelings of intense guilt are also common. Most people with PTSD try to avoid any reminders or thoughts of the ordeal. PTSD is diagnosed when symptoms last more than one year. Treatment for PTSD include cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, and exposure therapy which the patient gradually and repeatedly relives the frightening experience under controlled conditions to help them work through the trauma.
Studies have also shown that medications help ease associated symptoms of depression and anxiety and help promote sleep. Scientists are attempting to determine which treatments work best for which trauma. Another form of anxiety is called social anxiety or social phobia. Social phobia is a disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.
People with social phobia have a persistent, intense and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions. Their fear may be so severe that it interferes with work or school - and other ordinary activities. While many people with social phobia recognize that their fear of being around people may be excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome it. They often worry for days or weeks in advance of a dreaded situation. Social phobia can also be limited to only one type of situation, such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, or eating or drinking in front of others, or in it most severe form, may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people.
Physical symptoms often accompany the intense anxiety of social phobia and include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, and other symptoms of anxiety, including difficulty talking and nausea or other stomach discomfort. These visible symptoms heighten the fear of disapproval and the symptoms themselves can become an additional focus of fear. Fear of symptoms can create a vicious cycle: as people with social phobia worry about experiencing the symptoms, the greater their chances of developing the symptoms. Social phobia often runs in families and may be accompanied by depression or alcohol dependence. The causes of social phobia are ongoing.
One line of research is investigating a biochemical basis for the disorder. Scientist are exploring the idea that heightened sensitivity to disapproval may be psychologically or hormonally based, other researches are investigating the environments influence on the development of social phobia. People with social phobia may acquire their fear from observing the behavior and consequences of others, a process called observational learning or social modeling. Research has shown that there are two effective forms of treatment available for social phobia: certain medications and a specific form of short-term psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy. Medications include antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO Is), as well as drugs know as high-potency benzodiazepines.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is also very useful in treating social phobia. The central component of this treatment is exposure therapy, which involves helping patients gradually become more comfortable with situations that frighten them. Obsessive compulsion disorder is an anxiety disorder where people suffer from unwanted thoughts or rituals which they feel they cannot control. Rituals such as hand washing, counting, checking or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thought or making them go away.
Performing these ritually, however, provides only temporary relief, and not performing them markedly increases anxiety. Left untreated, obsessions and the need to perform rituals can take over a person's life. OCD is often a chronic, relapsing illness. There is evidence that OCD represents abnormal functioning of brain circuitry, probably involving a part of the brain called the striatum.
OCD is not caused by family problems or attitudes learned in childhood, such as an inordinate emphasis on cleanliness, or a belief that certain thoughts are dangerous or unacceptable. Treatments for OCD have been developed. These treatments are often effective. Several medications have been proven effective in helping people with OCD: clomiprammine, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, sertraline, and paroxetine. If one drug is not effective, others should be tried. A number of other medications are currently being studied.
A type of behavioral therapy known as "exposure and response prevention" is very useful for treating OCD. In this approach, a person is deliberately and voluntarily exposed to whatever triggers the obsessive thoughts, and then is taught techniques to avoid performing the compulsive rituals and to deal with the anxiety. Anxiety disorder can be very debilitating and a burden on the person and the persons loved ones. Research is forever being done to suppress attacks and these unwanted feelings or emotions. Hopefully, one day researchers will find a way to fully cure people with anxiety disorders, so that they can lead pain free lives..