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What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a broad spectrum of disorders, as well as being a component or symptom of several other mental disorders. Anxiety can be exhibited as distressing thoughts, physical symptoms, avoidance of specific things or places, or compulsive behaviors that negatively impact a person’s daily life. Anxiety disorders can range in severity from very mild to completely debilitating. Some of the disorders that fall under the Anxiety umbrella are:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Social Phobia
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What causes Anxiety Disorders?

There is no one true cause of anxiety, but rather a number of factors that compound to cause the symptoms of the disorder. It involves an interaction between the brain and the body and leads to the experience of negative symptoms. Hormones can trigger thought patterns that are experienced as anxiety, such as the “fight or flight” response. These hormonal and mental symptoms can then lead to physical symptoms in the body. Genetics can also play a large role in anxiety disorders by predisposing someone to a disorder if other family members have been diagnosed.

What are the signs and symptoms of Anxiety?

Symptoms of anxiety vary greatly and range in severity from mild to severe. Symptoms may include:

  • Physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, trembling and sweating
  • Repetitive thoughts that involve worry or fear
  • Insomnia (inability to sleep)
  • Fear of dying, crowds, people, natural environments, contamination, etc.
  • Avoidance of people or places due to fear
  • Chronic worry over several areas of one’s life
  • Extreme perfectionism
  • Self-doubt

How is Anxiety treated?

Because Anxiety is such a broad spectrum of disorders, there is no one specific way to treat it. Medication, therapy, or a combination of the two are the most effective treatments. Medications generally provide quick relief of some to most symptoms; however, therapy is a useful tool in long term relief. The most widely used form of therapy to treat Anxiety Disorders is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. This modality focuses on the thought patterns that contribute to anxiety by helping one recognize and modify thinking habits that are dysfunctional and correct them; as well as, utilizing breathing, relaxation, and mindfulness training to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. These two methods of therapy work together to effectively minimize the severity of symptoms and improve quality of life.

 

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