It is completely normal and even healthy to feel anxious once in a while. Most people experience anxiety in the days or moments leading up to a big decision, a job interview, a first date, or a final exam. However, some people may be so overwhelmed by feelings of fear, and worry that they have a difficult time functioning day-to-day, lowering their quality of life and well-being.
If you feel that your anxiety is out of your control, you might have anxiety and mood disorder, types of mental disorder.
Anxiety and mood disorders are present with symptoms that range from mildly distressing to chronically debilitating. Anxiety and mood disorders are serious mental illnesses caused by chemical imbalances in the brain: they are not a result of poor parenting or personal weakness. Medical help is available for people dealing with extreme anxiety.
Another form of generalized anxiety disorder is trauma-related disorders. They occur when individuals develop short-term or long-lasting symptoms of distress following a traumatic event. Trauma-related disorders include posttraumatic stress disorder.
A person struggling with an anxiety disorder may also show symptoms of depression, which could correlate to the anxiety itself or be a separate but co-occurring depressive disorder. As can be seen, many symptoms of anxiety are similar to or the same as those for depression. It is the persistent fear in anxiety that differentiates it from depression.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
General Anxiety Disorder
This is a psychological disorder in which the patient suffers from extreme worry, even when there is little or no sensible reason to feel anxious, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Patients with social anxiety feel extraordinarily anxious during routine social interactions or in anticipation of social situations. They may feel excessively self-conscious and feel unrealistically afraid that they will embarrass themselves in front of others.
Patients with panic disorder suffer from sudden, repeated episodes of terror. Referred to as a panic attack, these episodes may strike for little or no reason, without warning, and may be accompanied by profuse sweating, hyperventilation, heart palpitations, and chest pain. Often, patients report feeling as though they are choking or having a heart attack.
A phobia is an unreasonable and intense fear of some object, person, or situation. Common social phobias include the fear of flying, public speaking, or being enclosed in a small, tight space, such as an elevator. Although many people may feel a twinge of nervousness in these situations, a person with a phobia may panic when confronted with their fear and may be unable to function in relatively normal situations.
During an episode of anxiety, a person with an anxiety disorder may experience:
- Intense feelings of panic and fear
- Clammy or sweaty palms or feet
- Numbness or tingling
- Increased or irregular heartbeat
- Hyperventilation/shortness of breath
- Restlessness and uneasiness
- Tense muscles
- Dizzy spells
Causes of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders stem from complex physiological and environmental factors. The human brain learns by reacting and adapting to its environment. A physical or psychological trauma, or long-term stress, can cause the brain to re-wire itself, changing the ways signals are passed from one part of the brain to another. This can alter or transform the brain’s ability to process emotions, such as fear, in response to day-to-day situations.
Studies have shown that anxiety disorders may have a genetic component, making them more likely to run in families. A significant trauma – such as witnessing a violent crime or surviving a horrific accident – may trigger an anxiety disorder in people who are genetically prone to them.
Diagnosing Anxiety Disorders
If you believe that you or a loved one may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, contact your health care provider. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam and a personal interview in order to understand your symptoms.
If your doctor suspects you may have an anxiety disorder, he or she may refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for further evaluation and treatment.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders can be effectively treated with one or a combination of several approaches. Your psychologist or psychiatrist will work with you to determine the best treatment options for you.
Diet and lifestyle changes
Eating healthy foods, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising regularly can often help patients balance their emotional state and reduce anxiety. Avoid caffeine and other stimulating supplements or foods, such as chocolate.
Types of Mood Disorders
Mood disorders as disorders that are characterized by extreme highs and lows in your mood or energy.
Mood disorders are a category of illnesses that describe a serious change in mood. Illness under mood disorders includes major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder (mania – euphoric, hyperactive, over-inflated ego, unrealistic optimism), persistent depressive disorder (long-lasting low-grade depression), cyclothymia (a mild form of bipolar disorder), and seasonal affective disorder.
Most mood disorders are likely caused by traumatic life events that trigger an underlying predisposition to the disease, lack of healthy coping skills, or medical issues that are not being treated. Chronic medical conditions associated with depression may include heart disease, cancer, vitamin deficiencies, diabetes, hepatitis, and malaria, and other health conditions.
Substance use and another psychiatric disorder, usually a mood disorder – is an increasingly serious psychiatric concern.
Mood Disorder Symptoms include:
- Built-up stress
- Depressed mood
- Change in weight without effort
- Sleep disturbances
- Decreased energy
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts
- Loss of sex drive or interest in sex
- Food cravings
An estimated 21 percent of American adults experience a mood disorder at some point in their lives. A mood disorder is also more common among women than men. However, women are also more likely to seek help than men for their mental health care.