Anxiety Disorders

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety on its own is a common feeling of uneasiness, distress, or fear. We all experience anxiety at some point in our lives. If these feelings escalate to interfere with daily life, than, this may be a sign of an anxiety disorder. The term ‘anxiety disorder’ covers several specific disorders, each with their own signs and symptoms, though all are characterized by extreme fear.

Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorders, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and Phobias are considered under the umbrella of Anxiety Disorders. Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Phobias will be covered here; please see our page on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder if you are seeking information or help with PTSD. Some of these disorders have genetic links and can run in families.

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic Disorder is characterized mainly by episodic panic attacks. These panic attacks can occur as a result of several triggers, whether on their own or as the result of a co-existing disorder such as a phobia or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Anxious self-talk or entering situations that have been associated with anxiety or previous panic attacks can also set off a panic attack.

People who have repeated attacks will often avoid the physical locations where previous attacks have occurred, leading to serious impositions on daily life. Panic disorders can also occur with other problems, such as substance abuse or depression. In extreme cases, those who suffer from panic disorder may refuse to leave their home unless with a trusted person.

Symptoms of a panic attack include:
Shortness of breath
Dizziness
Chest pain
Sensation of being smothered
Nausea
Shaking
Abdominal discomfort
Diarrhea

How is panic disorder treated?
If you are suffering from panic attacks, the first step is to get professional help. A psychiatrist can determine the root of your symptoms and the best course to treatment for you, based on the causes of your panic attacks. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help you deal with the situations that cause panic and work to change your reactions to these situations. Psychiatric medication for panic attacks is also available, with antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs.

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

While many people may worry about day-to-day problems, people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) worry excessively, every day. It may be nervousness over money, family, work, health, or any number of smaller issues. GAD rarely occurs by itself, and will often accompany other issues such as depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders. Unlike panic disorder, those with GAD may not avoid the situations that cause them anxiety, but can have difficulty with the simplest of tasks if their anxiety about it is at a high point.

Signs of Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
Constant restlessness
Easily startled
Difficulty sleeping
Fatigue
Muscle aches
Lightheadedness
Hot flashes
Shortness of breath

What is the treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has shown to be highly effective when treating generalized anxiety disorder, in changing the reactions to daily life that is causing strain. A common direction in therapy is showing that the thought processes that result in anxiety are unrealistic and, in a slow progression, identify the root of their anxiety and overcome it. Medication for generalized anxiety disorder can also be used in conjunction with therapy. Antidepressants are usually the first line of medication when treating generalized anxiety disorder.

What are phobias?

Phobias are irrational, often crippling, fears of particular places, situations, stimuli, or objects that pose no real threat. Like anxiety, many people fear particular situations, but when that fear extends into the extremes, to the point that it interferes with daily life, only then can a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder or phobia be made. However, phobias are separated from other anxiety disorders when that fear is concentrated around one particular thing. Facing the object of fear results in extreme anxiety, or even panic attacks in someone with a phobia. There is no single cause of phobias, and it is generally thought to be the result of a previous, exceedingly unpleasant experience with the object in question. There is some evidence that phobias can run in families, though this may be either genetics or the result of learned behavior.

Symptoms of phobias generally follow that of panic attacks or an anxiety disorder, depending on how an individual reacts to the situation.

What is the treatment for phobias?
The degree of treatment for a phobia usually depends on the severity of the distress, and the frequency it is encountered in daily life. If avoidance of the phobia interferes with daily life or careers, treatment for the phobia is the best course of action. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy has been highly successful. Dr. Ghelber can work out a treatment plan of medication and psychotherapy that is best for you.

Having a support system of trusted friends and family is also important. Loved ones should be supportive of someone suffering from anxiety, but not perpetuate the symptoms, demand immediate improvement, or trivialize the disorder.

If you suffer from anxiety, whether it be generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, phobia, or any other anxiety disorder, call Dr. Ghelber in Fort Worth, TX today at 817-659-7344 to make an appointment and start taking back control of your life.

More information on Anxiety:
National Institute of Mental Health’s Office
National Library of Medicine

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