Everyone experiences anxiety. However, when feelings of intense fear and distress are overwhelming and prevent us from doing everyday things, an anxiety disorder may be the cause.
Anxiety is anticipation of a future threat; anxiety is associated with muscle tension and vigilance in preparation for future danger and caution or avoidant behaviors. Anxiety disorders differ from developmentally normative fear or anxiety by being excessive or persisting beyond an appropriate period of time.
The causes of anxiety disorders aren't fully understood. Life experiences such as traumatic events appear to trigger anxiety disorders in people who are already prone to anxiety. Inherited traits also can be a factor.
These factors may increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder:
For most people, anxiety changes how they function day-to-day. People can experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Persistent and excessive anxiety and worry about various domains, including work and school performance, that the individual finds difficult to control, includes physical symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances.
Fearful or anxious about separation from home or attachment figures to a degree that is developmentally inappropriate, persistent fear or anxiety about harm coming to attachment figures and events that could lead to loss of or separation from attachment figures and reluctance to go away from attachment figure. Often developed in childhood, it can be expressed throughout adulthood as well.
Fearful or anxious about or avoidant of circumscribed objects or situations, the fear, anxiety or avoidance is almost always immediately induced by the phobic situation, to a degree that is persistent and out of proportion to the actual risk posed.
fearful or anxious about or avoidant of social interactions and situations that involve the possibility of being scrutinized, cognitive ideation is of being negatively evaluated by others, by being embarrassed, humiliated, or rejected or offending others.
Recurrent unexpected panic attacks and is persistently concerned or worried about having more panic attacks or changes his or her behavior in maladaptive ways because of the panic attacks. Panic attacks are abrupt surges of intense fear or intense discomfort that reach a peak within minutes accompanied by physical and/or cognitive symptoms.
The two main treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and medications. You may benefit most from a combination of the two. It may take some trial and error to discover which treatments work best for you.
Also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, psychotherapy involves working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. It can be an effective treatment for anxiety.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. Generally, a short-term treatment, CBT focuses on teaching you specific skills to improve your symptoms and gradually return to the activities you've avoided because of anxiety.
CBT includes exposure therapy, in which you gradually encounter the object or situation that triggers your anxiety so you build confidence that you can manage the situation and anxiety symptoms.
Several types of medications are used to help relieve symptoms, depending on the type of anxiety disorder you have and whether you also have other mental or physical health issues.
While most people with anxiety disorders need psychotherapy or medications to get anxiety under control, lifestyle changes also can make a difference. Here's what you can do:
Develop a routine so that you're physically active most days of the week. Exercise is a powerful stress reducer. It may improve your mood and help you stay healthy. Start out slowly and gradually increase the amount and intensity of your activities.
These substances can cause or worsen anxiety. If you can't quit on your own, see your doctor or find a support group to help you.
Both nicotine and caffeine can worsen anxiety.
Visualization techniques, meditation and yoga are examples of relaxation techniques that can ease anxiety.
Do what you can to make sure you're getting enough sleep to feel rested. If you aren't sleeping well, see your doctor.
Healthy eating — such as focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish — may be linked to reduced anxiety, but more research is needed.
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