What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is the mind and body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It’s the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event. A certain level of anxiety helps us stay alert and aware, but for those suffering from an anxiety disorder, it feels far from normal and oftentimes, it can be completely debilitating.
Anxiety Disorders in Children
Anxiety can make a child feel scared, panicky, embarrassed or ashamed. The reason for the anxiety will differ depending on the age of the child. Children are commonly afraid of things like monsters, dogs or water. This is a perfectly normal part of growing up, but if anxiety becomes overwhelming and affects the child’s day-to-day life, it can affect a child’s functioning. While it’s normal for children to frequently have fears and worries, some anxious children may express grow up level of worries(e.g will mom get home safe?”)
Children with anxiety can often refuse to go to school due to worries. Anxiety can also prevent children from trying new activities or taking part of social events. Social ‘shyness’ is perfectly normal for some children and teenagers, but it becomes a problem when everyday activities like school grades, absences, test grades or extracurricular activities are affected. Children with anxiety often worry about doing or saying something they think will be embarrassing or make someone think bad about them.
Anxiety can also affect a child’s sleep, make it difficult for them to fall asleep or have awakenings at night. Children with anxiety also have episodes of “snapiness” where they will bottle up things at school and release their anger on a parent or sibling.
Anxiety Disorders in Adults
Anxiety disorder are generally characterized by worries about the future. According to the National Instiutitue of Health 19.1% of Americans experienced anxiety in the past year.1 The rate amongst women and men suffering from anxiety this past year alone is 23.4% and 14.3%.
Worries regarding finances, children and family members health are normal for most adults. Anxiety needs to be treated if it starts to interfere with an adults daily functioning such as work, school, marital relationship or social functioning. Common anxiety signs and symptoms include feeling nervous, tense, constant worries about danger, and trouble concentrating.
Sometimes when anxiety levels become elevated they can result in panic attacks. A patient with panic attack feels like he is having a heart attack with symptoms similar to that of a heart attack for example racing heart, chest pain, breathing difficulties, having chills, and loss of control. Panic attacks usually last less than 1 hour, with most being approximately minutes.
For most adults, anxiety makes it harder to try new things, to take risks in your work or personal life, or sometimes to even leave your house. Many people with anxiety feel caged in. They see things they want to do in life but their anxiety keeps them from trying. This can lead to loss of income and relationship difficulties. And in some cases, it can be disabling in terms of everyday life.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
There are many effective treatment options available for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders. These treatments can be broadly categorized as the following.
Medications: Medications are often used in conjunction with psychotherapy for more effective and long lasting improvement in the patient’s anxiety. The most commonly prescribed medications are SSRI’s. However, the specific type of medication administered to patients will be determined by their providers based on the patient’s desires(e.g weight loss) and health history. Anxiolytics are the particular group of medication that is used to treat anxiety and anxiety related disorders for short term, such as Klonipin. Anxiolytics like Klonipin are often meant to be used short term and are not a long-term solutions. The ultimate goal of medication in treatment of anxiety is to stabilize the patients life while they are able to recieve enough therapy to be able to eventually discontinue all medications. The realistic timeline for being able to discontinue medications while being treated for anxiety is after 1 year of active cognitive behavioral therapy. However, patients do often choose to be on SSRI for longer periods of time because of the improvements they are seeing in their lives.
Psychotherapy: There are many types of psychotherapies used to treat anxiety. The patient’s particular anxiety diagnosis and personal preference guide what therapies would be best suited to treat them. The goal of psychotherapy is to help the patient regulate their emotions and manage their anxiety effectively. Evidenced-based therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE), and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are some of the most effective treatments for treating anxiety. CBT is considered to be the most effective treatment approach for anxiety disorders. It is a short-term treatment designed to help patients identify inaccurate and negative thinking in situations that cause anxiety. Both the cognitive and behavioral aspect of anxiety are addressed in this mode of therapy.
Moreover, complementary and alternative therapies can be used in conjunction with conventional therapies to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. One of these is stress management, which is a collection of activities focused in which an individual consciously produces the relaxation response in their body. Relaxation strategies, such as deep diaphragmatic breathing, have been shown to lower blood pressure, slow heart rate, and reduce the tension that is commonly associated with stress. Guided imagery is another relaxation strategy that can help reduce or prevent overwhelming anxiety. Similarly, mindfulness, meditation and yoga can increase one’s awareness of the world around you and increase your control over how you experience situations and how you respond. Practicing these strategies regularly can help you live life in the present moment while managing your anxiety related symptoms.