Anxiety And Panic Attacks
Explains anxiety and panic attacks, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
Mae’r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg. This link will take you to a Welsh translation of this page.
Living With Anxiety Disorders
It’s possible to live with a mild anxiety disorder. But when the anxiety is severe enough to interfere with everyday life, treatment is usually the only way to control it. Treatment options include medication, psychotherapy, or both. Without treatment, it’s likely that the disorder will worsen or that another anxiety disorder will develop. Treatment is also important for conditions that often accompany anxiety, such as depression and alcohol or drug dependence.
Common Types Of Anxiety Disorders
The 5 major types of anxiety disorders are:
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How Gad Is Treated
GAD can have a significant effect on your daily life, but several different treatments are available that can help ease your symptoms. These include:
- psychological therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy
- medication such as a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
There are also many things you can do yourself to help reduce your anxiety, such as going on a self-help course, exercising regularly, stopping smoking and cutting down on the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink.
With treatment, many people are able to control their levels of anxiety. However, some treatments may need to be continued for a long time and there may be periods where your symptoms worsen.
If these initial treatments do not help, you will usually be offered either a more intensive psychological treatment or medication. These are described below.
When Is Anxiety A Problem
Some people feel anxiety that is too intense. It seems like more than they can cope with. Worries or fears take up too much of their time and energy. Some people might begin to avoid things that make them anxious. These things can be signs of an anxiety disorder.
If you feel like anxiety is too much, tell a parent, school counselor, or your doctor. There are treatments for anxiety disorders. The sooner you start getting help, the better you will feel.
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Can Anxiety Disorders Be Prevented
You cant prevent anxiety disorders. But you can take steps to control or reduce your symptoms:
- Check out medications: Talk to a healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking over-the-counter medications or herbal remedies. Some of these contain chemicals that may make anxiety symptoms worse.
- Limit caffeine: Stop or limit how much caffeine you consume, including coffee, tea, cola and chocolate.
- Live a healthy lifestyle: Exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Seek help: Get counseling and support if you experienced a traumatic or disturbing event. Doing so can help prevent anxiety and other unpleasant feelings from disrupting your life.
How Are Anxiety Disorders Diagnosed
If you have symptoms of an anxiety disorder, talk to your healthcare provider. Theyll start with a complete medical history and physical examination.
There are no lab tests or scans that can diagnose anxiety disorders. But your provider may run some of these tests to rule out physical conditions that may be causing symptoms.
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Are There Tests That Diagnose Anxiety
A single test cant diagnose anxiety. Instead, an anxiety diagnosis requires a lengthy process of physical examinations, mental health tests, and psychological questionnaires.
Some doctors or healthcare professionals may conduct a physical exam, including blood or urine tests to rule out underlying medical conditions that could contribute to the symptoms youre experiencing.
Several anxiety tests and scales are also used to help a doctor assess the level of anxiety youre experiencing. Reach about each of these tests.
Once youve received a diagnosis of anxiety, you can explore treatment options with a doctor.
But treatment can help you overcome the symptoms and lead a more manageable day-to-day life.
Treatment for anxiety falls into three categories:
- Psychotherapy. Therapy can include cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure response prevention.
- Complemental health techniques. Mindfulness, yoga, and self-management strategies such as stress management are ways to treat your anxiety using alternative methods.
- Medication. Doctors prescribe antianxiety and antidepressant drugs.
Meeting with a therapist or psychologist can help you learn tools to use and strategies to cope with stress when it occurs.
The Mental Health Resources page can provide tips on finding a psychiatrist, or a doctor who specializes in mental health, to fit your needs.
Some other commonly used medications include:
What Causes Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Risk for GAD can run in families. Several parts of the brain and biological processes play a key role in fear and anxiety. By learning more about how the brain and body function in people with anxiety disorders, researchers may be able to develop better treatments. Researchers have also found that external causes, such as experiencing a traumatic event or being in a stressful environment, may put you at higher risk for developing GAD.
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Who Is At Risk For Anxiety Disorders
A mix of genetic and environmental factors can raise a persons risk for developing anxiety disorders. You may be at higher risk if you have or had:
- Certain personality traits, such as shyness or behavioral inhibition feeling uncomfortable with, and avoiding, unfamiliar people, situations or environments.
- Stressful or traumatic events in early childhood or adulthood.
- Family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions.
- Certain physical conditions, including thyroid problems and heart arrhythmias .
Anxiety disorders occur more often in women. Researchers are still studying why that happens. It may come from womens hormones, especially those that fluctuate throughout the month. The hormone testosterone may play a role, too men have more, and it may ease anxiety. Its also possible that women are less likely to seek treatment, so the anxiety worsens.
How Can I Best Cope With An Anxiety Disorder
There are several steps you can take to cope with anxiety disorder symptoms. These strategies can also make your treatment more effective:
- Explore stress management: Learn ways to manage stress, such as through meditation.
- Join support groups: These groups are available in-person and online. They encourage people with anxiety disorders to share their experiences and coping strategies.
- Get educated: Learn about the specific type of anxiety disorder you have so you feel more in control. Help friends and loved ones understand the disorder as well so they can support you.
- Limit or avoid caffeine: Many people with anxiety disorder find that caffeine can worsen their symptoms.
- Talk to your healthcare provider: Your provider is your partner in your care. If you feel like treatment isnt working or have questions about your medication, contact your provider. Together, you can figure out how to best move forward.
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How Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Related To Anxiety Disorders
Some people feel the effects of stress in their stomachs. People with IBS have uncomfortable problems with digestion, including stomach pain, constipation and diarrhea. They also frequently have anxiety and depression, which can make symptoms worse.
The connection between IBS and anxiety comes from the nervous system partly controlling the colon. The nervous systems response to stress may affect the stomach. Among people who get treated for IBS, anywhere from 50% to 90% may also have an anxiety disorder or depression. Treatment for IBS may include stress management and psychotherapy to relieve symptoms.
How To Help Teens With Anxiety
Teenagers may have many reasons to be anxious. Tests, college visits, and first dates all pop up in these important years. But teenagers who feel anxious or experience anxiety symptoms frequently may have an anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of anxiety in teenagers may include nervousness, shyness, isolationist behaviors, and avoidance. Likewise, anxiety in teens may lead to unusual behaviors.
For example, they may act out, perform poorly in school, skip social events, and even engage in substance or alcohol use.
In some teens, depression may accompany anxiety. Diagnosing both conditions is essential so that their treatment can address the underlying issues and help relieve symptoms.
The most common treatments for anxiety in teenagers are talk therapy and medication. These treatments also help address depression symptoms.
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Managing Symptoms: Staying Healthy
Being healthy is important for all children and can be especially important for children with depression or anxiety. In addition to getting the right treatment, leading a healthy lifestyle can play a role in managing symptoms of depression or anxiety. Here are some healthy behaviors that may help:
- Having a healthy eating plan centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes , lean protein sources, and nuts and seeds
- Participating in physical activity for at least 60 minutes each day
- Practicing mindfulness or relaxation techniques
What Are The Treatments For Anxiety Disorders
The main treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy , medicines, or both:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that is often used to treat anxiety disorders. CBT teaches you different ways of thinking and behaving. It can help you change how you react to the things that cause you to feel fear and anxiety. It may include exposure therapy. This focuses on having you confront your fears so that you will be able to do the things that you had been avoiding.
- Medicines to treat anxiety disorders include anti-anxiety medicines and certain antidepressants. Some types of medicines may work better for specific types of anxiety disorders. You should work closely with your health care provider to identify which medicine is best for you. You may need to try more than one medicine before you can find the right one.
NIH: National Institute of Mental Health
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Other Types Of Anxiety
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition also lists other, less common types of anxiety, including:
- selective mutism
- substance- or medication-induced anxiety disorder
- anxiety disorder due to another medical condition
Some mental health conditions are commonly referred to as anxiety disorders and may have once been classified as one, but now have a in the DSM-5. They include OCD and PTSD.
Are Ocd And Ptsd Anxiety Disorders
The fifth edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” , which healthcare providers use to diagnose mental health conditions,breaks what have generally been considered anxiety disorders into three categories:
- Anxiety disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders
- Trauma- and stressor-related disorders
This differentiation shows that while the disorders have a commonality and are related, they are distinctly different. These classifications have remained in place in the most recent edition of the diagnostic manual, the DSM-5-TR.
While OCD and PTSD are no longer officially categorized as anxiety disorders, they share many characteristics, and anxiety symptoms are common in both conditions.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder involves experiencing intrusive thoughts, known as obsessions, and behaviors, known as compulsions. Before the publication of the DSM-5, OCD was considered a type of anxiety disorder, because these obsessions create significant anxiety for many people.
Obsessions may focus on things such as a fear of germs, a need to have things in a certain order, or disturbing thoughts about taboo topics. Compulsions are behaviors that people often engage in as a way to relieve the anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts. They might involve actions such as counting, ordering, checking, or washing.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
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Try A Book Or Online Course
When you are diagnosed with GAD, your GP may recommend trying self-help treatments before having more intensive psychological therapy or medication.
This will usually involve working from a book or computer programme for around six weeks or longer. In some cases, you may be closely supported by a trained therapist who you will speak to every week or two, although some treatments only involve minimal or occasional contact with a therapist who will monitor your progress.
There are a number of different books and courses available that can help you learn to cope with your anxiety, but the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence only recommends trying treatments based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy .
CBT is a type of psychological treatment that can help you understand your condition better and how your problems, thoughts, feelings and behaviour affect each other. The aim of CBT-based treatments is to help you learn ways to manage your anxiety by modifying negative or unhelpful behaviour and thoughts.
Find out more about Living Life – a service which offers appointment-based telephone support based upon cognitive behavioural therapy.
What Happens If I Dont Get Treatment For My Child With An Anxiety Disorder
Getting your child help for an anxiety disorder can improve their development and self-esteem. But untreated anxiety disorders can harm:
- Family relationships.
- School performance.
- Social functioning.
Your child may also end up with more serious mental and physical health problems. Fortunately, there are several treatments for anxiety disorders. The right treatment can help your child manage their symptoms and feel their best.
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Causes Of Anxiety Disorder
Some causes of anxiety disorders are:
- Genetics. Anxiety disorders can run in families.
- Brain chemistry. Some research suggests anxiety disorders may be linked to faulty circuits in the brain that control fear and emotions.
- Environmental stress. This refers to stressful events you have seen or lived through. Life events often linked to anxiety disorders include childhood abuse and neglect, a death of a loved one, or being attacked or seeing violence.
- Drug withdrawal or misuse. Certain drugs may be used to hide or decrease certain anxiety symptoms. Anxiety disorder often goes hand in hand with alcohol and substance use.
- Medical conditions. Some heart, lung, and thyroid conditions can cause symptoms similar to anxiety disorders or make anxiety symptoms worse. Itâs important to get a full physical exam to rule out other medical conditions when talking to your doctor about anxiety.
Are There Clinical Trials Studying Social Anxiety Disorder
NIMH supports a wide range of research, including clinical trials that look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases and conditionsincluding social anxiety disorder. Although individuals may benefit from being part of a clinical trial, participants should be aware that the primary purpose of a clinical trial is to gain new scientific knowledge so that others may be better helped in the future.
Researchers at NIMH and around the country conduct clinical trials with patients and healthy volunteers. Talk to a health care provider about clinical trials, their benefits and risks, and whether one is right for you. For more information, visit NIMH’s clinical trials webpage.
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Anxiety Symptoms That Are Frequent Or Severe Enough To Disrupt Your Life Can Still Be Successfully Treated
You’ve probably had anxiety symptomsa thumping heart, rapid breathing, and feelings of apprehension and fear. You might have felt anxious before an important event or a major medical procedure. “Some degree of anxiety is normal and even necessary. Anxiety signals us that something is awry or might need our attention. However, you don’t want the response to become exaggerated or to dominate your life,” says Dr. Ann R. Epstein, medical editor of the Harvard Special Health Report Coping with Anxiety and Stress Disorders. If you often feel anxious without an apparent cause, you may have an anxiety disorder.
How Does Medication Treat Anxiety Disorders
Medications cant cure an anxiety disorder. But they can improve symptoms and help you function better. Medications for anxiety disorders often include:
- Anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, may decrease your anxiety, panic and worry. They work quickly, but you can build up a tolerance to them. That makes them less effective over time. Your healthcare provider may prescribe an anti-anxiety medication for the short-term, then taper you off or the provider may add an antidepressant to the mix.
- Antidepressants can also help with anxiety disorders. They tweak how your brain uses certain chemicals to improve mood and reduce stress. Antidepressants may take some time to work, so be patient. If you feel like youre ready to stop taking antidepressants, talk to your provider first.
- Beta-blockers, usually used for high blood pressure, can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of anxiety disorders. They can relieve rapid heartbeat, shaking and trembling.
Your healthcare provider will work with you to find the right medication combination and dosage. Dont change the dose without consulting your provider. Theyll monitor you to make sure the medicines are working without causing negative side effects.
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