Every person at some point in their lives will feel some level of anxiety, as anxiety is first and foremost a complex human emotion. Perhaps a student feels nervous before giving a speech in front of a class, or a prospective employee has some jitters before a job interview. When the emotion of anxiety begins to intrude in everyday activities, somewhere a line is crossed where anxiety becomes a problem that impedes a person’s quality of life. Read on to learn more about what anxiety symptoms are, what panic attacks are, what treatment options are available, and how to talk to your doctor about your mental health.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a blanket term that comprises many different emotions, including the emotion of anxiety itself. Alongside the term anxiety, nervousness, fear, worry, dread, and apprehension are often used. When this bundle of emotions is experienced together, it may be quite possible that the patient in question has an anxiety disorder. There are many different types of anxiety disorders—even obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder. The most common types diagnosed include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety, and panic disorder. Anxiety can also be an integral part of other comorbid mental health diagnoses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Generalized anxiety disorder is likely the most common of all the anxiety disorders, and perhaps the best way to describe it is that the patient feels they worry excessively about everything. You may find very little joy and much worry in nearly everything you do, as you’re constantly worried about money, the future, your health, your social status, and even small things like being on time. Your friends may classify you as a “worrier,” when in fact you have a classic case of anxiety disorder.
Panic disorder presents slightly differently, and oftentimes, you see this type of anxiety disorder comorbid with PTSD or with agoraphobia (a fear of open places). A “panic attack” comes on suddenly, and the patient is completely gripped with fear. They may be at home, out in public, driving, or on public transportation, such as an airplane. They may feel “as if they were having a heart attack.” Their heart rate increases and they may find it excessively tough to calm down.
Social anxiety disorder is another common problem where patients experience intense anxiety before, during, and after social situations, or in similar situations, such as public speaking. Social anxiety symptoms may be very similar to those of GAD, however, they are centric around social situations only.
How Is It Diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose any anxiety disorder by asking a few questions. There is no definitive blood test or other type of test to diagnose anxiety. Most family physicians are aware enough of anxiety disorders to offer a diagnosis; however, some may refer you to a psychiatrist or therapist, depending on the nature and severity of your anxiety. Some physicians are more comfortable sending patients to doctors who specialize in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition). Also known as the DSM V, this is what doctors and medical professionals use to diagnose mental health conditions.
Your doctor may ask about your symptoms. Common anxiety symptoms across the board include:
- Feeling nervous or jumpy
- Stomach irritation or upset
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Unable to sleep/insomnia
- Dry mouth
- Muscle tension
Talking to your physician about any mental health concerns can be tough, but they are the best person to assist you. There are many treatment options to help when it comes to anxiety disorders, and you and your doctor can choose the best line of treatment that works for you.
What Treatment Options Are Available?
There are several treatment options when it comes to any type of anxiety disorders, and they include psychotherapy, pharmacology, or often a mixture of both. Cognitive behavioral therapy is typically the first-line suggested treatment when it comes to anxiety problems and disorders. This type of therapy helps to remove black-and-white thinking, replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones over time.
If your doctor believes your anxiety is severe or is better helped by medication or a combination of medication and treatment, they may prescribe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). These two classes of drugs are also known as antidepressants but have proven efficacy when it comes to anxiety, particularly generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Those with panic disorder may be treated with benzodiazepines, another type of anxiety medication, but these are often avoided because these medications can be addictive if used long-term.
If you need more information about different types of anxiety disorders or would like to discuss anxiety with a practitioner, schedule an appointment today at The Woman’s Clinic. While we specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, we treat all aspects of women’s health issues and our doctors value the whole woman.