Anxiety and fear are two emotions that are closely related, and they both fall into the definition of general stress anxiety disorders that are covered by the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 manual. Anxiety is most often considered as a state of mood that is focused on real or perceived future events of a negative nature. Fear is a similar state of mood that occurs as a response to real-time threats or negative scenarios. In both cases these negative scenarios may be real or perceived, which is part of why treating and identifying anxiety can be difficult. For psychologists and patients to understand and work through any case of general anxiety, performance anxiety, or even phobias and social anxiety, the symptoms and what causes anxiety must be clearly understood by considering the general anxiety disorder classification.
What Causes Anxiety?
The development of anxiety can come from a number of factors. Even seemingly trivial factors like diet can play a role. Traumatic events and other negative past experiences can create anxiety in anticipation of future events, and even genes are thought to play a role in the condition.
Trauma is a leading cause of developing anxiety disorders and can include accidents that caused moderate or severe injury, domestic abuse, and physical violence. Emotional trauma can also lead to the development of anxiety. Victims of child abuse are also at risk of developing anxiety later in life, and significant life events like divorce, financial strife, or the death of a loved one can lead to anxiety and increased stress.
Certain drugs can also cause anxiety. Caffeine can trigger anxiety in some sensitive individuals, and the DSM-5 manual even classifies Caffeine-induced anxiety disorder as a separate subclass of the disorder. Alcohol and drug abuse are also known causes of anxiety, and the condition may heighten during periods of withdrawal.
Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety
Anxiety and overall stress can have an impact on health, performance, and interpersonal relationships and often co-exists with depression.
According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, psychological symptoms of stress and anxiety can include feelings of dread or fearfulness, restlessness and agitation, irritability, and problems with focus and concentration. Lack of concentration can have at least some impact on relationships and performance in employment or other roles of responsibility, and may even influence sexual performance anxiety.
Anxiety symptoms are not limited to psychological issues, and can also impact physical health. Heart palpitations and increased blood pressure may be observed in individuals suffering from anxiety. Sufferers may also experience regular trembling, tiredness, dizziness, gastrointestinal problems (stomach ache or the development of ulcers), headaches, and insomnia or milder issues of maintaining regular sleeping patterns.
The symptoms don’t need to be ever-present for anxiety disorders to be diagnosed. In some cases, the underlying cause of intermittent anxiety can be apparent and well understood by the sufferer. Examples can include caffeine-induced anxiety disorder, anxiety from known phobias or situational anxiety.
Finding the Right Treatment
There are a number of effective treatment methods for anxiety, all of which can be discussed with a healthcare professional, or discovered through self-help courses.
CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is a preferred method of many psychologists and anxiety suffers. This kind of therapy allows suffers to looking at how their individual problems, thought processes, and emotional states can trigger anxiety. This type of therapy allows sufferers to find root causes and address or avoid them and may require lifestyle changes to be completely effective.
Group therapy may be recommended for some sufferers, as it allows for wider emotional support with people in similar situations. By sharing fears and experiences, it is possible to reduce anxiety by facing any existing problem, rather than letting it materialize as stress. When group or individual therapy is not effective, a more structured treatment plan with a psychologist is recommended.
Medication may also be appropriate in some instances and can be used in conjunction with psychological treatment. Medication may be used for treating physical symptoms that have developed, and some medication can work to treat anxiety disorders directly. SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are most commonly used, especially in patients that also suffer from depression.
While anxiety can be debilitating, it is not a condition that is unmanageable. Effective diagnosis, understanding what causes anxiety, and finding the right treatment can allow patients to overcome anxiety and lead balanced and fulfilling lives