Anxiety is a normal part of life, but for some people it can become a chronic problem. Anxiety can interfere with daily life and lead to symptoms such as fear, dread or panic attacks that are out of proportion to the situation. It can also cause people to avoid things or situations that trigger anxiety.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, which can be triggered by a traumatic experience or the accumulation of small stressors. These include generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia and specific phobias.
Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common form of anxiety, characterized by intense worry and fears that interfere with everyday activities and can last for months or years. It can be difficult to live with and often interferes with work or school performance.
Some anxiety disorders can be controlled with behavioral therapy or other treatments. These therapies involve talking with a trained mental health professional, usually in weekly sessions for up to 6 weeks. Treatment can include counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps people recognize the harmful thoughts that fuel their anxiety and then learn ways to change them.
Talking therapies may include exposure therapy, which involves gradually exposing patients to their fears so that they can begin to engage in activities that they normally avoid. Other behavioral therapies used to treat anxiety disorders include relaxation and exercise, which can help reduce feelings of anxiousness and tension.
Lifestyle changes, such as changing diets and practicing meditation or deep breathing exercises, can also be helpful in controlling anxiety. These strategies can also be done in conjunction with medication.
Medication can be used to control anxiety-related symptoms such as trouble sleeping, racing heart rate and trembling. Antidepressants and benzodiazepines are some of the most commonly prescribed medications for anxiety.
Medications cannot cure an anxiety disorder, but they can provide significant relief from symptoms. Your healthcare provider will work with you to customize a treatment plan that includes medications and/or psychotherapy, such as CBT or talk therapy, as well as other interventions.
Anxiety can be caused by a traumatic event or the accumulation of minor stressors, such as feeling worried about money, family or work. A person can also be prone to developing an anxiety disorder if they have certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure, thyroid problems or diabetes.
Doctors may perform tests to diagnose anxiety, including physical exams and psychological questionnaires. These tests can help rule out other medical conditions that can make you feel anxious, such as heart disease or hyperthyroidism.
Some medications, such as beta-blockers, used for heart problems, are also effective in managing the physical symptoms of anxiety disorders. Other medication, such as hypnotics or sedatives, are also sometimes used for treatment.
The most effective treatments for anxiety are behavioral and cognitive-behavioral therapies, which can help people understand and change the harmful thought patterns that feed anxiety and other problems. Some of these treatments include talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and applied relaxation, and medications.