Occasional feelings of anxiety that are caused by stressful situations like work issues, preparing for an examination or financial problems, are generally considered normal. However, when a person experiences overwhelming anxiety on a regular basis and it interferes with their daily lives, a diagnosis of a medical disorder is usually made.
These disorders can significantly alter emotions, behaviour and lead to unpleasant physical symptoms. The symptoms can disrupt important aspects in an anxiety sufferer's life such as interpersonal relationships, work performance and general well-being. An estimated 31.1% of adults are affected by an anxiety disorder at some stage in their lives yet despite the high prevalence rate, only about 37% of patients receive effective treatment.
While chronic anxiety conditions can reduce a person's quality of life, the upside is that anxiety is highly treatable. Oftentimes, patients with anxiety are treated with benzodiazepines. In fact, studies suggest that in the United States, 55 to 94% of patients with an anxiety disorder are treated with benzodiazepines. European studies as well as those conducted in the UK have revealed similar high rates of benzodiazepine use.
While the symptoms of anxiety tend to differ from one person to another, the body usually responds in a certain way to stress. There are five main types of anxiety conditions, which include the following along with their associated symptoms:
|Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) - a long-lasting disorder characterised by excessive worry and anxiety about various aspects in life, GAD affects nearly 6% of people at some stage in their lives.||
|Panic disorder - this condition involves recurring panic attacks, which are abrupt episodes of intense fear, usually reaching a peak after about 10 minutes.||
|Social anxiety disorder (SAD) - a condition characterised by intense fear and anxiety in social settings, SAD is estimated to affect more than 12% of adults at some point in their lives.||
|Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) - this disorder involves obsessions which are unwanted thoughts, images or urges that cause distress and compulsions which are behaviours that help ease obsessions and relieve anxiety. Patients with OCD may have symptoms relating to obsessions, compulsions, or both.||
|Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - a condition that develops in some people who have experienced a traumatic event, PTSD affects about 7 to 8% of adults.||
Although the specific cause of anxiety is still under study, it is likely to be the result of a combination of various factors. Research suggests that the following aspects may contribute to the development of an anxiety lined disorders:
If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, there are two primary treatments available, which include medication and psychotherapy. Many times, a patient will benefit from a combination of both treatments.
Anxiety medication works by enhancing the effect of a chemical in the brain known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). When a person becomes nervous or anxious, nerve cells in the central nervous system become overactive. GABA regulates communication between these cells and inhibits the activity of overactive cells. GABA basically slows down brain functions and this produces the following effects:
When there is a limited amount of GABA in the brain, a person is more likely to have an anxiety disorder. They will typically experience a variety of physical and emotional symptoms like restlessness, nervousness and sleeping difficulties. By enhancing GABA, this medication helps improve cognition, associated behaviour and how the body reacts to stress. This helps facilitate the calming effect that counteracts the negative symptoms associated with a distressful time.
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Updated: 27th January 2021
Review Due: January 2022
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