What is anxiety disorder and what can you do about it? 

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. But when anxiety overtakes a major part of your life, you might have an anxiety disorder.

Occasional anxiety is a normal part of living in today’s stress-filled society. Unfortunately for some, anxiety doesn’t always end there. For those with an anxiety disorder, this feeling stays for longer than it should, like a bad roommate. It can also detract from work or school and can impact your relationships with friends, family and partners.

What is anxiety disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder is described by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as excessive anxiety that can last for several months. Anxiety disorder symptoms include: fatigue, irritability, excessive worry, difficulty sleeping and difficulty concentrating.

Risk factors have been reported by researchers and they include genetic and environmental sources. NIMH lists family history with mental illness, limited economic resources and behavioral inhibition in childhood as risk factors. NIMH also reports that anxiety disorders are more common in women.

Types of anxiety disorders

Social anxiety focuses on interactions with others and heavy expectations of feeling embarrassment or being judged harshly in social and performance situations. Indicators of this disorder can consist of being self-conscious around others, difficulty forming and maintaining relationships, increased worry regarding an event with multiple people and difficulty in speaking with others.

Another form of the disorder is panic disorder, which is described as a propensity for panic attacks that include trembling, increased heart rate and palpitations and is associated with intense fear. NIMH also reports that those with this disorder can feel fear of an impending attack and patients tend to avoid locations and situations where previous attacks have taken place.  

Anxiety disorder treatments

Common treatments for anxiety include psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy and medication. NIMH reports that while medicine is not able to cure an anxiety disorder, it is a viable option in order to manage symptoms associated with these disorders. Medications that have been shown to be effective in treating anxiety symptoms include benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and certain beta-blockers.

Behavioral therapy often includes the introduction of new ways of thinking and behaving, with specific attention toward situations that trigger anxiety. NIMH also states that exposure therapy intends to confront underlying fears by taking part in previously avoided activities. This is paired with relaxation exercises and other methods.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that there are approximately 40 million with an anxiety disorder in the U.S. It also reports that while depression and anxiety disorders are not the same, both can present themselves. Depression can also present itself in those who have had an anxiety disorder in the past. No clinical evidence indicates that one disorder causes the other. Anxiety disorders can also be concurrent with bipolar disorder.

If you think you or a loved one might have an anxiety disorder, contact a doctor or mental health professional to schedule an appointment. If you have been prescribed medications like antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, visit Optum Perks to search for your prescription and find savings today.