Modern life can provide many possible sources of anxiety. All of us, at one time or another, have felt a bit anxious for a variety of reasons. Social situations such as an upcoming presentation, a public performance, or the need to have an uncomfortable conversation with someone can certainly lead to feelings of anxiety or worry. So can uncertainties about our jobs, finances, health, and the future, especially given the challenges and unknowns caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. When feelings of worry, nervousness, or dread begin to impact our day-to-day lives at home, work, or school or when they affect our relationships, something more could be at play, possibly an anxiety disorder.
What are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety disorders are fairly common. In fact, approximately 31% of adults will experience one of these disorders at some point in their lives1. There are several major types of anxiety disorders, here are the most common:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): characterized by excessive anxiety and/or worry most days for at least six months.
Panic disorder: characterized by recurring, unexpected panic attacks or sudden periods of intense fear
Phobia-related disorders: characterized by intense fear of objects or situations. These can include simple phobias that cause fear or anxiety about specific objects or situations such as fear of flying, heights, snakes, blood, etc., or more complex phobias such as:
Agoraphobia: fear of a place or situation where escape might be difficult such as when using public transportation (e.g., a bus, subway, or train), in enclosed spaces, in crowded spaces, or when being alone outside of your home
Separation anxiety disorder: fear or anxiety that occurs when you are apart from someone to whom you are attached
Social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia): a general, intense fear or anxiety about social or performance situations
Other related conditions include:
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): characterized by ongoing feelings of stress or fear months or years after experiencing a traumatic event
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): characterized by disturbing uncontrollable thoughts or the urge to repeat the same behaviors or rituals over and over
Here at Your Local Psychiatrist NYC, we treat patients with a wide variety of anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders can negatively alter various components of daily functioning, these may include generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder, among others. It can cause extreme discomfort, a decline in concentration, changes to sleep and appetite, and can negatively impact mood. By treating anxiety disorders, patients become more in control of their emotions and are able to reach a higher level of functioning. Treatment is tailored to the patients’ specific anxiety manifestations and goals for treatment. By offering individualized care we are able to address anxiety’s implications on various life aspects.
Causes Of and Risk Factors For Anxiety
The exact cause of anxiety disorders is not known. However, it is believed that anxiety disorders may be the result of a variety of factors such as genetics, brain chemistry or changes in the brain, our environment, and stresses or traumas we’ve experienced.
Some people may be at higher risk of developing anxiety disorders based on the following factors2:
Certain personality traits, such as being shy or withdrawn when you are in new situations or meeting new people
Traumatic events in early childhood or adulthood
Family history of anxiety or other mental disorders
Some physical health conditions, such as thyroid problems or arrhythmia
In addition, caffeine, smoking cigarettes, illegal drugs, and certain medications may also cause or increase symptoms of anxiety.
Each type of anxiety disorder has its own, specific set of related symptoms. However, according to MedlinePlus, generally speaking, anxiety disorders are accompanied by2:
Anxious thoughts or beliefs that are difficult to control
Physical symptoms, such as a pounding or rapid heartbeat, unexplained aches and pains, dizziness, shortness of breath, hyperventilation, feeling weak or tired
Changes in behavior, such as avoiding everyday activities you used to do
Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
Having trouble sleeping
Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
If you believe you may be struggling with symptoms of an anxiety disorder, talk to your healthcare practitioner about your concerns. Your doctor may use a variety of screening tools to help evaluate your situation, and she/he may also order blood or urine tests to rule out physical health conditions such as thyroid problems or arrhythmia that may be contributing to your symptoms. Your primary care doctor may also refer you to a specialist such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist for further evaluation or treatment. If so, be sure to read our tips for choosing a therapist or counselor.
Anxiety is an emotional state everyone experiences, and can even be healthy to some extent. When evaluating if anxiety has become disordered, it is important to consider what triggers anxiety, the frequency and severity of its manifestations, and its impact on the individual.
Treatment for Anxiety
If you’ve been struggling with symptoms of anxiety, and are thinking about therapy, don’t wait to seek help. Effective treatment is available to help you feel better. Your healthcare practitioner can help you develop a plan for treatment based on your symptoms. Treatment for anxiety typically involves psychotherapy (“talk” therapy with a psychologist or counselor), the use of medications prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist, or both therapy and medication together. Practicing mindfulness exercises and activities may also offer some benefits.
Talk to your doctor about what treatment approach is best for you based on your specific situation. If your provider prescribes medication, be sure you understand why the medication is being prescribed, how you should take it and for how long, any adverse interactions it may have with other medications you’re taking, what improvements in symptoms you should expect from the medication, and what side effects the medication may cause. Also, do not stop taking your medications without first speaking to your doctor.
Your Doctor Can Help
If you or someone you love may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety, don’t hesitate to reach out for help from your healthcare provider. Given the social distancing challenges posed by COVID-19, your provider may use telemedicine or teletherapy for your initial evaluation visit and for follow-up visits or therapy sessions.
Are You or a Loved One Experiencing a Crisis?
Your Local Psychiatrist does not provide crisis services and is not staffed to respond to people in crisis. If you or someone you love are in crisis, below are some resources that may be helpful.
If you are in danger or are having a health- or mental health-related emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
If you or someone you love are contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), En Español 1-888-628-9454, for support
If you are experiencing a crisis, text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. to reach a trained crisis counselor with the Crisis Text Line.
National Institute of Mental Health. Any Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved 7/19/20. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml
Medlineplus.gov. Anxiety. Retrieved 7/19/20. https://medlineplus.gov/anxiety.html