When tension and worry become excessive, it is important to be on alert, your body may be revealing a sign of anxiety in various ways. Unlike fear, anxiety is persistent and forward-looking. As a set of diseases, it has several types, such as generalized anxiety, social anxiety, phobias, and panic syndrome.
According to the WHO, 264 million people worldwide live with anxiety. This 2017 figure alerts us to the care that must be taken and how this disorder deserves attention and specific care. Among those affected by anxiety, the Southeast Asian region leads with 23% of the world cases, equivalent to 60.5 million people affected. In the European region, we have 14%, a total of 36.17 million people suffering from this disorder.
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) states that anxiety is related to muscle tension and increased mental alertness to future threats. In anxiety disorders, feelings of fear and distress are persistent and affect various areas of life. Transforming an ordinary routine into several challenges to be overcome daily.
Is there a difference between anxiety disorder and ordinary anxiety?
Anxiety is a common feeling when we face a situation of discomfort, fear, or insecurity. This feeling keeps us alert and prevents us from doing something without thinking. However, too little patience can limit our actions and get in the way of many common tasks.
When the sensation goes beyond discomfort and generates exaggerated concern, there is a good chance that it is a disorder that requires care.
The symptoms can appear in different ways, depending on personal particularities and situations. It is worth remembering that each type of anxiety has unique symptom characteristics:
- Physical symptoms: Increased heart rate, continuous high blood pressure, knotty feeling in the stomach or pit of the stomach, shortness of breath, dry mouth, excessive sweating, headache or dizziness, back pain, feeling feverish. Long-term factors should also be noted, such as weight loss or gain because of increased or lost appetite.
- Behavioral reactions: Involuntary tremors, drastic mood swings, hyperactivity, loss of body control (can’t walk or move other parts), etc.
- Cognitive reactions: Change in information processing; excessive preoccupation with everything around, uncontrollable negative thoughts, concentration difficulties, insomnia, memory changes, compulsive urge to cry; negative thoughts and more.
- Social reactions: Difficulty initiating or maintaining interpersonal relationships, difficulty saying “no” or showing disagreement, excessive preoccupation with other opinions.
Even if you identify yourself with the above symptoms, self-diagnosis or self-medication is not indicated. Professional follow-up is indispensable for an assertive description of the problem and a detailed analysis of the treatment for the patient.
Anxiety and Sleep Disorder
The anxiety disorder can significantly alter the patient’s sleep. There are those who develop insomnia, because they become so tense that they can’t sleep, and there are also cases of patients who choose to sleep all the time to escape the anxious feelings.
As an important part of human development, sleep is primordial for a balanced health. Besides bringing rest and renewal for the next day, sleep keeps the body’s primary functions in good working order, such as cognitive functions: visual and visuospatial perception. In addition, sleep disorders can cause numerous problems, as explained in the article “Sleep disorders: overview” from the Brazilian Journal of Neurology.
What are the types of anxiety?
Even with a confirmed diagnosis by a professional, treatment continues. There are different classifications of anxiety, such as: mild, moderate, and severe. Similarly, there are types of disorders, as classified by DSM-5 below:
- Agoraphobia: Intense fear of crowded places with difficult access to exit. You feel more comfortable in open spaces and avoid situations that may cause embarrassment or helplessness.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Excessive worry about several things at once, fear of the unknown and unpredictable.
- Panic Syndrome: Frequent panic attacks that lead to fear of the future and further attacks, leading to isolation.
- Selective Mutism: Relates to social anxiety; usually fails to speak in social interaction situations. It usually develops in childhood.
- Separation anxiety: Fear and distress at high levels during separation from something or someone. Common in children during school going.
- Social anxiety disorder: Insistent fear of social relationships; usually the person avoids relating to others.
- Specific Phobia: Anxiety and dread caused by something specific, such as a person, animal, object, or activity.
- Anxiety due to medication or illness: Anxiety related to the excessive use or lack of use of a medication, other substance, or illness.
Causes of Anxiety
Through examination, questions, or other methods, the attending physician will be able to describe more precisely the causes of the discomfort. Anxiety can be caused by endogenous (internal) or exogenous (external) stimuli.
Depending on the type of anxiety, the reasons for it can vary. Exposure to traumatic events can cause in triggers that result in anxiety. Family history, poor physical health conditions, and personality traits can also contribute.
Watch out for people with excessive shyness or withdrawal in social engagement situations, they tend to be more affected with anxiety.
According to research in the American Journal of Psychiatry, this restlessness is related to genetic variants in the DNA. In addition to anxiety, some of these six variants are risk factors for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
As a natural protection, it operates as an anticipation of future threat, bringing about a behavioral response to fear. However, in an exaggerated form it should be diagnosed and treated by a health professional, as the best way to identify the real cause and recommend appropriate treatment.
Treatment for Anxiety
Because of its variation and several forms of manifestation, this pathology can be controlled through some continuous procedures, since there is no cure.
Some routine habits can be inserted for a better life with this disorder, such as: time for activities that provide pleasure; meditation and healthy lifestyle with the practice of physical activities.
In other cases, this treatment needs a specialized intervention such as the following options:
- Supplements: Some supplements can aid in the treatment and prevention of anxiety symptoms. Studies have shown that nutraceuticals such as omega-3, ashwagandha, and lemon balm have the potential to be allies in the treatment of this disorder. Some supplements may help in the treatment and prevention of anxiety symptoms. “However, some stimulant substances such as caffeine may aggravate the case.
- Therapy: Known as CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy), this therapy works well for many anxiety disorders, especially in conjunction with medication. Relaxation therapy also brings similar results, promoting well-being.
- Meditation: Already used to reduce physical signs of stress, meditation can reduce symptoms of mild anxiety. According to 2018 research, the effects of mindfulness exercises as an autonomous intervention on anxiety and depression symptoms bring good results.
- Exercise: Aerobic exercise, such as running, is a great help for people with clinical anxiety, and high intensity exercise is the most effective. Compared to therapy, they have similar results, but at a lower rate compared to medication.
- Diet: Diet is an important factor that can help combat the symptoms of anxiety. Recent evidence has shown that simple strategies such as avoiding the use of artificial sweeteners, adding polyunsaturated fatty acids, and maintaining a nutritionally balanced diet can help you live a better life. Some diets, such as the Mediterranean-style diet, can also help treat anxiety, as they include polyunsaturated fatty acids and many polyphenols, known to act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.
- Medication: In anxiety disorders, it is common for medications to work more effectively than exercise and therapy. Anxiolytic drugs, beta-blockers, and antidepressants are used to help relieve the body’s reactions.
The indication of the procedure may vary according to the treatment agreed upon between the patient and the doctor. However, it is important that the cause of the illness is treated for good mental health, not just the symptoms. Anxiety crises can arise, so be aware of your body’s signs and seek the best treatment for your condition.