Anxiety can be a normal response to stress. Every individual of us gets anxiety in certain situations while facing difficult task like exam, viva or interview. But in some individuals this anxiety response will become more than just temporary worry or fear. Their symptoms of anxiety will not go away as the stressful situation dissolves and they become persistent and more severe to cause problems in their personal, social and occupational life. Then these symptoms are called anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder is probably the most common psychiatric illness. Almost 25% to 30% of general population would be affected by anxiety disorder sometime in their lifetime.

Types of anxiety disorder -

Anxiety disorder may present in various ways. Depending on intensity of anxiety, frequency of symptoms and precipitating factors anxiety disorders can be divided into following types –

Generalized anxiety disorder – People suffering from generalized anxiety disorder will experience worries and restlessness throughout the day without any reason. They will have free floating anxiety i.e. anxiety without reason. They will feel worried about each and every small thing. Difficulty in breathing, palpitations, apprehension can be other symptoms. Their sleep and appetite can also be disturbed.

• Panic disorder – In panic disorder anxiety symptoms comes suddenly out of the blue and increased to a very severe level so that person will feel intense apprehension, breathlessness, choking sensation and feels as if he/ she will die if any medical help is not sought. Person will feel incapacitating to his/ her symptoms and even feels as if he/ she will have impending heart attack. Some people with recurrent panic attacks may even get home bound.

• Social anxiety disorder – In social anxiety disorder person will be apprehensive towards social situations. Person will fearful about talking in public, interacting with others or performing any activity in public. He/ she will think that others will negatively judge his/ her actions. The disorder can create problems in person’s social life or at workplace.

• Phobia – When person has intense fear about any specific object or situation the condition is called specific phobia. Whenever person is confronted with any specific object or situation person will get intense apprehension. Some examples of specific phobia include fear of closed spaces, fear of height, fear of blood or injection or fear of some animal.

Causes of anxiety disorder –

Genetics – Some genes or chromosomes may run in families which makes that individual’s brain vulnerable to anxiety disorder.

Brain chemistry – Some of the brain chemicals called neurotransmitters like serotonine, dopamine and norepinephrine are important in regulating our emotions. Disturbance in these neurotransmitters may cause disruption of this emotional regulation and may lead to anxiety.

Areas of brain involved in depression – Loss of brain cells in certain brain areas or even minor damage to these areas may lead to anxiety. Particular brain areas of importance are amygdale, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.

Behavioural theories – Anxiety can be a learned response where person’s brain will get learned or programmed to respond in a anxious manner to any trivial situation or even when there no such situation.

Risk factors for anxiety disorder –

  • • Temperamental or personality traits, anxious personalities
  • • Females more at risk than males
  • • Alcohol abuse, nicotine abuse
  • • Stressor such as financial loss or work pressure
  • • Family history of anxiety
  • • Early childhood trauma or abuse
  • • Medical problems such as thyroid problems or other hormonal problems

Treatment for anxiety disorder –

Anxiety disorders can be treated very effectively with medications and psychotherapies.

Medications – Many medicines are available for treatment of anxiety disorder. We have number of antianxiety medications which can be given according to the severity and emergency of symptoms.

Psychotherapies – Cognitive behavioural therapy and Behavioural therapy are most commonly used psychotherapies to treat anxiety disorders. It includes dealing with irrational thoughts and fears as well as relaxation training, desensitization techniques etc. to train individuals to modify their anxiety response.