"Anxiety Disorder: What It Is and Treatment Options" (Part 2)

Business man worried

     Part 1 of our series on anxiety disorders and their treatment was a general discussion of the topic of anxiety. Anxiety disorders are partially described as a mental illness that should be taken seriously. People experiencing an anxiety disorder can be overwhelmed by a constant state of worry and fear. Remaining in this state can be debilitating to an individual’s life.

Getting Diagnosed Correctly

     It is recommended that a professional equipped to make clinical judgment and diagnosis assist in diagnosing most people with an anxiety disorder. Self-diagnosis can lead to many frustrating and often avoidable experiences as a result of the effects of an anxiety disorder.

     The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, is the tool many experts use as the criteria to diagnose mental conditions. Insurance policies that cover psychiatric services also use this manual as a standard for reimbursement when clinical help is sought.

     Some of the criteria experts use from the DSM-5 Manual for generalized anxiety disorder are:

             -  Difficulty controlling your feelings of worry.
             -  Anxiety that isn't related to another mental health condition, such as panic attacks or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, or a medical condition.
             -  Excessive anxiety and worry about several events or activities most days for at least six months.
             -  Anxiety and worry that causes you significant distress or interferes with your daily life.
             -  At least three of the following symptoms in adults and one of the following in children:

                          - restlessness
                          - fatigue
                          - trouble concentrating,
                          - irritability
                          - muscle tension
                          - sleep problems

     Generalized anxiety disorder will many times occur along with other mental health problems. This combination can make diagnosis and treatment more challenging. Generalized anxiety disorder can also be accompanied by one of the following specific anxiety disorders:

                           - phobias
                           - depression
                           - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
                           - substance abuse
                           - panic disorder

     If these symptoms will not go away and you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms, you may want to consider having an initial consultation with a mental health professional.

     Here are some questions you're mental health professional will ask you:

     -  Do you constantly feel tense, worried, or on edge?
     -  Does your anxiety interfere with your family relationships, school, or work responsibilities?
     -  Are you plagued by fears that you cannot shake and know are irrational?
     -  Do you believe if things are not done in a certain way that something bad will happen?
     -  Do you avoid everyday activities or situations because they cause you anxiety?
     -  Do you experience unexpected attacks of heart-pounding panic?
     -  Do you feel like there is a catastrophe about to always happen or danger around every corner?

Anxiety Can Co-Exist With Other Conditions

     Anxiety disorders can present differently with each person because anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions rather than a single disorder. One individual may get panicky at the thought of going to the grocery store or mingling at a social event, while another individual may suffer from intense anxiety attacks that strike without warning. Someone else may continually be in a constant state of worry or tension about anything and everything. Yet another person may struggle with a disabling fear of uncontrollable or intrusive thoughts. Another may suffer with an extreme fear of driving. Despite all their various forms, all anxiety disorders share one major symptom: severe or persistent fear or worry in situations where most people wouldn’t feel threatened.

     It is important to point out that anxiety is the body’s natural response to danger, like an alarm system that goes off when you are under pressure, facing a stressful situation, or feeling threatened. Some consider the anxiety in moderation is not always a bad thing, but can actually be positive. In moderation, anxiety can help you stay focused and alert and motivate you to solve a problem. You can cross the line from productive anxiety into the territory of anxiety disorders when anxiety ceases to be functional in your daily activities, life, and relationships.

     Now that we have a basic understanding of anxiety and anxiety disorders, part three in this series will explore preventative, mainstream and alternative treatments available to those suffering from anxiety and anxiety disorders.