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Feeling worried, anxious and nervous is normal. We all feel anxious from time to time. When anxiety becomes overwhelming and interferes with your daily life it isn’t normal. People with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks). Anxiety affects 18% to 20% of the American population. That’s about 43 million people. It affects 25% of children ages 13 to 18. Social Security has award disability benefits for panic disorder and panic attacks.

The feelings of anxiety and panic that interfere with daily activities are difficult to control. Most times these feelings are out of proportion to the actual danger and can last for a long time. Symptoms often start during childhood or teen years and can continue into adulthood. It’s two times more common in women than men. Only about 25% of Black Americans seek mental health care compared to 40% of White Americans

Some examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), specific phobias and separation anxiety disorder. You can have more than one anxiety disorder. Knowing the difference between normal feelings of anxiety and an anxiety disorder requires medical attention. This can help a person identify and get treatment for their condition.

Physical Symptoms:

Having an increased heart rate

Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)

Sweating

Fatigue

Sweating or cold, clammy hands

Trembling, twitching, or shaking

Feeling weak or tired

Having trouble sleeping (Insomnia)

Breathlessness or rapid heartbeat

Muscle tension, aches or soreness

Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems

Having difficulty controlling worry

Emotional Symptoms:

Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom

Feeling nervous, restless or tense

Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry

Excessive startle response

Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

Constant sadness

Anxiety riggers cause a rush of adrenalin, which is a hormone and chemical messenger in the brain. These anxious reactions cause a process called the “fight-or-flight’ response. This prepares humans to physically confront or flee any potential threats to safety.

Possible causes include:

environmental stressors, such as difficulties at school, at work, relationship problems, or family issues

people who have family members with an anxiety disorder are more likely to experience one themselves

the effects of a medication, or the stress of an intensive surgery or prolonged recovery

brain chemistry imbalance, misalignments of hormones and electrical signals in the brain

withdrawal from substance abuse

Tips that may help:

Know yourself: Recognize and accept your anxiety about specific fears or situations.

Stress management: Learn to manage stress. This can help limit potential triggers. Organize your life at home, school and work.

Relaxation techniques: Meditation, deep breathing long baths and resting.

Support network: Seek out familiar people who are supportive. This can include family members or friends. Support groups are also good.

Exercise: Physical exertion can improve your self-image and release chemicals in the brain that trigger positive feelings.

Sleep Hygiene: Get enough rest. You need at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep everyday.

Engage your mind: Read a book. Solve puzzles. Pick a hobby.

Get involved: Volunteer. Help others.

Learn: Learn more about anxiety.

Abuse: Avoid alcohol, cannabis and other recreational drugs.

Eat: Maintain a healthy diet.

There are several types of anxiety disorder, including panic disorder, phobias, and panic disorder. Phobias are irrational, involuntary fears of common places, objects or situations. Phobias can include the fear of flying, heights, animals and getting injections. Other fears can include:

Using public transportation

Being in open spaces

Being in enclosed spaces

Standing in line or being in a crowd

Being outside of the home alone

Panic disorder is characterized by distinct periods of intense fear and anxiety that occur when there is no clear cause or danger. Panic disorder is unprovoked and unpredictable. Panic attacks are real and potentially quite emotionally disabling. Mental illness accounts for 14.6% of panic attacks. Panic disorder at this time can never be entirely cured. It can be managed so that it no longer impairs your life.

Untreated anxiety disorders can impact a person’s entire daily life. If your doctor suspects you need help, they will have you undergo an extensive medical interview and physical examination. You will be asked a series of questions to help assess your risk of anxiety. The answers to these questions will help assess whether you meet the diagnostic criteria for anxiety. Anxiety may be associated with a number of other medical illnesses or can be a side effect of some medications. Routine laboratory tests are often performed to rule out other causes for your symptoms.

Treatment involves a combination of different types of therapy, medication, and counseling, alongside self-help measures. A treatment period may last 6 to 9 months. Some people taking medicine for panic disorder are able to stop treatment after few months. Some people may need to continue treatments over a longer period of time. Treatment can last a lifetime. As with any medical condition you should have your doctor explain your condition and help you make good decisions.

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