Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at times. Many people feel anxious, or nervous, when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision. Anxiety disorders, however, are different. They can cause such distress that it interferes with a person's ability to lead a normal life.
An anxiety disorder is a serious mental illness. For people with anxiety disorders, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be crippling.
Types of anxiety disorders:
- Panic disorder. People with this condition have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. Other symptoms of a panic attack include sweating, chest pain, palpitations (irregular heartbeats), and a feeling of choking, which may make the person feel like he or she is having a heart attack or "going crazy."
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People with OCD are plagued by constant thoughts or fears that cause them to perform certain rituals or routines. The disturbing thoughts are called obsessions, and the rituals are called compulsions. An example is a person with an unreasonable fear of germs who constantly washes his or her hands.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A condition that can develop following a traumatic and/or terrifying event, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, or a natural disaster. People with PTSD often have lasting and frightening thoughts and memories of the event and tend to be emotionally numb.
- Social anxiety disorder or social phobia. Involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. The worry often centers on a fear of being judged by others, or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or lead to ridicule.
- Specific phobias. An intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as snakes, heights, or flying. The level of fear is usually inappropriate to the situation and may cause the person to avoid common, everyday situations.
- Generalized anxiety disorder. Involves excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to provoke the anxiety.
Commonly Prescribed Drugs
Treatment and Management
Treatment options for anxiety disorders:
Psychotropic drugs which include antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anxiolytic
Sedative/hypnotics like barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and phenothiazines
Health care providers that are trained to identify the presence of a mental disorder:
- Primary care physician: Doctors are primarily skilled in medical health care but do have some training in treating mental or psychiatric problems. Physicians will recommend specialized care for patients with more than mild symptoms of a mental illness.
- Psychiatrist: These are medical doctors (MDs) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental or psychiatric illnesses. Psychiatrists are licensed to prescribe drugs as part of their treatment regimen and are also trained in psychotherapy, a form of "talking" therapy.
- Psychologist: These are experts in psychology and are trained in counseling, psychotherapy, and psychological testing. Psychologists are not licensed to prescribe drugs to treat mental illnesses.
- Social worker: These are specialists who often work to assist underprivileged and maladjusted people. Social workers are trained to recognize mental illness and conduct psychotherapy.
- Psychiatric nurse specialists: These are registered nurses who are educated in psychiatric nursing and specialize in treating mental or psychiatric illnesses.