Mental health is often a topic of public discourse, but do we really know what we are talking about? Within this series (“Understanding the Mind”), I aim to provide readers with an insight about what mental illness is. To find out more and for an introduction about what this series aims to do, read this post. To read all the posts in this series, click here.
What is an anxiety disorder?
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions in which a person is often worried or anxious about a vast array of things and finds it difficult to control. Often, this anxiety is tied in with persistent stress. They can cause both psychological and physical symptoms, including; sleeping difficulties (eg: insomnia), feeling tired, being unable to concentrate, being irritable or quick to get angrey, feeling out of control of your actions or detached from your surroundings. Physical symptoms are caused by the release of the hormone adrenaline and may include:
- stomach cramps
- dry mouth
- rapid heartbeat or palpitations
- picking at skin or nails/pulling of hair
- shortness of breath
- feeling of a lumb in your throat
- trembling or shaking
- needing to urinate more often than usual
- nausea or sickness
- hot or cold sweats
- muscle tension
- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the US age 18 and older (18% of the US population).
- Just one third of those who have anxiety disorders receive treatment,
- Women are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder.
There are many different forms of anxiety, including OCD, trichotillomania (hair pulling) and agoraphobia, among many. Today, I want to focus on Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) makes a person feel constantly worried and this can seem out of their control, often feeling as if there is no reason for their worry. The said person may feel on edge and overly alert to their surroundings the majority of the time.
Suffering with GAD can affect your daily life. You might find that it affects your ability to work or travel to places, even leave the house. You might also have trouble sleeping or concentrating and get tired easily, causing all types of obvious problems. Physical symptoms might also appear, restricting you from achieving your potential on a day to day basis.
Often, those who suffer with GAD also have other conditions such as other anxiety disorders or depression. It is difficult to diagnose because it doesn’t have any more noticeable symptoms of other anxiety disorders and your doctor is likely to say you have GAD if you feel anxious most days for over a time period of six months.
Causes might include family conflict, relationships, work/school, financial tension, overall health, chemical imbalances in the brain, personality, heredity or stressful life events. There are many treatments available, such as: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, exercise, following a health diet, reducing caffeine, avoiding the use of street drugs, joining a support group, medications, and getting enough sleep.
If you or someone you know may suffer from an anxiety disorder, contacting your physician would be highly beneficial to recovery.