What is normal anxiety and what is not?
Occasional temporary anxiety is a normal part of life. It can help motivate use to act when needed, help us avoid and prepare for danger and harmful behaviors.
For people with an anxiety disorder the anxiety doesn’t go away, gets worse, feels overwhelming and can interferes with your life, relationships, school and work.
More than 31% of people in the U.S. will experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives. Anxiety often begins in childhood. The CDC reports that about 8.5% of children between the ages of 3 and 17 have an anxiety disorder.
What are the types of anxiety?
- General Anxiety Disorder or GAD involves excessive worry and tension even when there is nothing provoking it. It affects almost 6% of US adults at some point in their lives. It is highly treatable.
- Social anxiety disorders or social phobias tend to come from a fear of social situations. People with this condition have significant anxiety about being embarrassed, humiliated, rejected or looked down on in social situations.
- Separation anxiety disorders are excessive fears or anxiety about separation from one to whom a person is attached.
- Panic Disorder involves recurring panic attacks, periods of intense fear and anxiety that can last more than a few minutes and occur unexpectedly. Symptoms include heart palpitations, sweating, shortness of breaths, dizziness and shaking.
- Phobias are irrational or excessive fears. Common phobias are spiders, snakes, blood, airplanes, and public speaking.
- PTSD is classified as an anxiety disorder. It is a type of disorder that can develop in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder characterized by the presence of obsessions and compulsions that cause significant distress and interfere with daily functioning.
What are some general risk factors for anxiety?
The risk factors for each type of anxiety disorder vary. General risk factors are a combination of genetic predisposition, environmental factors including life experiences, and psychological factors.
- Shyness or a feeling of distress or nervousness in new situations is childhood
- Being a female
- Being exposed to stressful life events in childhood and adolescence such as loss, abuse. Accidents, chronic medical conditions and major life changes can trigger anxiety in children and adults.
- Family history of anxiety or other mental disorders
- Some physical conditions such as thyroid problems or a heart arrhythmia
How is anxiety treated?
Anxiety disorders are usually treated with psychotherapy and medication.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT is one type of psychotherapy that can help people with anxiety disorders. It teaches people different ways of thinking behaving and reacting to situations to help you feel less anxious and fearful.
- Exposure therapy is another type that focuses on controlling fears that underlie an anxiety disorder. This helps people engage in activities they have been avoiding.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy is another option. It uses strategies like mindfulness and goal setting to reduce discomfort and anxiety.
- Medications can include antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.
What happens if a child’s anxiety disorder is not treated?
Untreated anxiety disorders can increase a child’s risk for depression, social isolation, low self-esteem, developmental delays, physical health problems, substance abuse and suicide
What is the best way to treat anxiety in children?
CBT and antidepressants
What are interesting facts about anxiety?
- Anxiety and depression are linked. In fact, almost 50% of people diagnosed with depression also have anxiety.
- Anxiety can cause physical symptoms especially in children who aren’t able to say what they feel. This includes stomach aches, headaches and behavioral issues.
- Some issues like restlessness, inattention, avoidance and frequent meltdowns are misdiagnosed as ADHD.
- Symptoms of anxiety can also include anger, memory problems, weakness, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, nausea, hot flashes and dizziness and cold hands and feet.
- Anxiety disorders increase the risk of certain health conditions such as heart disease, chronic respiratory disorders, gastrointestinal conditions like IBS, and substance abuse. Research suggests that at least 17% of US adults with a substance abuse disorder also have an anxiety disorder.
When you or a loved one is suffering with anxiety that is overwhelming and interfering with life, contact Greenwich Village Psychiatry. We treat adults and adolescents.
At a Glance
Dr. Paul Poulakos
- Attending Psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center
- Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
- Past Clinical Assistant Professor of NYU Langone Medical Center
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