It’s natural for everyone to feel anxious and tense sometimes. It can even be a useful emotion that sets off warning bells when danger is lurking nearby. But when you have an anxiety disorder, worry and nervousness aren’t just temporary, occasional feelings. They’re things you experience every day that often get worse over time.
Anxiety is a recurring psychological condition that makes you feel extremely worried and fearful. It affects over 40 million adults, making it the most common mental health condition in the U.S.
Anxiety is more than just feeling nervous. It keeps you in a near-constant state of dread and has a wide range of overwhelming physical and emotional symptoms.
People who live with anxiety describe a variety of symptoms, such as:
You can see why this would feel exhausting! These feelings can be emotionally debilitating, physically exhausting, and harmful to your overall health.
Like so many complex medical conditions, anxiety’s cause is unknown. A combination of factors can put you at higher risk for developing an anxiety disorder. These include:
You may wonder if your anxiety is bad enough to warrant reaching out for help. Sadly, only about 37% of people living with an anxiety disorder actually seek treatment. But this condition can be successfully treated with anti-anxiety medication under a licensed mental health expert’s guidance.
Your anxiety can manifest in many different ways. The category your diagnosis falls into helps determine the best treatment for you. Some types of anxiety disorders include:
People living with generalized anxiety disorder live in a constant state of excessive worry, nervousness, and tension. Uncomfortable physical symptoms like dizziness and sweating often accompany these feelings.
Panic disorder describes the sudden onset of terror that triggers extreme fear and an intense physical response in your body. These episodes are called panic attacks. Having a panic attack can cause sensations of shortness of breath, tingly arms, weak knees, and a racing heart, to name a few. It’s not uncommon for those experiencing a panic attack to mistake it for a heart attack.
Social anxiety disorder makes it very hard to be around other people. Social anxiety is different from the shyness people often have when they’re in social situations. It involves severe distress at the thought of speaking to others or having attention focused on you mixed with a horrible fear of being judged and rejected.
A phobia is an extreme fear of particular objects or situations. Even though it feels very real, the risk of danger you feel when you’re exposed to your phobia trigger doesn’t match its actual threat.
There are many forms of psychological trauma. It may result from a traumatic or tragic event, such as the death of a loved one, violence, an accident, or combat. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most prevalent form of trauma disorder.
Separation anxiety is the fear of something terrible happening to a loved one when they leave your sight. You may think of children when you hear about this form of anxiety, but adults can suffer from it, too.
There are many free online screening tools to figure out if you have an anxiety disorder. But because there are so many types and symptoms, talking to a mental health expert is the best way to determine if you have an anxiety disorder, and what type it is.
An expert evaluation will analyze your symptoms and help uncover any patterns or reasons that may be contributing to your anxiety. They can also determine which anti-anxiety medicine is best for you.
Many times the same medications we use to treat depression work well for anxiety, too. There are several classes of drugs used to treat anxiety disorders. Each type works with a different chemical mechanism.
Antidepressants work on the chemicals that carry messages between nerve cells called neurons. These chemicals are known as neurotransmitters and include: serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
Antidepressant drugs work to balance your brain chemistry by increasing your serotonin levels or changing serotonin and norepinephrine amounts.
Benzodiazepines help reduce feelings of anxiety by calming down overactive brain chemistry. Drugs in this class work by enhancing the effects of a chemical called GABA (short for gamma-aminobutyric acid), another substance nerve cells use to communicate. When GABA’s strength increases, brain activity slows down, making you feel less anxious.
Beta-blockers help reduce physical symptoms of anxiety, like a racing heart or shaking, by lowering your blood pressure. They work by blocking the release of stress hormones throughout the body.
Buspirone is a medication that works to relieve anxiety symptoms by increasing the serotonin receptors’ activity in your brain. The details of how it works are extraordinarily complex and are still being researched.
Buspirone is often used to boost the effectiveness of other medications people take for anxiety, like antidepressants.
When you work with one of our board-certified mental health professionals, we can target the symptoms you have and give you the FDA-approved drug with the best odds of working for you. We use our expert understanding of medications and brain chemistry, combined with your physical and mental history, to help you get the best possible results.
Certain medications help you feel better right away, while others take a few weeks to start working. When prescribed by an expert and used responsibly, anti-anxiety medications are a safe and effective tool for overcoming anxiety.
Choose a board-certified mental health expert to get advice on the best way to manage your anxiety symptoms.
Find out if you have an anxiety disorder by contacting Upper Valley Behavioral Health for a mental health assessment.
For more information, visit National Institute of Mental Health
Learn about Upper Valley Behavioral Health’s Online Services