Anxiety Disorders: Causes and Symptoms
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions that can be characterized by excessive and persistent anxiety, fear or worry that interferes with daily activities.
Anxiety disorders basically not only cause temporary nervousness or fear, but also temporary physiological reactions for instance, rapid heartbeat and hand tremors. In patients having anxiety disorders, anxiety may not fade away but may even worsen. For patients with anxiety disorders, they are not only affected psychologically but may also physiologically.
Symptoms may even affect daily life, i.e., work performance, school grades, or interpersonal relationships, and last for a long time. Anxiety disorders are of different types, including:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):
It is excessive and persistent worry that can be due to multiple events or activities.
- Panic Disorder:
Repeated and sudden panic attacks causing certain physical symptoms like heart palpitations and sweating.
- Social Anxiety Disorder:
It is an intense fear of being judged, humiliated, or embarrassed in social situations.
- Specific Phobias:
It is an excessive fear of a certain object or situation which is out of proportion to the actual threat.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD):
Repetitive thoughts and behaviors which a person feels compelled to perform.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):
It is the development of symptoms that occurs due to witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event.
Causes of Anxiety Disorders
Basically, it is believed that traumatic or stressful experiences in life can trigger certain groups which are more prone to anxiety, may lead to occurrence of anxiety disorders. Additionally, genetics may also be related to anxiety disorders.
Human health is physical health as well as mental health. Physiologically, you get sick, but so do you mentally. You can say that physiology and psychology will influence each other. For example, whenever you are nervous, your heartbeat and breathing will speed up naturally. This is the most common example of physiological influence on the mind.
In our brain, the amygdala and hippocampus are two important sites useful in processing the stress response. The amygdala basically deals with emotions of fear and threat, while the hippocampus deals with the memory.
This is the reason that when a person is under strong pressure, the fear and threat that is produced by the pressure will simultaneously stimulate the amygdala, and the hippocampus will accordingly be responsible for storing this memory.
After the amygdala and hippocampus receive this type of stimuli, the autonomic nervous system will automatically be activated. When the sympathetic nerve is activated, there will occur a phenomena i.e., rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, increased blood pressure, and muscle tension throughout the body of a person.
This mechanism has some advantages. Let’s suppose you are a primitive person. If you meet a tiger on the grassland that too after hearing the tiger’s cry, and seeing the tiger rushing towards you, the amygdala will automatically receive the feeling of fear, and the hippocampus will memorize it.
After getting this kind of feeling, the sympathetic nerve is activated, which makes your heartbeat and breathing speed up, your blood pressure will rise, and you can escape the tiger’s chase with an instant power. The memory of hippocampus will allow you to activate your sympathetic nervous system and run for your life as soon as you encounter a tiger crying from a distance.
Still, if such a mechanism is overly sensitive, it can lead to negative results. Anxiety disorders may also be related to such a mechanism, but we should remind a person that the detailed mechanism has not been confirmed yet, and this is just a possibility that is considered currently.
The risk factors which are actually considered to be related to anxiety disorders are summarized below:
Experiencing or witnessing harm:
Children who have experienced abuse, or have witnessed a traumatic event, are having more chances of developing anxiety disorders over the period of time.
Stress caused by illness:
Physical illness can also be the reason of psychological anxiety.
Accumulation of stress:
Any single large stressful event, or many small stressful events, may also lead to an anxiety disorder at some point in life.
People with certain type of personalities are also more likely to develop anxiety disorders.
Other mental illnesses:
Individuals with certain other mental illnesses, for instance, schizophrenia , depression, etc., have higher probability of developing anxiety disorders.
If there are blood relations in the family who suffer from anxiety disorders, the chances of suffering from anxiety disorders is higher.
Alcohol and Drugs:
Use of alcohol or drugs, especially if abused, may cause or worsen anxiety disorders.
Here it is to be noted that these risk factors are to remind everyone to pay attention. Do not think that the above-mentioned conditions will definitely cause anxiety disorders.
What are the Symptoms.
Anxiety disorders are actually quite different from the anxiety that is experienced by ordinary people. Every person must have experienced anxiety. For instance, when facing a test, a competition, or about to have an examination that you are unfamiliar with, it is absolutely normal to feel anxious in this situation. In addition to feeling nervous, rapid heartbeat, trembling hands, and even stomach pain can also occur possibly, but these symptoms usually end as soon as the event ends.
Usually, friends with anxiety disorders can have intense, excessive, and persistent worries and fears, which can last or repeat for a long time. Sometimes even the things of everyday life can make them feel this way. These feelings of anxiety will affect their daily life, and those having anxiety disorders, these feelings are difficult to control.
Unfortunately it seems to others that the emotions and feelings of anxiety patients are in line with actual tension. Others may think it is not that serious, but for anxiety cases, these feelings are real, and they are actually so serious. These situations may cause anxiety cases to be misunderstood, but, in reality anxiety cases need more empathy and support.
Anxiety-related psychological conditions, which come in many different forms and the symptoms, can vary. In case of generalized anxiety disorder, psychological and physiological symptoms that are common are as follows:
- Restlessness or feeling tense
- Uncontrollable worry
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Muscle stiffness and tightness (neck and shoulder)