Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT
Basically, anxiety is characterized by feelings of worry, fear, and tension. It's a common bodily reaction to stress or feelings experienced when you find yourself in a dangerous situation. Sometimes, it can help avoid danger.
Virtually everyone experiences this emotional reaction. Some people feel anxious before important events such as exams or interviews.You may feel it whenspeaking in front of an audience or doing something novel such as your first day at school.
The symptoms of anxiety may be different from person to person. Some of the symptoms include irritation, fast breathing, fast heart rate, feelings of panic, tension, nervousness, feelings of anger, restlessness, trembling, weakness, sleeping problems, hyperventilation, difficulty concentrating, excessive worry, increased sweating, and increased blood pressure.
There may be a need for special medical assistance if your anxiety becomes excessive and starts to interfere with the quality of your life. This is referred to as an anxiety disorder.
What are the Mental Health Disorders that Feature Anxiety?
Anxiety can be considered as a symptom of several mental health disorders. When you think of anxiety disorders, you might be thinking about any of the different types. A number of people struggle with these emotional disorders, but the good news is that they are highly treatable.
Although there are different types of anxiety disorders, they can all be characterized by chronic feelings of anxiety that are intense and have the tendency to interfere with your daily life. Anxiety disorders can develop at any age, but there is often evidence of the disorder during the adolescent years. Although it's more prevalent among women than men, it can occur in any gender. There are many ways that you can learn to manage and cope with the symptoms and live your life with no issues.
- Acute Stress Disorder: Acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are directly related. They both have similar symptoms however, PTSD is diagnosed after 30 days, but ASD can be diagnosed immediately. Acute stress disorder is experienced naturally as a reaction to a particular situation that makes you feel extreme helplessness. This situation may involve a threat, accident, war, death, or injury. The symptoms of acute stress disorder may include flashbacks, a vehement avoidance of triggers (consciously or unconsciously), derealization, emotional detachment, and sleeping problems (leading to frustration irritation, or tiredness).
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):Generalized anxiety disorder may be experienced when serotonin (a chemical in the brain that helps boost your mood) decreases and epinephrine (worry receptors) increases. You should know that GAD is associated with excessive and uncontrollable anxiety stimulated by environmental factors such as work, school, or relationships. Some of the symptoms of GAD include sleeping problems, irritability, aches (tension headaches and chest aches), edginess, resulting in tiredness, and bodily tension.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an incessant experience of intrusive worries and thoughts that lead to anxiety. Most people who experience OCD usually make attempts to reduce their anxiety by behaving in a specific way repeatedly. These repetitive behaviors may include counting or hand washing.
- Panic Disorder: Panic disorder may lead to repeated and sudden periods of severe anxiety, terror, or fear. It is also known as a panic attack. Some of the common symptoms of a panic attack may include shortness of breath, feeling of imminent danger, chest pain, irregular or fast heartbeat, perspiration, shaking, flushing, and rapid breathing.
- Specific phobias: Specific phobia are an irrational fear of a specific event, object, or situations that leads to severe anxiety when you experience a trigger. For instance, your anxiety may be triggeredwhen you see a spider if that’s your object of fear.
- Social Phobia: Social phobia is seen as a separate disorder based on its method of impacting a person's life. A good example of social phobia is agoraphobia, or the fear of public spaces. Social phobia’s are characterized by an intense fear of embarrassment, feeling of discomfort around others, struggling to make friends, and a strong desire to avoid situations that may require you to speak.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by situations that involve high stress such as threats, accidents, war, abuse, or witnessing a death. This situation is followed by intense feelings that cannot be resisted. Some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include flashbacks of the traumatic situation or event, disturbing dreams, trouble relaxing, or avoidance of things that may relate to the trauma.
What is an Anxiety Diagnosis?
To know if you have anxiety disorder, you should see a professional therapist for help with the diagnosis and treatment. Diagnosing anxiety involves testing and assessment to help learn the specifics of your condition and to help manage it properly. Anxiety itself is easy to see and feel, however the specifics of treatment can be more complicated. To begin your search to find out if you have anxiety, visit this link: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/anxiety-test.
The therapeutic examination is an important in every anxiety diagnosis. It will help your counselor to identify or rule out other mental illnesses causing the symptoms. For an accurate diagnosis, you should tell your counselor everything during the examination. Some of the things you should talk about may include employment, relationships, chronic illnesses, substance use or abuse, medications, hormones, and caffeine consumption.
There are other conditions that can indicate that you are experiencing anxiety. These include shortness of breath, sweating, racing heart, chills, shaking, hot flashes, twitching, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, frequent urination, dry mouth, or chest pain.
In addition, during a physical examination, your doctor can rule out conditions that may have similar symptoms. Some of these medical conditions include angina, asthma, heart attack, menopause, mitral valve prolapse, hyperthyroidism, tachycardia, adrenal gland tumor, substance use disorder, side effects of drugs for some medical conditions (such as thyroid disorders, diabetes, or high blood pressure), and withdrawal from drugs used for the treatment of sleep or anxiety disorders.
What are the different Diagnostic Tests?
There are several different assessments that your doctor or counselor may use to diagnose anxiety. Each one has a specific use or benefit. Your mental health worker may use multiple tests to give them a better idea of how to treat your concerns.
The following are tests your doctor may use to assess your anxiety level (One or more of them may be used):
- Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAM-A):Hamilton anxiety scale is one of the tests for anxiety; in fact, it was considered as "one of the first rating scales for anxiety". It was developed in 1959 and used globally in research and clinical settings. There are 14 questions on the hamilton anxiety scale that rate fears, moods, and tension. It can also be professionally administered to help rate mental, physical, and behavioral traits.
- Zung Self-Rating Anxiety Scale: There are 20 questions in The Zung Self- rating anxiety scale. The questions are meant to rate your level of anxiety. The subjects involved in the Zung test include anxiety, nervousness, shaking, fainting, nightmares, rapid heartbeat, and frequent urination. After the completion of this test, your responses will be assessed by a trained mental health professional.
- Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN):The social phobia inventory is a self-assessment questionnaire that contains 17 questions to measure the level of social phobia. It's a test that helps rate your anxiety with respect to a series of social situations starting from zero (indicating no anxiety) to four( indicating extreme anxiety).
- Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI): The Beck Anxiety Inventory is used to assess the severity of your condition. It can be self-administered or given by a paraprofessional or professional orally. Beck anxiety inventory contains 21 multiple-choice questions that are directed toward rating your experience of symptoms of anxiety in the previous week. Some of these symptoms include fear, numbness, and tingling. The questions have answer options starting from “not at all" to “severely".
- Penn State Worry Questionnaire: Penn state worry questionnaire is regarded as the most widely used test to assess worry. It helps differentiate between generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. Penn State worry questionnaire contains 16 questions meant to measure the excessiveness, generality, and uncontrollability of worry.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale: Generalized anxiety disorder scale contains 7 questions to assess generalized anxiety disorder. This test involves asking you the rate at which you've been bothered by some feelings in the past 14 days. These feelings include nervousness, irritability, or fear. The questions have answer options including “not at all,” “several days,” “more than half the days,” or “nearly every day.”
- Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (YBOCS): Yale-brown obsessive-compulsive scale is a test used in measuring our levels of obsessive-compulsive disorder. A mental health professional engages this form of diagnosis as a one-on-one interview with you. During anxiety diagnosis, you will be required to choose the 3 most disturbing items from a checklist of symptoms and then rate their severity. You will be asked if you have any history of other compulsions or obsessions. Your answers will determine how you will be graded by your doctor. The grades of obsessive-compulsive disorder include subclinical, mild, moderate, severe, or extreme.
How can you Manage your Anxiety After Diagnosis?
Anxiety is a part of the normal feelings experienced by everyone. Therefore, it is important to focus on reducing the causes and also managing your symptoms properly. The following are ways you can manage your condition after diagnosis:
- Talk to a therapist or join a support group: Therapy is one of the best ways to manage your anxiety. You can talk to a licensed therapist who can help you manage your condition. In addition, there are support groups for people experiencing the same condition that can help. This can help manage your stress and give you an outlet outside of your friends and family.
- Medication: After diagnosis, your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist to prescribe anxiety medications that can help manage your condition. You are expected to adhere to the treatment program to ensure the effectiveness of the drugs. You should avoid quitting medication “cold turkey” if your psychiatrist has not told you to do so and ensure you begin your treatment as soon as possible.
- Talk to your loved ones: communication with your friends and family members about your diagnosis may be helpful. Although you may find it difficult to discuss, doing so may help you properly manage your condition.
- Changing your lifestyle: The lifestyle choices you make may help you reduce your stress and relieve your anxiety. Some of the things you can do include regular exercise, engaging your mind with hobbies, writing, socializing, participating in activities that you love, and avoiding substance or drug abuse