Signs & Effects of Anxiety

Red River Hospital helps individuals struggling with anxiety build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Wichita Falls, TX, Red River is the leading provider of anxiety treatment.

Understanding Anxiety

Learn about anxiety

Anxiety disorders affect millions of people throughout the world. In fact, it is believed that these disorders are one of the most commonly diagnosed of all mental illnesses. Anxiety is something that everyone experiences at some point throughout their lives. It is a natural reaction to stress and, in some cases, can actually be beneficial as it heightens awareness. Some people, however, experience anxiety at punishing levels; levels that affect their ability to function properly on a daily basis. These individuals suffer from overwhelming feelings of worry on things that they recognize as not being rationally necessary to worry about.

Anxiety disorders are characterized by different forms and in varying levels of severity. The most commonly diagnosed types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The treatment process for each type of anxiety will depend on the specific needs of the individual.

Statistics

Anxiety statistics

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that 40 million adults over the age of 18 suffer from some type of anxiety. While anxiety is something that the majority of people tend to associate with adults, children are also very susceptible to developing anxiety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that approximately 1.8 million children under the age of 18 have an anxiety disorder. Additionally, research has provided evidence that nearly 10% of children suffer from specific phobias.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for anxiety

Professionals in the field believe that there is an assortment of different factors that play a role in determining whether or not someone will suffer from chronic anxiety. Some examples of these factors may include:

Genetics: It is widely believed that the presence of anxiety has a strong genetic component related to its onset. A person’s genetic makeup also plays a significant role in shaping his or her individual temperament, which affects how that person will cope with stress. The way in which a person deals with stress can make him or her either more or less susceptible to developing an anxiety disorder.

Physical: As is true for most, if not all, mental disorders, the existence of anxiety has been linked to a chemical imbalance in a person’s brain.  Neurotransmitters are the chemicals responsible for sending messages throughout the brain and when they become imbalanced, they are not able to appropriately transmit certain messages. Additionally, when there is an imbalance of serotonin, which is a chemical that works towards managing a person’s sense of well-being, the result can be the onset of anxiety.

Environmental: The environment in which a person spends the majority of his or her time can have a large impact on whether or not that person will suffer from anxiety. For example, when people are under a lot of pressure at work or school and are unable to cope with that pressure in a healthy manner, they are likely to experience feelings of anxiety.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of anxiety or other mental illness
  • Lack of family and social support
  • Forced to spend excessive amounts of time in environments that induce stress
  • Poor living environments
  • Going through a traumatic event or a series of traumatic events

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of anxiety

The signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders will vary greatly depending on the particular type of anxiety that a person suffers from. For example, symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder will present somewhat differently than those of panic disorder. The following are examples of various symptoms that are commonly attributed to anxiety disorders:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Isolation
  • Restlessness
  • Avoidance of particular people, places, or situations
  • Procrastination
  • Pacing back and forth
  • Speaking in circles / repeating certain phrases
  • Developing and performing ritualistic behaviors
  • Easily startled
  • Refusal to fulfill obligations (e.g. adolescents refusing to go to school)

Physical symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive sweating
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Chronic headaches
  • Chronic stomachaches
  • Frequent urination due to unwarranted nervousness
  • Muscle tension
  • Episodes of dizziness
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Mind suddenly going blank
  • Flight of ideas or racing thoughts
  • Repetitive or ritualistic thinking
  • Obtrusive compulsions
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Unable to make decisions

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feeling detached from oneself / derealization
  • Drastic mood swings
  • Excessive, inexplicable feelings of guilt
  • Chronic feelings of nervousness

Effects

Effects of anxiety

While anxiety disorders can be successfully treated, many people do not seek out the care that they need. If anxiety remains untreated, it can have a damaging effect on the lives of those who struggle with the illness. Examples of long-term effects that can potentially arise as a result of untreated anxiety may include:

  • Withdrawing from family and friends / lacking social interaction
  • Lacking strong, healthy interpersonal relationships
  • Failing school
  • Losing one’s job
  • Abusing substances
  • Participating in self-harming behaviors
  • Experiencing suicidal ideation
  • Making suicide attempts

Co-Occurring Disorders

Anxiety and co-occurring disorders

It is not uncommon for people who are suffering from an anxiety disorder to have a diagnosis of one or more other mental disorders as well. The most commonly cited illnesses known to present a dual-diagnosis with anxiety can include:

  • Other anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Eating disorders

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