Anxiety Disorder: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Management


anxiety disorder

Anxiety is a normal human emotion and is just your brain’s way of reacting to stress and alerting you about potential dangers ahead. Each one of us feels anxious every now and then. For example, it is natural to worry before taking a test, when faced with a problem or before making any crucial decision. Occasional anxiety is never a problem. However, anxiety disorder is different. It refers to a group of mental illnesses that cause consistent and overwhelming fear and anxiety. This excessive anxiety can make a person avoid school, work, family get-togethers as well as other social situations that may trigger and worsen his symptoms. Get the best insights on anxiety by signing up for DocTubeTM.

Our everyday lives have indeed become stressful and complicated and thus it is not uncommon to feel a little anxious from time to time. However, severe and ongoing anxiety that is difficult to control and that interferes with day-to-day activities may be a common sign of an underlying generalized anxiety disorder. It is possible to develop such anxiety disorder as a child or as an adult. Indeed living with generalized anxiety disorder is a long-term challenge (Craske, M.G., Rauch, S.L., Ursano, R., Prenoveau, J., Pine, D.S. and Zinbarg, R.E., 2011. What is an anxiety disorder?. Focus, 9(3), pp.369-388). In many cases, such kinds of anxiety disorders improve with medications or psychotherapy. In addition to this, learning coping skills, using relaxation techniques and making necessary lifestyle changes can also help.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder

In the case of generalized anxiety disorder, symptoms often vary. These common anxiety disorder symptoms may include the following:
  • Persistent anxiety or worrying about things that are out of proportion to the overall impact of the events 
  • Overthinking solutions and plans to all probable worst-case scenarios and outcomes
  • Perceiving events and situations as threatening, even if they are not
  • Inability to let go or set aside worry
  • Difficulty in handling uncertainty
  • Fear and being indecisive about making wrong decisions 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling restless and being unable to relax
Some of the most common anxiety disorder symptoms include:
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle ache or muscle tension
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Nervousness or being very easily started
  • Irritability
  • Nausea, irritable bowel syndrome or diarrhea
There may be times when your worries may not consume you completely. However, you still feel anxious even when there is no apparent reason. For example, you may have a general sense of apprehension and fear that something bad is about to happen or feel an intense worry about your safety or that of your loved ones (Craske, M.G., Rauch, S.L., Ursano, R., Prenoveau, J., Pine, D.S. and Zinbarg, R.E., 2011. What is an anxiety disorder?. Focus, 9(3), pp.369-388). Such worry, anxiety and physical symptoms may lead to substantial distress in your personal, professional or social areas of life. Therefore, be prompt in identifying the issue and ensuring that these anxiety disorder symptoms do not go unnoticed and neglected. 

Diagnosis of Anxiety Disorder

In order to diagnose an anxiety disorder, doctors commonly perform a physical examination wherein they ask about the patient’s symptoms and problems while also recommending a blood test. This helps determine whether the patient is suffering from any other condition like hypothyroidism which may be causing his anxiety-related symptoms. Doctors are also likely to ask about your current medications as in some cases, medicines may also cause anxiety symptoms (Bandelow, B., Boerner, R., Kasper, S., Linden, M., Wittchen, H.U. and Möller, H.J., 2013. The diagnosis and treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 110(17), p.300). Anxiety disorder may also accompany different medical conditions like sleep apnea and schizophrenia. In case nothing is detected in the anxiety disorder test, the doctor would perform a psychological evaluation. 
During the psychological evaluation, the doctor asks if the patient has a family history of depression or anxiety disorder. The patient is also asked about his symptoms such as when and how they started, how severe they are, how long they usually last and how often they occur. The doctor may also ask the patient to answer a questionnaire which is about how the anxiety disorder symptoms affect his life. Once the specialist analyses your family history and symptoms,  he will conduct a feedback session wherein the diagnosis and relevant treatment options will be discussed.

Management of Anxiety Disorder

1) Relaxation techniques

It is important for patients to know how to release muscle tension as this helps in dealing with anxiety disorder significantly. Relaxation techniques may include progressive muscle relaxation, isometric relaxation exercises and abdominal breathing (Blanaru, M., Bloch, B., Vadas, L., Arnon, Z., Ziv, N., Kremer, I. and Haimov, I., 2012. The effects of music relaxation and muscle relaxation techniques on sleep quality and emotional measures among individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder. Mental illness, 4(2), pp.59-65).

2) Correct breathing techniques

The physical anxiety disorder symptoms may often be triggered by hyperventilation which reduces the amount of carbon dioxide while raising oxygen levels in the blood. Carbon dioxide helps in regulating the body’s reaction to panic and anxiety. Therefore practicing correct breathing techniques may help you to manage your anxiety symptoms substantially. 

3) Cognitive therapy

Cognitive therapy helps to change patterns of thinking and beliefs that are associated with anxiety (Chambless, D.L. and Gillis, M.M., 1993. Cognitive therapy of anxiety disorders. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 61(2), p.248). The basis of this therapy is the idea that beliefs trigger thoughts which in turn trigger feelings and produce behaviours.

4) Behavioral therapy

One of the most important components of behavioral therapy is exposure. This involves deliberately confronting your fears to desensitize yourself. This is important as exposure allows a person to train himself to redefine the fear aspect of the situation and makes it easier to overcome it in the future.

5) The 333 Rule for Anxiety

The 333 rule is a common informal technique to cope with anxiety. It helps a patient to ground himself and calm down in a situation where he feels intensely anxious and overwhelmed. This rule involves looking around the current environment and naming 3 things that a person sees, identifying 3 sounds that he hears and moving or touching 3 things like external objects or your limbs (Accessed: 28 August 2023). Many people find it a simple and helpful technique to handle their episodes of anxiety. However, it is not a substitute for treatment and anxiety needs proper treatment to ensure that patients learn how to manage its symptoms effectively. 

  Does smoking increase anxiety?  

It is a common belief that smoking helps a person to relax. However, smoking is known to actually increase tension and anxiety. Smokers are also more prone to develop depression over time than non-smokers.

  Impact of lack of sleep on anxiety  

Sleep is hugely important for a person’s good mental health. If he has sleeping problems, he may be more likely to feel anxious, suicidal and depressed. He may also be more prone to experience psychotic episodes making existing anxiety symptoms worse.


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