Anxiety Disorders Symptoms and Causes

anxiety disorder

We’ve all experienced the uneasiness or discomfort that comes with anxiousness. Anxiety is typically associated with feelings of worry, tension, and physical reactions. Anxiety is sometimes a feeling of anticipation, or worry about a feared event or scenario that has yet to occur.

What is it that makes so many of us anxious? Anxiety may be adaptive from an evolutionary point of view, triggering physical responses that prepare us for “fight or flight.”

As a result, a moderate or mild amount of anxiety prevents us from disregarding danger and aids us in dealing with potentially dangerous situations. Fear is a powerful emotion that is felt in response to a threatening condition.

Anxiety disorders are marked by excessive worry that interferes with daily activities and creates clinically substantial distress or impairment.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is marked by a variety of symptoms that include the physical, behavioral, and cognitive aspects:

Physical Characteristics

Jitteriness, trembling, shaking, tightness or tension in the chest or stomach, excessive sweating, sweaty hands, lightheadedness, or faintness are all symptoms. Dryness of the throat or mouth, asthma, racing or beating heart, cold hands or arms, nausea or upset stomach, and other physical symptoms are all possible.

Behavior-related Characteristics

Avoidance actions are one example. Clinging, dependent behaviors or agitated or tense behavior are all examples of clinging.

Cognitive Characteristics

It can include anxiety or a constant feeling of anxiety or fear about the future, a preoccupation with or acute sense of bodily sensations, anxiety about losing control, reliving disturbing thoughts frequently, having jumbled or confusing thought patterns, difficulty concentrating or focusing your thoughts, and the feeling that things are getting out of hand.

Although persons with anxiety disorders may not experience all of these symptoms, it’s easy to see why anxiety is so distressing. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines three types of anxiety disorders: panic disorder, phobic disorders, and generalized anxiety disorder.

Causes for Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders, like many other mental health illnesses, are thought to be the result of a combination of psychological, biological, and other factors that are unique to each person.

Many factors are thought to play a role in the development of anxiety symptoms. These could become disorders in the future. Anxious people may have hereditary characteristics that make them more likely to develop anxiety problems. Females are far more prone than men to be worried, though the reason for this is unknown.

Other mental conditions are similar to anxiety disorders. They are not caused by personal flaws, character flaws, or childhood issues. The causes of anxiety disorders remain unknown to researchers. They believe a number of factors cause it.

Chemical Imbalance

Long-term or severe stress can disrupt the chemical balance that determines your mood. An anxiety disorder can develop as a result of prolonged stress.

Environmental Factors

Anxiety disorder can be triggered by a traumatic event, especially in people who have a genetic predisposition to it.


Children may inherit their mother’s hair color, green eyes, and vision problems, just as they may inherit their parents’ worry. Anxiety can also be learned from family members and relatives who are anxious while around their child.

Consider a child whose parents are both perfectionists. Through their responses to their children, parents may unconsciously impact their children’s anxiety. For example, allowing a youngster to skip school because they are scared about missing it will almost certainly make them more stressed the next day.

How do Anxiety Disorders Develop?

People are susceptible to having anxiety disorders for a variety of reasons, but the majority of sufferers who explore their past will discover that they had a period of tension in their lives that triggered it. Furthermore, they may believe that they have always been nervous since they were a child, or have always been prone to worry about the future.

Certain stages of life appear to be more vulnerable than others. Adolescence is an obvious example, but many young people go through an emotional period in the years after their departure from home. Perhaps life gets too serious all of a sudden, and you must be financially comfortable, find a partner, and establish yourself as an adult.

Stressful conditions, on the other hand, can hit anyone at any time, and if there are enough of them, anyone can become anxious. Anxiety is brought on by stress. The Holmes Rahe Scale was created to gauge stress levels.

It’s surprising to understand that even the most joyful activities, such as getting married, can result in measurable stress, which can develop into an anxiety problem.

Kind of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety isn’t just a concern for people who have the diagnostic groupings that are commonly referred to as neuroses. Anxiety can be a problem for persons who have problems with adjustment, depression, or psychotic disorders.

Let’s take a look at the most common types of anxiety disorders, their characteristics, and symptoms, as well as their causes and treatment options.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is defined as panic attacks that occur frequently and unexpectedly. Panic attacks are characterized by acute anxiety and physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, profuse sweating, dizziness, or weakness.

Panic attacks have a more bodily component than other types of anxiety. The attacks are frequently accompanied by anxiety and a sensation of impending or imminent danger, as well as a desire to flee the situation. They’re generally linked to worries of losing control, “becoming insane,” or even dying.

Panic disorder is defined by the mainstream paradigm as a combination of cognitive and physiologic factors (e.g., catastrophic misreading of body sensations, anxiety sensitivities) (e.g. genetic predisposition, greater sensitivity to bodily signals).

The concept of panic disorder, according to this viewpoint, is founded on psychological and physiological aspects interfering in a vicious cycle that can lead to total panic attacks.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy and pharmaceutical therapy are the most effective treatments. Self-monitoring, limited exposure to panic-related signals, such as physical sensations, and the development of coping mechanisms are all used in CBT for panic disorders to manage panic attacks without generating catastrophic misinterpretations of body signals.

Antidepressant medications, which offer antianxiety and antipanic properties in addition to antidepressant effects, are used in biomedical treatments.

Phobic Disorders

Phobias are unreasonable fears about specific items or situations. Phobias are defined by a behavioral component—the avoidance of the fear-inducing stimulus—as well as cognitive and physical anxiety symptoms that arise from exposure to the phobic stimuli. Specific phobias include fears of specific items or occurrences, such as spiders, mice, restricted places, and heights.

Social anxiety is defined by a significant fear of being negatively judged by those around you. Agoraphobia is an avoidance of public places. Agoraphobia can develop as a result of or without panic disorder.

Phobias are described by learning theorists as learned behaviors that arise through observation and conditioning. In Mowrer’s two-factor paradigm, operant and classical conditioning are combined to better explain concerns.

Cognitive elements such as oversensitivity to warning signs, overprediction of danger, and self-defeating ideas and thoughts are said to influence phobias. Anxiety disorders are thought to be more likely to develop due to genetic causes.

Researchers believe that people are genetically predisposed to be born with specific phobias, which may have been important for our ancestors’ survival in the past.

Learning-based therapies, such as systematic desensitization and gradual exposure, as well as cognitive therapy and medication therapy, such as the use of antidepressants (e.g., Zoloft, Paxil) for treating social anxiety, are the most successful treatments.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is a type of anxiety disorder in which people experience continuous anxiety that isn’t related to specific situations. Anxiety disorders, according to psychodynamic theory, are attempts by the ego to manage the conscious development of threatening impulses. Anxiety is regarded as a warning indicator when hazardous impulses are approaching awareness.

The generalization of fear across stimuli settings is the focus of learning-based models. Generalized anxiety is explained by cognitive theorists in terms of incorrect thinking or beliefs that underpin worry.

Biological models concentrate on abnormalities in brain neurotransmitter activity. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and pharmacological therapy are the two main therapeutic options (typically paroxetine).

Evidence from nationally representative samples of U.S. adults found that ethnic minorities have a lower incidence of several anxiety disorders than White Americans.

Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is defined by repeating patterns of compulsions, obsessions, or a combination of both. Obsessions are uncontrollable, unresolved thoughts that cause distress and are beyond the person’s control. The compulsions appear to be obsessive, continuous desires to do certain activities, such as repeating, and detailed washing after using the restroom.

Within the framework of psychodynamic theory, Obsessions are the outcome of unconscious wants or impulses leaking into conscious knowledge, whereas compulsions are the activities taken to control these impulses.

The study of biological effects shows genetic and brain mechanisms involved in recognizing threats and managing repetitive behavior. Excessive emphasis on thinking, a heightened perception of the risk connected with negative events, and a predisposition to perfectionism have all been implicated in research.

Compulsive activities, according to learning theorists, are operant behaviors that are not reinforced by the relief from anxiety generated by obsessional thinking.

Models based on learning (exposure and response prevention), psychotherapy (repair of cognitive distortions), and the use of SSRI-type antidepressants are currently the most popular treatment strategies.

People with body dysmorphic disorder obsess over a perceived or exaggerated flaw in their physical appearance. People with BDD often have obsessive thoughts about their physical appearance and engage in compulsive checking activities and attempts to rectify or cover up the problem, which puts them on the OCD spectrum.

Hoarding disorder is characterized by excessive gathering and retention of personal items to the point where it creates personal distress or impairs a person’s capacity to live in a crowded and safe environment.

Hoarders have a strong attachment to the items they collect and have difficulties getting rid of them. Obsessive-compulsive disorder shares feature with hoarding disorder, such as obsessive thoughts about obtaining goods and anxieties about losing them, as well as compulsive activities such as rearranging possessions and rigidly opposing attempts to dispose them.

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