What is anxiety?
Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress, that can be described as a fear of what may happen. When anxiety lasts longer than six months and it begins to interfere with daily living, it is considered an anxiety disorder. The symptoms of anxiety include increased heart rate, feeling faint or dizzy, hyperventilation, apprehension and worry, restlessness, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, dry mouth, gastrointestinal (GI) problems, trembling, and sweating. Common types of anxiety disorders are Panic Disorders - experiencing recurring & random panic attacks; Agoraphobia - excessive fear of a specific object, situation, or activity; Social Anxiety Disorder - extreme fear and avoidance of social situations; Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - recurring irrational thoughts that leads a person to perform specific, repeated behaviors; Separation Anxiety Disorder - fear of being away from home or loved ones; Illness Anxiety Disorder - anxiety symptoms caused by a health condition; generalized Anxiety Disorder - persistent and excessive anxiety and worry about activities or events; and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - due to a traumatic event. The risk factors of developing an anxiety disorder include trauma, stress due to an illness, stress buildup, certain personality types, the presence of other mental health disorders, and genetic predisposition. The diagnosis of anxiety involves physical examinations, blood or urine tests, mental health evaluations, and psychological questionnaires. The psychological evaluation compares the patient’s symptoms to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) developed by the American Psychiatric Association. Lifestyle changes to relieve anxiety include: getting enough sleep, engaging in breathing and meditation practices, regular physical exercise, reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption, quitting smoking, and eating a nutritionally balanced diet. It is believed that foods such as salmon, chamomile, turmeric, dark chocolate, yogurt, and green tea can positively impact the brain health in individuals experiencing anxiety. Treatment may require a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the main form of psychotherapy - it teaches the patient how to manage their symptoms by exposing them gradually to the anxiety trigger. In terms of medications, antidepressants, sedatives, and anti-anxiety medications are commonly prescribed.