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Help With Anxiety Disorders

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention.

Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect more than 25 million Americans. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives. . But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.

Fear is an emotional response to an immediate threat and is more associated with a fight or flight reaction – either staying to fight or leaving to escape danger. Anxiety disorders can cause people into try to avoid situations that trigger or worsen their symptoms. Job performance, school work and personal relationships can be affected.

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What’s the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder?

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Perhaps the person has watched a scary move, or seen something upsetting on TV. Or, more ominous, perhaps the person has experienced or witnessed a crime. Anyone might get anxious in these situations, but the person with an anxiety disorder has persistent or recurrent anxiety that prevents him or her from full participation in life. Anxiety can range from relatively mild (occasional “butterflies,” jitteriness, accompanied by a sense of unease) to severe (frequent, disabling panic attacks). Severe anxiety disorders can lead the person to alter his lifestyle to accommodate the anxiety, for example not leaving home. More

Can meditation or other relaxation techniques help with my anxiety?

They can. They are the best option for mild anxiety that most of us experience from time to time. There are many instructional books on relaxation exercises (often paired with deep breathing) and meditation, which is a form of relaxation. They are relatively simple to learn. These approaches can provide relief and can be used anywhere once the person understands the method. Mental health professionals can guide the person who needs a more personal approach to learning relaxation or meditation. More

Are there medications that can help with panic attacks?

Yes. There are many medications that have FDA approval to treat anxiety disorders. Several members of the benzodiazepine class are routinely used to provide relief from anxiety. These minor tranquillizers are safe and effective, but should be used for short-term relief. They have many side effects, including drowsiness, and can be habit forming at higher doses. People taking these medications should not use heavy machinery or drive until they understand how the medication might affect them.

Antidepressants are widely used to treat anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder. The most commonly prescribed medications are from the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class. They are generally effective and have few side-effects, although they do not provide immediate relief. More

How are children with anxiety disorders treated?

Children can be treated with the same methods as adults. A therapist may be effective by turning the therapy into a game to make it fun for the child. Medication works in children just as in adults, but the psychiatrist must be mindful of the much lower doses used in children. More

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About the Expert:

Donald Black, M.D.
Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, University of Iowa Carver College of medicine
Staff Psychiatrist, Iowa City Veterans Administration Medical Center

Editor's Choice

JAN 25, 2021

Undoing social anxiety with CBT 

Mental Health Today

Social anxiety disorder is the fear of being seen in a negative light by other people. Fear probably does not do justice to its intensity. A person with SAD can almost feel like they can see what they look like through other people's 'eyes' - sweating and blushing. Learning how to change the focus of our attention away from the worries ‘inside our head’ to what is happening ‘outside’ can help. Adrian Wells’s attention training techniques involve learning how to change our focus away from internal worries to what is happening in the environment - learning how to switch from ‘inside’ to ‘outside’ to focus our attention on the other person in the conversation.

DEC 27, 2020

How One Teen Handles Anxiety Disorder Through The Pandemic

NPR

Even before the pandemic, anxiety and depression were steadily increasing in young adults every year. According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 1 in 3 teens meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder. We're going to meet one of those young people now. And we're only using her first name so she can speak freely about her medical condition. Mira documented her anxiety and the ways she found solace earlier this year.

DEC 22 2020

Dr. Roach: There is a difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder

Healthline

Anxiety does go away — it’s not necessarily permanent.  It’s bound to make a reappearance, though, when you need to make an important decision, have a health scare, or when someone you love is in jeopardy, for example. In fact, there are situations where a bout of anxiety is crucial to survival. Occasional anxiety is a perfectly natural part of the human experience.  Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, are different from a typical run-in with anxiety because they’re about more than passing worry or fear. With anxiety disorders, anxiety can occur frequently and seemingly out of the blue, and last longer than needed for the situation. Untreated anxiety disorders can worsen over time.

Resources

Additional Resources and Organizations

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Mental Health America

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Institute on Mental Health

Physician Reviewed

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
January 2017