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Your stress could be a medical condition called Anxiety

Anxiety is a typical emotion we all feel from time to time. It may consist of nervousness, fear, or a worry. Common situations where we might get anxious include: facing a problem at work, the moment before taking a test, or when you must make an important decision. You or someone you know has almost certainly experienced this emotion at times like those. However, could you picture being anxious due to the ticking of a clock, due to being out in the open, or even just for no reason in particular? When we feel situational anxious it is temporary.

Anxiety disorders are different. They have the ability to cause enough tension, worry, and distress in one’s life that they may and do ruin a person’s quality of life. For people with anxiety disorders, worry and fear seem constant and are overwhelming enough to change the course of one’s life. These people can not do anything about these thoughts and emotions. They have no control. Simply telling them to be brave is not enough. They are ill with not a psychological condition, but a medical condition.

A condition may be classified as medical if it meets three criteria: genetics are involved in the disease’s progression, the anatomy and physiology of the body is affected, and medicine must be used to treat it. Anxiety disorder matches all three criteria. This condition is caused by a combination of factors, including changes in the brain coupled with environmental stress. Studies have shown that the nerve cells in people with anxiety do not transmit information properly as changes in certain brain structures that control memories linked with strong emotions are thought to occur. It is thought that these changes create neurotransmitter imbalances, thus causing feelings of constant and random anxiety. On top of this, any traumatic or significant even may trigger anxiety disorder in people with a genetic background of the condition. Just as anxiety disorder has different causes, it has different symptoms associated with its various types that are all centered around chronic intrusive distressing thoughts of a worrying nature.

There are four major types of anxiety. These include:

1) Panic Disorder – A person with this condition will experience fear and flashes of terror that strike suddenly and constantly with no warning or particular reason. This is called a panic attack. Associated with panic attacks are excessive swearing, chest pain, feeling of choking, and palpitations (strong or irregular heartbeats), which all together make a person feel like they have gone mad or are going to have a heart attack.

2) Social Anxiety Disorder – Also called social phobia, people with this form of anxiety experience extreme self-consciousness and overwhelming worry about daily social situations. Most commonly the fear associated is a fear of being judged, embarrassed, or ridiculed.

3) Specific Phobias – This is an intense, uncontrollable fear of a specific object, situation, or belief, such as spiders, heights, open spaces, or even cultural beliefs. A phobia may cause a person to avoid common, everyday situations.

4) Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – This form of anxiety is characterized by excessive, irrational worry and tension regardless of a presence of a stressor or a reason to trigger the anxiety.

Anxiety disorders affect millions of Americans, with women having slightly higher rates of anxiety than men. Most cases of anxiety begin in adolescence or early adulthood. Anxiety is diagnosed by a doctor evaluation of medical history and a physical exam. Although there are no lab tests for anxiety, a doctor may use various anxiety rating scales such as the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A). Psychologists and psychiatrists conduct their specially designed interviews and use separate assessment tools to examine a person for anxiety disorder. Typically, medication is prescribed to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or dietary and lifestyle changes may also be recommended.

Anxiety is a difficult to live with and ruins one’s quality of life. This affects not only the person with anxiety, but also those around that person. If you or a loved one feels that conventional medicine is not working and have not been able to get to the quality of life desired, it may be time to get the help of an expert. If you are looking for a personalized and expert evaluation with the most advanced treatments to date, call our office today!



Angelo Sambunaris, M.D.

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