An anxiety disorder , anxiety neurosis, is a psychosomatic illness in which those affected are primarily affected by anxiety attacks or panic attacks . Most of the time, physical symptoms accompany an anxiety disorder without actually having a physical illness.
What are Anxiety Disorders?
Since an anxiety disorder can seriously worsen the quality of life of the patient, a visit to the doctor is particularly recommended if the course is severe. Especially when fear-inducing situations can no longer be avoided in everyday life.
According to wholevehicles, fear is a natural feeling of danger. When the threat is over, the fear also disappears . The condition is only referred to as a disorder if the person concerned shows an excessive fear reaction without an objective reason, which is almost always accompanied by physical symptoms. Formerly also known as anxiety neurosis, there are different forms of anxiety disorder.
The best known are so-called phobias, which relate to certain objects or situations. There is also panic disorder, which manifests itself in sudden anxiety and panic attacks for no apparent reason. Generalized anxiety disorder tends to focus more on the feeling of constant threat. Those affected cannot pinpoint where the fear is coming from.
The causes of the anxiety disorder have not yet been clearly clarified. Many factors come together, which only together and in interaction trigger the disease. It is believed that one of the causes is internal conflict. This is particularly the focus in psychoanalysis. The sufferer has not learned to deal with normal fear . Experts from various disciplines look for and research other causes.
Anxiety disorders and depression can be mutually beneficial. A depressed person who worries about everything will quickly suffer from fear of the future. On the other hand, the impairment of quality of life can lead to an anxiety disorder.
Other causes can be certain diseases, such as thyroid malfunction. It is also assumed that certain messenger substances, so-called neurotransmitters, are out of balance in the brain. Anxiety disorders often occur after extreme stress or after consuming certain substances, such as drugs, caffeine or alcohol.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
In anxiety disorder, the person concerned has to deal with different fears. Very often an anxiety disorder begins as a so-called generalized anxiety disorder. This is where fears arise that affect all areas of daily life. The sick person is afraid of situations that are basically not threatening, but are suddenly perceived as threatening.
The fears also relate to the possible effects of the respective situation. Another form of anxiety disorder brings out fears that are related to previously experienced situations, which then act as so-called triggers. For example, an anxiety disorder about driving may occur after a traffic accident.
The symptoms of an anxiety disorder are the typical occurrence of fear, extreme restlessness and concern and all thoughts that revolve around these topics. In the advanced stage, panic attacks can occur and the transitions are fluid. The fear is associated with a release of adrenaline, a feeling of heat is perceived. The head feels numb and the person concerned fears near fainting .
The pulse rate is greatly accelerated and is perceived physically, the blood pressure also rises. An anxiety or panic attack is rated as very strenuous and stressful, usually followed by a drop in tension. Many sufferers develop an increasing fear of fear and fear that the fear will recur. This affects the quality of life.
The course of the disease depends on what type of anxiety disorder it is. If left untreated, the disease often lasts for years or decades, alternating phases with severe and less severe symptoms. Only in rare cases is there a “spontaneous healing” of the anxiety disorder (in panic disorders this affects approx. 10-30% of those affected).
Where possible, the person concerned avoids the fear-inducing situation. Of course, this is not possible with generalized anxiety disorder. Such patients often develop comorbidities that are psychosomatic. Often gastrointestinal disease is one of them.
Many anxiety disorders are associated with avoidance behaviors. This can result in social complications that may feed back into the worsening of the anxiety disorder. Examples of this are ridicule, bullying, lack of understanding and a lack of patience on the part of close relatives.
Agoraphobia can develop in the course of an anxiety disorder. Those affected then avoid places and situations in which it would be difficult for them to access help in an emergency. The fear can also lead to the fact that those affected withdraw into their apartment and no longer leave the house – or they only cover short distances, for example to the nearest supermarket or to the bank. Depending on the type of anxiety disorder, avoidance can extend to many areas of life. Occupational restrictions are also possible.
In the context of psychotherapy it is necessary to discuss the fears and worries and to expose oneself to them in a protected environment. This confrontation is a burden for many patients and can impair the motivation for therapy.
In addition, anxiety disorders can be associated with various other psychological complaints. Many people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAS) seek help late. As a result, the majority of GAS patients develop another mental illness. Different mental disorders come into question for this.
For example, other anxiety disorders, depression and sleep disorders are common. Further complications can arise from self-medication, drugs, alcohol, problematic eating habits, and other attempts to cope with anxiety on your own.
When should you go to the doctor?
Since an anxiety disorder can seriously worsen the quality of life of the patient, a visit to the doctor is particularly recommended if the course is severe. Especially if fear-inducing situations can no longer be avoided in everyday life, it is imperative to see a doctor. The typical symptoms of an anxiety disorder, such as shortness of breath, palpitations and internal tension, put the patient’s body in a state of alarm and thus also endanger their physical health.
If, in addition to stressful emotional states such as helplessness and fear, physical pain and other physical symptoms also become noticeable, the doctor should carry out a comprehensive examination of the patient. In this way, a physical cause that may be behind the symptoms can be investigated. If the anxiety disorder occurs only to a mild extent and is not associated with any restrictions on everyday life, the patient must decide for himself whether he considers a visit to the doctor to be useful.
The first point of contact for an anxiety disorder can be the family doctor , who can then write a referral to the specialist. For the treatment of an anxiety disorder, it is advisable to visit a psychiatrist , who can also prescribe medication if necessary. In the case of a milder course, treatment by means of talk therapy alone is recommended, which is usually carried out by a psychologist .
Treatment & Therapy
Treatment for anxiety disorder rests on two pillars. On the one hand, drugs are used that provide immediate relief. These can be antidepressants, which are supposed to bring the neurotransmitters in the brain back into balance and have an anxiolytic effect. Benzodiazepines are psychotropic drugs that are used to relieve tension and anxiety. They have a dampening, relaxing and antispasmodic effect and are much faster than antidepressants.
However, addiction can develop quickly, which is why they are only prescribed cautiously. Other drugs used to treat anxiety disorders include St. John’s wort supplements , neuroleptics, or beta-blockers . In order to achieve a long-term improvement, psychotherapeutic measures are carried out, since the anxiety disorder often has psychological causes. For special phobias, exposure therapy is available, in which the person concerned learns with the help of the therapist to endure the situation.
Cognitive therapy is often used for generalized anxiety disorder. The patient should learn to recognize and correct the thought patterns that lead to the anxiety disorder. This also includes learning relaxation techniques to help people help themselves.
Outlook & forecast
An anxiety disorder can usually be successfully tackled with the help of behavior therapy and medication. The prognosis is better, the sooner the treatment starts: Fears that have existed for a long time require a much higher therapy effort and cannot always be completely resolved. In principle, individual phobias can be treated better than a generalized anxiety disorder, which almost always requires lengthy treatment. Even after successful therapy, it often happens that persistent stress or a life crisis after a long period without fear brings old fears to light again.
If the person concerned tries to cope with the anxiety disorder without help, the prognosis is worse: In many cases, fear of fear leads to avoidance behavior that can massively restrict everyday life. Social withdrawal often brings loneliness with it, which is not infrequently accompanied by depression and thoughts of suicide . Often anxiety patients take refuge in addictions, which can lead to alcohol or drug addiction with all its negative physical and psychosocial consequences.
Anxiety disorders are to be seen as chronic diseases that can flare up again and again even after successful therapy. A largely normal life is still possible if anxious patients live in a stable social environment and are open to treatment.
Anxiety disorders cannot be prevented directly. However, relaxation techniques such as autogenic training help to master many everyday problems better and thus to develop less fear of situations. Herbal extracts such as St. John’s wort , valerian and lemon balm also help .
Mild anxiety disorders rarely require follow-up care. They tend to appear in crisis situations and then disappear again. However, more complex anxiety disorders need to be treated. Often this only happens years after the first occurrence, when the level of suffering has become unbearable.
Follow-up care is customary or not, depending on whether a clinical stay was necessary or longer psychotherapeutic treatment was carried out. Some clinics that treat anxiety disorders actively ensure that their patients are also looked after after their stay in the clinic. For example, they convey them to local self-help groups.
Others recommend psychotherapy or behavioral therapy as a follow-up measure. In this case, the clinic will provide the treating therapist with documents about the type of anxiety disorder. If the anxiety disorder has been associated with depression, follow-up care may consist of drug monitoring.
Exercise is an important part of the aftercare measures. Relaxation courses or therapeutic painting can also be helpful aftercare. Pension insurance also offers aftercare options. As part of aftercare, it is essential that a person concerned takes measures himself after an anxiety disorder in order not to fall back into his fears.
Follow-up care can include looking for a less stressful job or changing something in your life, for example. Without follow-up care, it is hardly possible to keep the good intentions that have been set up as part of a psychosomatic cure.
You can do that yourself
An anxiety disorder is one of those diseases in which those affected can actively work to improve or even eliminate the symptoms. This is possible as part of participation in a self-help group, but also on your own.
In the case of anxiety disorder, physical symptoms such as palpitations or attacks of dizziness are in the foreground, which make the patient think that they are seriously ill. After a medical examination, it is important to trust the diagnosis of anxiety disorder and not constantly search for other organic causes. Often times, the anxiety disorder leads to avoidance behavior in relation to the situations in which the uncomfortable symptoms arose.
It is important to learn again through the conscious confrontation with these fear-inducing situations that the fear is unfounded and that nothing bad will happen. Those affected can practice this on their own, for example by starting with rather easy confrontations and gradually regaining self-confidence.
In addition, patients with an anxiety disorder can work on their inner balance by doing regular endurance sports or learning one of the many forms of relaxation such as progressive muscle relaxation or autogenic training . Regular yoga can also make a valuable contribution here, because it helps to regulate the flow of breath and, through meditation and deep relaxation, to ensure more calm and serenity.