Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their lives — it’s a completely normal part of life. But for people with anxiety disorders, it’s often more than just a passing feeling in response to a tense situation.
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses that cause constant and overwhelming anxiety and fear. Patients suffering from an anxiety disorder may experience intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations that may not even register as stressful for someone else. This excessive anxiety can cause people to avoid work, school, family get-togethers, and other triggering situations.
These conditions can have a profound impact on patients’ overall well-being and ability to function. People with an anxiety disorder are 3 to 5 times more likely to go to the doctor and 6 times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who don’t suffer from anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults every year. While anxiety disorders are highly treatable through interventions like talk therapy and medications, only a small amount of those suffering from anxiety receive treatment.
There are five main types of anxiety disorders:
Other common types of anxiety include specific phobias (like arachnophobia – or fear of spiders) and separation anxiety, where someone feels scared or anxious when a loved one leaves.
Anxiety is a tricky condition because it can have a wide variety of symptoms. Some of these symptoms are easier to identify (like feeling nervous or fearful) but other symptoms — especially the physical ones — can be misleading if you don’t know what to look for.
Common symptoms of anxiety include:
Everyone experiences anxiety, but not everyone develops an anxiety disorder. While some people attribute this to personal strength, the simple truth is that it’s not that simple.
The causes of anxiety disorders aren’t fully understood, but we do know that life experiences such as traumatic events appear to trigger anxiety disorders in people who are already prone to anxiety. Some research suggests anxiety disorders may be linked to faulty circuits in the brain that control fear and emotions.
Some of the risk factors for developing anxiety include:
While there's no way to predict exactly what will cause someone to develop an anxiety disorder, patients can take steps to reduce the impact of symptoms by getting help early, staying active, and avoiding alcohol or drug use.
While there’s not a lab test to specifically diagnose anxiety disorders, they can still be diagnosed and treated. For patients feeling inexplicably anxious or irritable or are having trouble focusing, a primary care provider is a great first stop to rule out potential ties to a physical health condition. They can also often diagnose and prescribe medications to manage mild anxiety disorders.
For more severe anxiety symptoms, patients may need to visit a mental health specialist for counseling or medication management. The diagnostic process may include a psychological evaluation to discuss their thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
Anxiety disorders are typically treated with medication (such as antidepressants), psychotherapy, or a combination of both. Patients seeking treatment for anxiety should discuss their options with their care provider to determine the best approach for them.
Due to stigma and other barriers, more than half of people with mental illness do not seek help for their disorders, and anxiety is no exception. At Firefly, we believe that mental illness is no different than any other medical illness. That’s why we integrate behavioral health support directly into our primary care model. From medications to supporting changes to your habits and lifestyle, we're here to help you work towards a full recovery.
If you have symptoms of an anxiety disorder, consult with your care team today through the Firefly app. Not a member yet? Get started by signing up on our website or giving us a call at (855) 869-9284.
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