Anxiety Disorders. Types. Causes. Diagnosis & Treatment

According to statistics, about 12% of the population suffers from anxiety disorders, about 30% experience its symptoms at certain periods of their lives. In women, pathology occurs twice as often as in men. In many cases, AD is combined with other mental disorders - depression, borderline personality disorder, social phobia, etc.

How does anxiety disorder manifest?

The manifestations of this pathology can vary greatly in different patients. The clinical picture depends, first of all, on the characteristics of the personality and character of the person. But the most important symptom that makes it possible to judge the presence of pathological anxiety is the prolonged presence of anxiety and fear in situations that most people do not cause fear. Experts divide all the symptoms that occur with an anxiety disorder into two main categories:

  • Emotional symptoms. In addition to unreasonable and inexplicable anxiety, a sick person experiences difficulty concentrating, increased nervousness and emotional tension, and a feeling of complete emptiness. In this state, the patient cannot sit still, it seems to him that something terrible is about to happen, and he is looking for signs confirming the onset of danger. The thought flow moves at a high speed, and a person is not able to control this process.
  • Physical symptoms include a rapid heartbeat and profuse sweating, dizziness, shortness of breath, and tremors in the limbs. A person constantly has a headache, he cannot sleep normally, feels increased fatigue, muscle tension. There is also a failure of the digestive and excretory systems, diarrhea and frequent urge to urinate.

Since anxiety is the body's response to a certain threat, it can have a wide range of manifestations. In this way, the body demonstrates its readiness to flee or fight. However, people suffering from an anxiety disorder cannot always adequately assess their condition. The various physical manifestations of this mental pathology are often perceived by patients as symptoms of some disease of the body.

Types of anxiety disorders

Experts distinguish several types of anxiety disorders, which differ in their symptoms and course. The treatment for anxiety in each of these cases will be different:

Generalized anxiety disorder. In this state, a person experiences increased anxiety, not due to any situation or object. Symptoms are quite stable, they observe for 6 months or more. In addition to anxiety, a person experiences motor tension, and also becomes hyperactive and prone to tearfulness. A sick person can also be identified by appearance - it is quite specific. The face and posture of the individual are quite tense, the person is very restless, his eyebrows are furrowed, and the trembling in the body is visible from the side, the skin is very pale;

Panic disorder is characterized by constant panic attacks. They arise unexpectedly, for no apparent reason, and a person is not able to control them. The patient may also experience fear of the panic attack itself. In this case, he will try to avoid situations that can cause a panic attack;

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is associated with the occurrence of intrusive thoughts, bringing anxiety and discomfort. A person can constantly worry that he forgot to do something important, and this can affect his safety. The patient's behavior becomes strange and inadequate. He can spend hours washing his hands or washing clothes to get rid of pathogenic microbes, hide dangerous objects in inaccessible places, etc .;

A phobia is a persistent and highly exaggerated fear. Objects or situations that are completely safe or that pose a minimal danger can cause such fear. There are a large number of varieties of this disorder, they are distinguished based on the characteristics of the objects of fear. A person suffering from a phobia in every possible way tries to avoid contact with an object that causes horror in him, but this leads to increased anxiety and aggravates the situation;

Social anxiety disorder manifests itself in the fear of being negatively evaluated by other people. People who suffer from social phobia are extremely shy and timid. They are afraid to speak in front of a large number of people, avoid public places or do not go out at all;

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs as a result of a trauma or life-threatening situation. In this case, anxiety arises constantly and almost never subsides. The person is haunted by intrusive memories and nightmares of the traumatic event.

An anxiety-depressive disorder related to neurosis can be called a disease of our time. If the patient has equally symptoms of anxiety disorder and depression, then we can talk about the development of a mixed form of pathology. Anxiety disorder is a disease in which a person is aware of his problems. With this pathology, personality transformation does not occur.

Main causes of anxiety disorders

To date, there is no clear understanding of how anxiety disorders arise. This pathology can develop under the influence of various mental and somatic factors. Anxiety can occur in response to external stimuli, with various somatic diseases, brain injuries and endocrine disorders. Anxiety can be caused by taking certain medications, narcotic and psychotropic drugs.

There are several theories that explain the causes of anxiety pathologies:

  • From the point of view of psychoanalysis, pathological anxiety indicates that a person has a forbidden or unacceptable need. At the subconscious level, there is a prevention of acts that have an aggressive or intimate coloring, which leads to the development of anxiety disorders. Anxiety in this case displaces or restrains this unacceptable need.
  • Behavioral theory describes anxiety as a reflex response to more painful or frightening stimuli. Anxiety may continue to occur in the absence of these factors.
  • Cognitive psychology focuses on the mental images that precede the onset and escalation of anxiety symptoms. As a rule, the thoughts of a sick person are twisted, irrational.
  • Biological theory believes that pathological anxiety is the result of a malfunction of metabolic processes in the brain. It has been noted that a sharp increase in the production of neurotransmitters leads to an increase in the level of anxiety.

In addition, a pattern was found between a person's tendency to develop anxiety pathologies and sensitivity to an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air. People suffering from anxiety disorders react even to slight fluctuations in this indicator. The risk of developing pathological anxiety largely depends on the characteristics of the person’s character and temperament.

Diagnosis of anxiety disorders

The accumulated information about this disease made it possible to test reliable methods of drug and psychotherapeutic treatment. This disease belongs to the areas of professional interest of a psychiatrist and a medical psychologist. Specialists use the following methods for diagnosing a neurotic disease:

  • primary individual consultation involves a survey to identify emotional reactions, obtain information about the lifestyle, motives and interests of the patient;
  • psychodiagnostic examination and projective testing aimed at identifying pathological anxiety and related disorders;
  • observation of the patient and his life, relationships with the outside world and with people.

The diagnosis is based on the patient's questioning and the signs and symptoms of the disorder. Specific laboratory tests or instrumental research methods that could help the doctor in clarifying the diagnosis have not been developed. There are a number of scales and tests for suspected anxiety disorder:

  • Beck scale
  • Hamilton scale
  • Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale
  • Tsung scale

Treatment of anxiety disorders

In the treatment of anxiety disorders drug therapy and the method of rational persuasion, or a combination of both, are used. Supportive psychotherapy will help you understand the factors that influence your anxiety disorder and, ultimately, deal with them. Meditation and relaxation can also help reduce anxiety. For overly fussy patients and people with a lot of muscle tension, there are completely safe medications to cope with these symptoms and sleep peacefully. Smoking, caffeine and alcohol must be completely avoided: they increase anxiety. If you are already taking medications for anxiety disorders, be sure to check with your doctor if you need to use other medications or alcoholic beverages. In each case, the treatment plan is different, individual. Therefore, it is better to consult a specialist than to try to overcome irreversible consequences later.

Anxiety disorders as a disease rarely go away when they are allowed to take their course. Much more often they develop into something more: depression, a severe generalized form of the disease, diseases of the internal organs, hypertension, ulcers, and so on.

Psychotherapy is the mainstay of anxiety disorder treatment. Thanks to this method of treatment, the doctor, first of all, finds out the causes of the disease, and then teaches the patient how to control himself and his unusual condition. Thanks to unique techniques, sensitivity to provocative factors is significantly reduced, the patient has an irresistible desire to cope with the disease. It is this desire that is a necessary component of successful treatment.

Of the medicines, tranquilizers, antidepressants and adrenoblockers can be prescribed.

Adrenoblockers allow you to cope with the symptoms of the vegetative part (blood pressure, palpitations). Tranquilizers relieve muscle tension, normalize sleep, and also significantly reduce the feeling of fear and anxiety. However, drugs in this group are addictive, so they are prescribed, as a rule, in a short course and only when absolutely necessary. Also, when taking tranquilizers, maximum caution is required: drinking alcohol along with these medications can lead to complete respiratory arrest. Their use is not recommended for patients with a profession that requires increased attention.

With medication, antidepressants are most often prescribed. They do not cause addiction, so they can be prescribed for a long course. The mechanism of action of drugs of this profile is aimed at a progressive effect: within a few days or even weeks, the effectiveness of the treatment "accelerates". After some time, the patient feels a significant weakening of fear and anxiety. Also, the drug helps with vegetative disorders, is prescribed for chronic pain.