It is normal to feel nervous or anxious at certain times in life, such as before a big work presentation or when meeting a new person for the first time. A person may feel tense and experience a heartbeat that is faster than usual, or sweaty palms. These responses are part of the body's natural "fight or flight" defense system. However, these symptoms fade once the stressful event is over. For individuals suffering from an anxiety disorder, defenses go up and stay up for prolonged periods of time, making it difficult to carry out daily life activities.
It is important to note that there are several types of anxiety disorders, and they can manifest in different ways. Below we will discuss a few of the most common anxiety disorders.
Generalized anxiety disorder. According the the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects approximately 6.8 million American adults. People with this disorder are overcome with worries that will not go away and cause anxiety that is often out of proportion to the reality of a given situation. Some of the symptoms of GAD can include fatigue, irritability, muscle tension, nausea, sweating and headaches, among others. Although individuals with GAD may be able to live their daily lives when their anxiety is mild, it can be disrupting when severe.
Social anxiety disorder. Those with social anxiety disorder may be afraid to do typical everyday tasks in front of other people, like eating or drinking or using a public bathroom. Some people may experience social anxiety in any situation, while others may only feel anxious under specific circumstances. Those with social anxiety, or social phobia, are afraid that they will be judged by others, or embarrassed in front of them. People with this disorder may feel very anxious around other people or in social situations, and may avoid them entirely. In the United States, approximately 15 million adults are affected by this disorder.
Panic disorder. Panic disorder is characterized by intense feelings of fear that can lead to panic attacks. When an individual suffers a panic attack, he or she may experience attacks of fear and panic that are accompanied by physical symptoms. A person experiencing a panic attack may feel weak or dizzy, tingling, hot and cold, racing heart, sweating and sometimes chest pain that could be mistaken for a heart attack. Approximately 6 million adults in the United States are affected by this disorder, with women experiencing it twice as much as men.
Some people experiencing disorder such as the above may turn to drugs or alcohol in an effort to find relief and self-medicate their symptoms. Many turn to alcohol to help drown out anxious feelings they have in various social settings. However, this pattern of substance use can turn to abuse and lead the user down the dangerous path of addiction.
When diagnosing and treating addiction, determining what is causing it in the first place can help build the foundation for a lasting recovery. Fairwinds addiction treatment centers, founded in 1989 by Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef, use a dual-diagnosis approach to identify addiction at its root cause. With the guidance of our highly-skilled team, you or your loved one will receive the support and care needed to experience healing. Contact us to learn more about the programs we offer to treat mental health disorders and addiction.