Understanding Some Causes And Treatments For Anxiety

2013-03-12 | |
Last updated: 2014-11-25

Many members of our society will encounter anxiety disorders as they live their day to day lives. Unfortunatley such conditions are being diagnosed more frequently with over 3% of Americans living with chronic anxiety problems and almost one in five suffering from an attack at some point during their lives. So why are we seeing greater numbers of anxious people?

Possible Causes For The Increase In Anxiety Disorders

One possible explanation for the increase in the numbers of people living with anxiety is simply that society is more accepting of the diagnosis. It could be that the same percentage of people have always suffered from these conditions, but medical science and public perception were insufficiently advanced to embrace and treat the problem. Rather than a legitimate mental health problem, anxiety and panic attacks were previously explained away as ‘fainting spells’ suffered by those with less hardy constitutions. With the passage of time, however, medical researchers have studied these attacks and realized that they are symptoms of legitimate and preventable illnesses with the result be larger numbers of diagnosed patients.

Alternatively, a different theory is that the population is more affected by stress now than ever before. Although the populations of first world countries now generally live more prosperous and comfortable lives, free from widespread war and suffering, some might suggest that cultural changes have weakened our ability to deal with our problems. For example, the erosion of the traditional male gender identity could mean that men are less able to cope. At the other end of the spectrum, a constant influx of information and entertainment may also be overstimulating our minds.

Types Of Anxiety Disorders

Alongside social anxiety, which is a frequent temporary issue found in approximately 19 million Americans, there are two other main disorders. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is defined by persistent worrying about everyday problems which mounts until it interferes with the patient’s life. Sufferers may be unable to sleep or properly concentrate, meaning that they may be less able to carry out the tasks required of them. The second, Panic Disorder is characterized by recurrent panic attacks and a fear of these attacks by the patient that causes them to adjust their behavior. In some cases, this can lead to agoraphobia as the individual avoids locations (such as crowded public places) where they feel more vulnerable.

Stress As A Cause Of Anxiety

We do not know exactly how anxiety disorders are caused, but we do know that they are made worse by stress and that those in high-pressure situations are more likely to suffer from such attacks. Those with a demanding job or lifestyle are at increased risk. That said, one of the key weapons in the fight against anxiety, whether with regard to those who are already affected or as a preventative measure, is the introduction of stress reducing lifestyle changes. Healthcare providers already routinely advise all their patients to undertake exercise for general wellbeing, but emphasis on stress reduction specifically is perhaps lacking. Exercise is but one of a range of tools at our disposal in the fight against anxiety.

Whether or not exercise is performed, stressed out individuals can also try breathing exercises to enable them to relax. This can be as simple as slowly breathing in and out for a minute, twice a day. Another useful ‘treatment’ is simply engaging in social interaction. It can be easy to feel isolated if a person spends most of their waking hours working, so make sure that you avoid shutting yourself away from the outside world. Those with a more severe degree of anxiety may require Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to learn to cope with problematic episodes and stressful situations, and anti-anxiety medication is available to relieve symptoms in the short term – for example, during a plane journey.

Tara Jenkins is a blogger and passionate advocate for mental health care. She is writing on behalf of a personalised medical alert jewellery business.

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