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Anxiety Disorders: Questions and Answers

Nov 16, 2017 03:55PM ● By Staff Writer
Q: What are the major types of anxiety disorder?
A: The major types of anxiety disorder include:

GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER (GAD), characterized by excessive worry about ordinary, day-to-day issues, such as health, money, work, and family. Women diagnosed with GAD may have muscle tension and stress-related physical symptoms, such as trouble sleeping or upset stomach. 

PANIC DISORDER, which manifests in sudden bursts of terror in the total absence of actual danger. Sufferers have a sense of impending doom and fear losing control. During an attack, sufferers may experience and even exhibit the very real symptoms of a heart attack or may believe they are losing their minds, or are dying. 

SOCIAL PHOBIA, also called social anxiety disorder, occurs in those who become highly anxious and self-conscious in everyday social situations. Those diagnosed with social phobia have a strong fear of being watched and judged by others. They embarrass easily and may display panic attack symptoms.

SPECIFIC PHOBIA, which is an intense fear of something that poses little or no actual danger, such as a fear of closed-in spaces, heights, water, objects, animals, or specific situations. Those diagnosed with specific phobias often find that facing, or even thinking about facing, the feared object or situation may trigger a panic attack or cause severe anxiety.

Q: How are anxiety disorders treated?
A: Treatment often includes counseling (called psychotherapy), medicine, or a combination of the two. Psychotherapy is a method in which patients talk to a trained mental health professional, exploring the causes of the anxiety, and managing its symptoms. This therapy may involve cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps modify the thinking pattern around fears, resulting in a less stressful reaction to the anxiety-provoking situation. 

Q: What types of medicine treat anxiety disorders?
A: Many medicines are available to treat anxiety disorders. All contain risks and side effects. They include:

ANTIANXIETY DRUGS (benzodiazepines), which are prescribed for short periods of time, because they are addictive. Stopping this medicine too quickly can cause withdrawal symptoms. 

BETA BLOCKERS, which prevent the physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder, like trembling or sweating.

SELECTIVE SEROTONIN REUPTAKE INHIBITORS (SSRIs), which change the level of serotonin in the brain. Common side effects can include insomnia or sedation, stomach problems, and a lack of sexual desire.

TRICYCLICS, which work like SSRIs, but may cause more side effects than SSRIs, such as dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, constipation, or weight gain.

MONOAMINE OXIDASE INHIBITORS (MAOIs), which contain an amino acid called tyramine. Those prescribed MAOIs must avoid certain foods and drinks like cheese and red wine, because eating these foods can cause blood pressure levels to spike dangerously. Women who take MAOIs must also avoid certain types of birth control.

Before taking any medication, you should talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks. 

Q: What if my treatment is not working?
A: Sometimes, you may need to work with your doctor to try several different treatment methods or combinations of treatment before finding an approach that works for you.

For more information about anxiety disorders, call the Office of Women’s Health at 800-994-9662, or contact your healthcare provider.

Sources: Governmental Office of Women’s Health, National Institute of Mental Health.