Is anxiety a mood disorder or is it a physical reaction to emotional stress? The answer is that it can be both, but the difference between having a short-lived reaction to feeling anxious and having an anxiety mood disorder is like the difference between driving in a light rain shower and navigating a tsunami.
Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental health disorders in the U.S., affecting about 19% of the adult population and 7% of children and teens, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Women are diagnosed with the condition more often than men.
How Does the Emotion Differ From the Disorder?
You probably expect to develop anxious feelings when faced with an immediate stressor like missing a deadline or singing in front of a crowd. Those are normal anxiety-related emotions. Having an anxiety disorder, however, means being consumed by anxious feelings that are often disproportionate to the circumstance and may hold you back from participating in school, work or other daily activities for fear of encountering anxiety.
Why Does Anxiety Feel Like a Physical Issue?
Anxiety is a mental health issue that manifests in both emotional and physical reactions. This is due to your instinctive physiological response to situations that feel stressful, dangerous or scary. If you are anxious, your body and brain go into survival mode and prepare to fight or flee, which may lead to these common symptoms:
- Chest tightness or pain.
- Dread/sense of impending doom.
- Feeling tense or irritable.
- Heart pounding/racing.
- Nausea or other stomach discomforts.
- Shortness of breath.
- Sweating/overheating or shivering/chills.
How Are Anxiety Disorders Categorized?
Anxiety disorders are divided into several classifications:
- Phobias are among the most common anxiety disorders and involve having an outsized fear of a particular thing or situation. Common phobias include fear of heights or fear of certain animals or insects. Agoraphobia involves avoiding situations that may trigger anxiety, including going out in public alone, riding public transportation, being in an open or closed-off space, or being in a crowd.
- Panic disorder is having recurrent and unanticipated panic attacks for no reason that can leave you feeling overwhelmed.
- Social anxiety disorder paralyzes you by making you feel constantly scrutinized and judged by others. This fear may keep you from interacting with other people on any level.
- Generalized anxiety disorder, one of the most common anxiety disorders, can make you worry incessantly about any and everything.
Can Anxiety Disorders Be Cured?
Many people overcome anxiety disorders with treatment, which may include:
- Behavioral therapy, which may include talking with a therapist to identify the cause of your specific anxiety and change how you think about and react to the cause of your anxiety.
- Acceptance therapy, which focuses on setting goals and practicing mindfulness to reduce negative thoughts and anxiousness.
- Medication, which might include antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs or beta blockers.
Talk with a Professional
If anxiety is holding you back from the things you need to do every day, seek help. Request an appointment with a care provider at St. Elizabeth Physicians Behavioral Health by calling (859) 301-5901.