How Is An Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed
Heres what you can expect when you visit your doctor.
- Your doctor or nurse will ask you questions about your symptoms.
- Your doctor may perform a physical exam and order lab tests to rule out other health problems.
- If no other health problems are found, your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist to make a diagnosis.
- A psychiatrist or psychologist will identify the specific type of anxiety disorder thats causing your symptoms.
- This doctor will also look for any other mental health conditions that you may be experiencing, including depression.
The Science: How Does Anxiety Affect Our Bodies
‘When you are put into an anxiety-provoking situation, an automatic chain of events begins, often known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. This response happens without us thinking about it because it is triggered by the part of our nervous system whose job it is to control our automatic functions . This part of our nervous system is called the ‘autonomic system’ and is split into two components: the parasympathetic and the sympathetic systems. These work opposite each other and only one can dominate at a time. When we are in any situation that causes us anxiety, our sympathetic system starts to dominate and the ‘fight or flight’ reaction begins . ‘
It is important to remember that everyone experiences anxiety differently. An individual may feel all or none of the following symptoms or combination of a few. There can also be more unique physical symptoms that may not be listed here.
What Causes Nausea With Anxiety
Anxiety can trigger your fight or flight response. Basically, your body is preparing you to face a crisis. This is a natural reaction to a stressful situation and, when called for, can help you survive.
When you feel stressed or anxious, your body releases a rush of hormones. Neurotransmitters in the brain react by sending messages to the rest of your body to:
- get the heart pumping faster
- increase the breathing rate
- tense the muscles
- send more blood to the brain
Anxiety and stress can affect virtually every body system. This includes your cardiovascular, endocrine, musculoskeletal, nervous, reproductive, and respiratory systems.
In the digestive system, stress can cause:
- nausea, vomiting
The symptoms you feel due to anxiety are very real. Your body is responding to a perceived threat. Absent a true emergency situation, there are some things you can do help to control anxiety and nausea.
Also Check: How To Get Rid Of Phone Anxiety
The Link Between Anxiety Symptoms And Depression
Many people with anxiety disorders also suffer from depression at some point. Anxiety and depression are believed to stem from the same biological vulnerability, which may explain why they so often go hand-in-hand. Since depression makes anxiety worse , its important to seek treatment for both conditions.
How To Get Rid Of Shortness Of Breath From Anxiety
When youre experiencing shortness of breath from an anxiety attack, it may seem counterintuitive that your breathing is what you should focus on.
But by focusing on your breathing, you can get it under control and the right amount of oxygen into your lungs.
Experts recommend practicing diaphragmatic breathing. This is a type of breathing technique that uses your diaphragm. The diaphragm is the most efficient breathing muscle we have.
When youre experiencing shortness of breath, youre generally breathing from your mouth or chest. Diaphragmatic breathing can:
- slow your breathing rate
- use less effort and energy to breathe
Heres how to practice diaphragmatic breathing:
The more you can slow down the physical sensations during periods of high anxiety, the more you can use your rational mind to assess what is going on. Elke Zuercher-White in An End to Panic
You can also try these anxiety-relieving techniques:
Read Also: How To Deal With Health Anxiety
Where Can You Get Help For Anxiety
Talk to a GP Make an appointment with your GP and talk to them about how you are feeling. They will be able to refer you to counseling, offer advice on home remedies or prescribe medication.
Talk to a friend or family member Talking about how you feel can be a simple but very effective way to ease pressure. Choose someone you feel comfortable opening up to and who you think will be a good listener and able to try and understand.
Important note: Although anxiety is common, it is not something that has to be lived with or tolerated if it is becoming unpleasant or changing your lifestyle. Read our guide on signs that anxiety is beginning to take control and visit the Anxiety UK website for information on where to seek help and important helplines.
Like this article? to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
Anxiety Symptoms List: Learn More About Anxiety
The best way to stop anxiety is to understand it. The more you understand what causes your symptoms, what they mean, why you struggle with them, and what you can do to stop them, the more youll be able to start making real progress on your own anxiety symptoms.
We have broken each symptom down into categories for easy navigation. You can click on any of the links below to be taken to the section of your choice immediately, or you can scroll down to start reading more about the symptoms as a whole.
Note: Some people experience anxiety symptoms that are 100% mental with no physical symptoms. Others experience anxiety symptoms that are 100% physical: they are anxious physically even though they have no worries and their minds are clear. Most people experience some combination of the two. There is no right or wrong way to experience anxiety.
Keep in mind that categorizing some anxiety symptoms is difficult. For example, you may feel that what we consider to be a whole-body symptom is more of a chest symptom, and vice versa. So if you dont find a symptom you struggle with in the section you expect, it may be in another section.
You May Like: Does Topamax Help With Anxiety
Tips For Helping Someone With An Anxiety Disorder:
- Make no assumptionsask the person what they need.
- Be predictabledon’t surprise the person.
- Let the person with the disorder set the pace for recovery.
- Find something positive in every small step towards recovery.
- Don’t help the person avoid their fears.
- Maintain your own life so you don’t resent the person with the disorder.
- Don’t panic when the person with the disorder panics, but realize it’s natural to be concerned with them.
- Be patient and accepting, but don’t settle for the affected person being permanently disabled.
- Say encouraging words such as: “You can do it no matter how you feel. I am proud of you. Tell me what you need now. Breathe slow and low. Stay in the present. It’s not the place that’s bothering you, it’s the thought. I know that what you are feeling is painful, but it’s not dangerous. You are courageous.”
- Avoid saying things like: “Don’t be anxious. Let’s see if you can do this. You can fight this. What should we do next? Don’t be ridculous. You have to stay. Don’t be a coward.” These phrases tend to blame the individual for the anxiety.
The Physical Symptoms Of Stress
Stress can result in many physical symptoms, some of which are less well known.
For example, stress, particularly chronic stress, can aggravate many skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, and even acne.
Some of us might break out in hives in response to the physical impact of stress, Dr Beverley Flint from HelloSelf, tells Metro.co.uk.
It is well known that stress can also cause problems with our digestive systems.
People can often be left feeling very nauseous when stressed, and can also experience very loose stools, says Beverley. Ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease can often be linked to the experience of chronic stress, and can certainly be exacerbated by it.
Stress can also cause the digestive system to slow down, causing bloating and constipation, and even heartburn or reflux.
Elsewhere in the body, it is not uncommon to suffer from aches and pains.
Pain across the top of the shoulders and neck can sometimes be caused by stress, Beverley explains. When stressed, we tend to carry our shoulders too high, often for a prolonged period of time, which can cause the muscles to become strained. This can often result in aches, pains and tension headaches.
Read Also: Why Do I Get Anxiety After Drinking
Phobias And Irrational Fears
A phobia is an unrealistic or exaggerated fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that in reality presents little to no danger. Common phobias include fear of animals , fear of flying, and fear of heights. In the case of a severe phobia, you might go to extreme lengths to avoid the object of your fear. Unfortunately, avoidance only strengthens the phobia.
When Do These Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety Signal A Panic Attack
Panic attacks often include physical anxiety symptoms, like sweating, trembling, and a fast heart rate. But, as we mentioned, theres one major difference: Panic attacks cause an extreme sensation of fear that strikes out of nowhere. That terror is an integral part of having a panic attack. Beyond that, panic attacks include at least four of the following symptoms, some of which you just read about as physical effects of anxiety:
- Palpitations, a pounding heart, or an accelerated heart rate
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- Feelings of choking
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
- Chills or heat sensations
- Derealization or depersonalization
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
You May Like: How To Get On Anti Anxiety Medication
What Causes Panic Attacks
Experts dont know why some people experience panic attacks or develop panic disorder. The brain and nervous system play key roles in how you perceive and handle fear and anxiety. Your risk of having panic attacks increases if you have:
- Family history:Anxiety disorders, including panic disorders, often run in families. Experts arent sure why.
- Mental health issues: People who have anxiety disorders, depression or other mental illness are more prone to panic attacks.
- Substance abuse problems:Alcoholism and drug addiction can increase the risk of panic attacks.
Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is characterized by repeated, unexpected panic attacks, as well as fear of experiencing another episode. Agoraphobia, the fear of being somewhere where escape or help would be difficult in the event of a panic attack, may also accompany a panic disorder. If you have agoraphobia, you are likely to avoid public places such as shopping malls, or confined spaces such as an airplane.
Why Does Anxiety Cause Physical Symptoms
Whether youre dealing with anxiousness or a diagnosable anxiety disorder, it can manifest in your body in multiple ways. From head to toe, almost every system can be impacted just by nature of your body releasing a lot of stress hormones, Mona Potter, M.D., medical director at McLean Anxiety Mastery Program in Boston, tells SELF. But why does it happen?
Well, you have your fight-or-flight response to thank for your physical anxiety symptoms. Typically, its supposed to help you survive a threat by escaping or fending it off. In way-back-then cave-people days, that threat might have been something along the lines of a lion. If you have anxiety, though, your fear and worry are that threat, prompting your sympathetic nervous system, which controls involuntary processes like your breathing and heart rate, to kick into high gear. This leads your adrenal glands to release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, according to the Mayo Clinic. This domino effect is behind anxietys physical symptoms.
When a person experiences anxiety, its essentially the fight-or-flight system kicking in and saying, Danger! Neda Gould, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and associate director of the Johns Hopkins Bayview Anxiety Disorders Clinic, tells SELF.
So what are the physical symptoms of anxiety to look out for?
What Are The Different Types Of Anxiety Disorder
This section provides an overview of the most common types of anxiety disorders.
- Generalised anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Generalised anxiety disorder
GAD is common. The main symptom of GAD is over worrying about different activities and events. This may feel out of your control. You feel anxious a lot of the time if you have GAD. You might feel on edge and alert to your surroundings.
This can affect your day-to-day life. You might find that it affects your ability to work, travel places or leave the house. You might also get tired easily or have trouble sleeping or concentrating. You might have physical symptoms, such as muscle tension and sweating.
It is common to have other conditions such as depression or other anxiety disorders if you have GAD.
GAD can be difficult to diagnose because it does not have some of the unique symptoms of other anxiety disorders. Your doctor is likely to say you have GAD if you have felt anxious for most days over six months and it has had a bad impact on areas of your life.
You will have regular panic attacks with no particular trigger if you have panic disorder. They can happen suddenly and feel intense and frightening. You may also worry about having another panic attack.
Panic disorder symptoms can include the following.
You may also dissociate during a panic attack. Such as feeling detached from yourself.
Social anxiety disorder
Some common situations where you may experience anxiety are the following.
You May Like: Is Depression And Anxiety Hereditary
What Are The Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders
Psychological symptoms may include:
- Derealization or depersonalization
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
If your panic attacks are recurring, you will likely be diagnosed with panic disorder. Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder thats characterized by persistent worry about future panic attacks or their consequences.
Noah Clyman, a licensed clinical social worker and the director of NYC Cognitive Therapy, a private psychotherapy practice in New York City, says that panic attacks do not have to be feared. By learning to correctly interpret bodily sensations and not relate to them as dangerous, he says, your fear level can go down.
RELATED: When Anxiety Becomes a Disorder