Anxiety disorder is a condition which affects 1 in 50 people in the UK.

In this article:

What is anxiety disorder?

Symptoms

Causes

Diagnosis

Treatment

How Chemist Online can help

Advice & Support

What is anxiety disorder?

If you were to ask most people if they felt anxious from time to time, then they would probably say that they do. But for some people who struggle with a heightened state of anxiety which occurs frequently and can be terrifying as well as debilitating, the term ‘anxiety’ can mean something quite different. In fact, more and more people across the UK are being diagnosed with anxiety disorder. The reasons for this are not yet clear, but many medical professionals and psychologists worldwide suggest that the increase in the number of people being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder could be related to diet and modern lifestyle.

There are three main types of anxiety disorder:

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – the onset of symptoms which occur as a result of having developed GAD can be triggered by a wide range of situations, issues, environment and events, rather than just one.

Affecting both the body and the mind, the sudden onset of an anxiety attack can leave the sufferer in an almost paralysed state. The symptoms, therefore, are not only in the mild range (worry, unease, slight distress…), but also severe.

People with GAD are also prone to fretting over things that may or may not occur. The scale of these worries and fears can range from the being anxious about a bus not arriving on time, to abject terror over the possible loss of a job.

Panic Disorder (panic attacks) – these are random episodes of intense fear and anxiety. The sufferer experiences a sudden rush of emotional and physical symptoms which come without any obvious reason or warning.

Although everyone experiences anxiety and panic during their lifetimes, particularly when faced with dangerous or stressful situations, panic attacks are different: they can occur without any apparent trigger and also cause anxiety in-between attacks due to their unpredictable nature. The attacks can recur and become regular, often for no apparent reason, and for some people can occur several times per week.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterised by a combination of obsessive thoughts and compulsive acts – a repetitive ritual an individual has to perform a specific number of times.

An example of this may be a hygiene ritual: the repeated washing of hands or cleaning for several hours a day. For the OCD sufferer, this behaviour reduces anxiety and is therefore rewarding.

The obsessions (thought processes) OCD sufferers develop are uncontrollable obsessions that produce anxiety because their content is quite unlike usual thoughts. Instead the thoughts are recurring, persistent, inappropriate, intrusive and anxiety provoking. The OCD sufferer is aware of this, realising that the thoughts are a product of their own mind. Even so, the sufferer feels driven to perform compulsions to reduce distress or to avoid an imagined catastrophe. These acts are excessive and unrealistically linked with what the sufferer is trying to avoid.

OCD is estimated to affect 1–3 per cent of the population, although the true prevalence remains unknown.

This article will focus upon generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) from here.

Symptoms

Symptoms of GAD include:

Feelings of fear and extreme worry

Catastrophising (seeing only the worse-case scenario and being convinced that whatever that constitutes is about to happen to you.)

Tenseness

Sweating

Increased heart-rate, shaking and palpitations

Breathlessness

Dry mouth

A knotted stomach

Chest pains, aching joints and tension headache

What is most alarming for people who suffer from GAD is that many of these symptoms can occur as a sudden onset and without any obvious or evident trigger.

Causes

Despite worldwide neurological research the exact cause of GAD is as yet unknown. However, neurologists and mental healthcare professionals suggest that possible causes may include:

Being involved in a major stressful incident at some point in your life – the memory of this may be repressed in the subconscious for years, but is uprooted in certain circumstances and by certain triggers. That is not to say, however, that once this repressed experience surfaces and manifests itself in anxiety, the exact incident is suddenly brought to light and can be precisely described or analysed.

Imbalance of chemicals in the brain – when the ‘normal’ levels of neurotransmitters in the brain (e.g., serotonin and norepinephrine) are upset and unbalanced, it is thought that this can impact upon mood and therefore human behaviour.

Some people may have a genetic predisposition to having GAD. That is, the condition is already in the family and may have been passed down.

Note: Your anxiety disorder could also be a combination of these possible causes.

Diagnosis

If you feel you may be suffering from GAD make an appointment with your GP. Although anxiety attacks can be extremely upsetting, try to explain your symptoms as best you can – your GP will be familiar with the disorder and will be experienced in asking you relevant questions in order to make an accurate diagnosis (questions such as: how often your symptoms occur, in what situations, and how you feel when experiencing an anxiety attack.). They will also ask you about your medical history and your mental health history.

After diagnosis your GP will then offer you the most appropriate advice and treatment for your individual situation.

Treatment

Although there is no actual cure for anxiety disorder, there is treatment available which is intended to at least help ease the severity of symptoms. These include:

Psychological therapy (e.g., Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or ‘CBT’)

Self-help techniques (e.g., creative visualisation and relaxation techniques), and

Medication (e.g., anti-depressants, antihistamines and sedatives, all of which are formulated to help ease your symptoms by making you feel more relaxed overall, due to them being developed and combined so that they have a calming effect on your brain)

If these treatments prove unsuccessful, your GP may refer you to a mental health specialist.

How Chemist Online can help

Through this website we have a range of over-the-counter remedies available to buy which can help ease the associated symptoms of anxiety disorder, such as headache.

www.chemistonline.co.uk

Advice & Support
Anxiety Care
Tel: 020 8478 3400
Website: www.anxietycare.org.uk

NO PANIC (National Organisation for Phobias, Anxiety, Neuroses, Information & Care)
Tel: 0808 808 0545
Website: http://nopanic.org.uk

This information and advice is not intended to replace the advice of your GP or chemist. Chemist Online is also not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based upon the content of the Chemist Online website. Chemist Online is also not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites.

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