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What are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety—persistent worry or fear—is a recognizable emotion and a common part of life. Sometimes, though, anxiety becomes excessive or all-consuming, and out of proportion to the situation at hand. When your anxiety is intense enough to interfere with your daily life, it may indicate an underlying anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions that can feel scary and isolating, but if you’re suffering from one, you’re not alone. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions, with nearly 30% of American adults experiencing one at some point in their lives.
If you think you have an anxiety disorder, the first step is getting a clinical diagnosis from a qualified mental healthcare professional like a psychiatrist. These conditions are treatable, and you don’t have to face them alone. There are many treatment options available to help you manage your symptoms and get back to living your life.
Anxiety vs. worry
Worry is a part of life. “Worry” that describes a temporary, short-term state brought on by an outside trigger—say, a looming work deadline or a conflict with a friend—is a common experience. There’s no denying that worry can disrupt your life: being unable to sleep the night before a job interview or being too nervous to eat before a date are common, unpleasant experiences.
If you have an anxiety disorder, however, the level of worry—even fear—that you feel is often out of proportion to the situation at hand. Sometimes, there may not even be a clear outside trigger to explain your anxiety—maybe a normal everyday situation causes excessive worry, or maybe you feel worried all the time, with no identifiable reason.
The symptoms of an anxiety disorder:
  • Interfere with your daily life and overall well-being
  • Are difficult or impossible to control
  • May last a long time
  • Are out of proportion to the situation at hand, or have no identifiable trigger
If this sounds like you, it’s important to know that an anxiety disorder is a diagnosable medical condition. That means it’s not your fault, and there are professionals and tools that can help you manage anxiety and dramatically improve your quality of life.
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Types of anxiety disorders

There are many types of anxiety disorders, each with its own symptoms and/or triggers:
  • Generalized anxiety disorder is a condition where you feel excessive or persistent worry nearly every day, often about ordinary, routine things. The worry is out of proportion to the actual situation, may feel impossible to control, and interferes with your ability to get things done.
  • Social anxiety disorder, which used to be called social phobia, is a condition where you feel excessive anxiety and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. You may avoid social situations entirely out of a fear of being embarrassed, judged, or viewed negatively by others.
  • Panic disorder causes repeated attacks of extreme anxiety and terror, known as panic attacks, which tend to peak within minutes but can last up to 20 minutes or for hours. They usually involve feelings of impending doom, heart palpitations, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Panic attacks may be triggered by a specific event or they may start randomly.
  • Separation anxiety disorder is a condition where you feel excessive worry or fear about being separated from the person or people you’re closest to. You may feel great distress that these people will be hurt or not come back to you when you are apart. This condition often starts in childhood, but can persist through adulthood.
  • Specific phobias are excessive fears about a specific object, situation, or activity that’s generally not harmful. These phobias may even cause panic attacks. Common phobias include flying, blood, injections, specific animals or insects, or public speaking.
  • Agoraphobia is a condition where you avoid situations or places where you might feel trapped, or where escape might be impossible or embarrassing. People with agoraphobia may have extreme aversions to public transportation, open spaces, enclosed spaces, crowds, or being outside of the home.
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What are the symptoms of anxiety?

The symptoms of anxiety are both mental and physical. Some of the most common symptoms include:
  • Feelings of nervousness or restlessness
  • A sense of impending danger or doom
  • Trouble focusing on anything but your worry or fear
  • Being unable to control your worry
  • Rapid or increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing or hyperventilation
  • Sweating and shaking
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nausea or stomach problems
  • Muscle tension
  • Fatigue
Depending on your specific type of anxiety, you may experience different combinations of these symptoms. For example, a sense of doom, shortness of breath, and increased heart rate are common symptoms of panic disorder, while trouble sleeping and restlessness are common symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
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What causes anxiety?

The exact causes of anxiety disorders are not fully understood. Scientists have concluded that genetics may play a part. Having a parent or blood relative with an anxiety disorder makes you more likely to have one yourself.
Sometimes anxiety can be caused by other medical conditions. For example, anxiety can be a symptom of thyroid problems, respiratory problems, or drug withdrawal. It can also be a side effect of certain medications. If you don’t have any blood relatives with anxiety, and your anxiety appeared suddenly, without any previous history, it’s possible your anxiety has a medical cause. In this case, it’s a good idea to see your primary care doctor for an evaluation to rule out an underlying medical condition.
Additional risk factors for anxiety include:
  • Experiencing trauma, especially in childhood
  • Stressful events, like the loss of a loved one or a serious illness
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Having other mental health conditions
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How does Talkiatry treat anxiety?

The first step in treating anxiety is getting a proper anxiety disorder diagnosis from a qualified mental health professional, like a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, many people with anxiety disorders don’t take this critical first step. They don’t realize that they have a medical condition for which many treatment options exist.
With Talkiatry, you can see a psychiatrist from the comfort of your home and you can schedule your first appointment in a matter of days.
Here’s what to expect in your first visit:
Evaluation: During your first visit with a Talkiatry psychiatrist, you’ll meet with your psychiatrist and answer questions about your current symptoms, personal history, medical history, and mental health goals. It's also a chance to ask any questions you have. Your psychiatrist will listen to what you're going through and make sure that virtual care at Talkiatry is the best fit for you.
Diagnosis: Based on the information you’ve shared, your psychiatrist will be able to provide a diagnosis of your condition, if you have one. Getting a diagnosis can feel scary, but it can also feel validating to finally put a name to what you've been experiencing. Your psychiatrist will help you navigate any emotions that come up and work with you on a path to move forward.
Treatment plan: You’ll collaborate with your psychiatrist on the best way to manage your symptoms. If medication is appropriate, you’ll discuss your options, including the benefits and potential side effects of each medication. Your psychiatrist will provide supportive therapy throughout your session, and may also recommend working with one of our therapists. Our therapists partner with our psychiatrists to provide collaborative care.
To get started, take our free online assessment, to see if Talkiatry is right for you and get matched with a psychiatrist.  
Medication management
Depending on your symptoms and needs, your psychiatrist may recommend medication as part of your anxiety treatment plan. Remember, an anxiety disorder is like any other medical condition: it requires treatment to manage symptoms. You cannot “will away” your symptoms; it’s not only a matter of self-discipline.
There’s a variety of medications that have been shown to be very effective at managing the symptoms of anxiety. These include:
  • Antidepressants, including SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). These work by boosting the availability of certain chemical messengers in the brain. SSRIs affect serotonin levels, and SNRIs affect serotonin and norepinephrine levels. Balancing the levels of these chemicals can have a positive effect on mood and reduce feelings of anxiety. It may take a few weeks to see the full effects of these medications.
  • Anti-anxiety medications, including benzodiazepines. This type of medication may be recommended if you have an acute anxiety disorder, like panic disorder. Benzodiazepines enhances the level of GABA, a chemical in the brain that helps you feel calm. These medications work very fast to decrease your panic, anxiety, and worry and are most effective for short-term use.
  • Beta blockers, a type of medication typically used to treat high blood pressure. Beta blockers block the action of certain hormones like adrenaline, which is responsible for many of the unpleasant physical symptoms of anxiety, like rapid heartbeat, shaking, and trembling.
Not all of these medications will be appropriate for everyone with anxiety. Some people may require just one medication, while others may manage their symptoms best with two complementary medications. If you don’t respond to one medication, it’s possible you’ll respond to another, which is why it’s important to work with a provider, like a psychiatrist, who can tailor your treatment to your specific needs.
Your psychiatrist may recommend supportive therapy in addition to medication to help manage your anxiety. Typically offered by a therapist, talk therapy can be an important tool to help you understand and overcome your anxiety. In the course of your treatment, your therapist may also introduce specific, structured approaches that have been proven to help manage the symptoms of anxiety:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based therapy technique that’s been shown to successfully help treat anxiety symptoms. CBT teaches you to recognize thought patterns or behaviors that lead to feelings of anxiety, and then develop new ways of thinking that will minimize these feelings.
Exposure therapy is a type of CBT that has also been shown to be helpful in treating anxiety. Exposure therapy gradually helps you engage with activities or triggers that you may have been avoiding, while in a safe environment. This encourages you to face your fears and build confidence around your triggers.
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How to get started

If you think you might have an anxiety disorder, Talkiatry can help. The best way to start is to take our free assessment, and see if Talkiatry is the right fit for you. Based on your needs, you’ll be matched with one of our expert psychiatrists and you’ll be ready to schedule your first appointment in just a few days.
In patients with anxiety, a treatment plan at Talkiatry may look like this:
Expect to hear a bit about your psychiatrist’s background and availability, and then to share exactly what brought you in. You may be asked about your medical history, day-to-day life, and goals and expectations for treatment. If you’re nervous about a particular element of treatment—say, taking anti-anxiety medications—we want to hear about that, too. Your Talkiatry psychiatrist knows that the best treatment plan is the one you’ll stick to, so they’ll work with you to make sure Talkiatry is the best fit for you and come up with a plan you're comfortable with.
Tip #3
Receive your personalized treatment plan, which may include a combination of medication and supportive therapy.
Tip #4
Continuous care will include adjusting your anxiety treatment plan as needed.
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About Talkiatry

Talkiatry is a national psychiatry practice that provides in-network, virtual care. Co-founded by a patient and a triple-board-certified psychiatrist, Talkiatry has over 300 doctors, 100 insurance partners, and first visits available in days. We treat patients with a range of mental health conditions, including anxiety. Get started with a short online assessment.
The information in this article is for educational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.
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