The defining characteristic of anxiety are the continual and debilitating feelings of worry, trepidation, and apprehension. Individuals who struggle with these emotions for a long period of time are more likely to go through serious emotional upset throughout their lives. While the symptoms of anxiety tend to develop from psychological distortions, there can be a myriad of physical signs of anxiety that can be seen by others.
When an individual looks to obtain treatment for an anxiety disorder, he or she will often be struggling with a generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, or social anxiety disorder. An individual’s treatment provider can also work to determine if a specific phobia is present in the individual. Regardless of the type of anxiety disorder with which one is battling, any symptoms of anxiety that go untreated can cause an individual to struggle to complete even the smallest tasks. Additionally, if that same individual is also battling with a co-occurring mental health condition, such as an eating disorder, symptoms of anxiety can become even more damaging.
Those who are struggling with anxiety should know that anxiety can respond extremely well to effective treatment. Care for this condition does exist, and there are a number of appropriate methods of treatment that can help individuals of all ages put an end to their crippling symptoms of anxiety, and begin living a life that is balanced and fulfilling.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions that impacts people today. People of all ages can be impacted by anxiety, and roughly 40 million people are said to meet the criteria required to be diagnosed with at least one anxiety disorder.
Nearly 67% of those individuals who are dealing with eating disorders also grapple with an anxiety disorder. Additionally, research has shown that more than 40% of those who have eating disorders have struggled with anxiety prior to the development of their anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder symptoms.
Causes and Risk Factors for Anxiety Disorders
In order to fully understand why one develops an anxiety disorder, an individual must look at genetics and environment. The information below provides explanations for the causes and risk factors for anxiety that are research-based and show why some people battle with this type of mental health condition while others do not:
Genetic: There is a great deal of research that shows a connection between one’s genetics and one’s likelihood for developing an anxiety disorder. For instance, if an individual has a parent or sibling who has battled with symptoms of anxiety, he or she is more likely to also face similar struggles.
Environmental: Even if an individual does not have a genetic tie to anxiety, specific environmental influences can bring on the onset of symptoms. For example, if an individual is going through tremendous pressure or stress, anxiety can develop. Additionally, an individual who is exposed to violence, trauma, or other experiences of the sort can start noticing symptoms of anxiety. If any of the previously stated environmental influences occur and an individual does not have strong coping skills or a solid support system, he or she will be more likely to meet criteria needed to diagnose an anxiety disorder.
- Having subpar coping skills
- Family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions
- Personal history of trauma
- Lacking an adequate support network
- Low socioeconomic status
- Exposure to chronic stress or violence
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
The telltale signs that someone is struggling with an anxiety disorder can vary based on the type of anxiety disorder that he or she is experiencing. Some symptoms might not be visible to others; however, below are some of the most common cognitive, behavioral, physical, and psychosocial symptoms that one might experience when facing an anxiety disorder:
- No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed
- Exaggerated startle response
- Avoiding certain people, places, or situations
- Procrastinating tasks
- Repetitive or ritualistic behaviors
- Difficulty breathing
- Frequent urination as a result of ongoing trepidation or apprehensiveness
- Inability to sleep soundly
- Appetite changes
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Headaches or migraines
- Muscle tension
- Fleeting ideas
- Inability to make decisions
- Lack of sound judgment
- Memory impairment
- Poor concentration
- Racing thoughts
- Drastic shifts in mood
- Feelings of shame
- Ongoing nervousness
- Feeling as if one’s body or environment is not real
Effects of Anxiety Disorders
Allowing symptoms of anxiety to persist can cause an individual to suffer a number of consequences within his or her life. If an individual is also grappling with an untreated eating disorder at the same time as an untreated anxiety disorder, the short-term and long-term effects can be devastating. Some of the many effects that can develop in the face of untreated anxiety can include:
- Onset of suicidal ideation, which could lead to attempts at suicide
- Worsening of symptoms of current mental health condition(s) or onset of additional mental illness symptoms
- Inability to perform well at work, which could lead to job loss and subsequent financial difficulties
- Development of an addiction to substances if drugs and/or alcohol are used as methods for coping with distress
- Social isolation
- Demise of meaningful relationships
- Onset of self-harming behaviors
When an individual is battling with an anxiety disorder, it is likely for that individual to also struggle with another mental health illness at the same time. Eating disorders in particular often exist alongside anxiety disorders, and require specific care for an individual to defeat the psychological upset that comes with having both of these illnesses. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder symptoms can become worse when anxiety is present, and vice versa. In addition to eating disorders, other mental health conditions that can also co-occur with anxiety include:
- Body dysmorphic disorder
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
- Other anxiety disorders
- Depressive disorders
- Substance use disorders
- Bipolar disorder