Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health disorders where people experience excessive worry, fear, or nervousness. These feelings are so intense that they make “normal” functioning difficult. Here is some basic information about these disorders.

Symptoms:

Because there are different types of anxiety disorders, symptoms can vary. However, the most common symptoms include:

  • Intense worry
  • Sleep challenges
  • Stomach/digestion issues
  • Heart palpitations
  • Difficulty concentrating and panic attacks.

Types of Anxiety Disorders:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): intense and persistent worry about a range of everyday problems
  • Panic disorder: recurrent panic attacks and fear of future panic attacks
  • Social anxiety disorder: characterized by excessive fear or anxiety in social situations
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors
  • Specific phobias: irrational fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation

Causes:

Anxiety disorders can be caused by genes, biology, life experiences, and some medications. A person is at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder if they experience the following:

  • Childhood trauma, trauma, and highly stressful life events (e.g. abuse, loss, heartbreak, disaster)
  • Family history/Genetics (runs in the family)
  • Chronic illness
  • Substance abuse
  • Longterm stress
  • Side effects of some medications

Treatment:

Treatment includes one or a combination of:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Medication
  • Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation
  • Lifestyle changes such as exercise and a healthy diet

African Context

Many Africans with anxiety disorders seek medical attention because of the physical symptoms they experience. For example, panic attacks can mimic heart attacks. Also, stomach and digestion issues will likely send you to a medical doctor before your thoughts take you to a mental health professional. Another issue is when we use “spiritual” explanations for the fear and worry we experience that we cannot explain. It is important to be mindful of some of these things so we seek the right assistance for anxiety disorders. So, if you or anyone you know is or may be struggling with an anxiety disorder or any other mental health challenge, you can reach out to a professional here

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