Anxiety is a common condition and includes a varied spectrum of disorders. It includes conditions such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), Agoraphobia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and various Phobias. Somatic disorders and Hoarding can be included within this scope.
Symptoms are varied and can involve many domains including psychological, physiological, neuromuscular, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular. In assessment, we explore these symptoms, onset, timing and triggers, relationship to drugs and alcohol, avoidance rewards, and the impact on functioning and lifestyle.
The theories behind the causes are varied and include genetics, personality traits, childhood adversities, life events, cognitive and attachment theories, conditioning and habits, and neurochemical changes. Other mental illnesses, medical conditions and substances as causes or contributing factors need to be explored and treated.
Treatment focuses on education, support, lifestyle changes, problem-solving and psychotherapy (especially CBT, DBT, Mindfulness and exposure therapies). Identifying unhelpful thinking, desensitising and challenging are important tools, as are relaxation and breathing skills. Medication and EMDR can have an important role.
Many anxiety sufferers bear this in silence, but the strategies and medication can be powerful aids to improve quality of life.