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The category of anxiety disorders includes several disorders that are characterized by the continual and often debilitating emotions of apprehension, worry, and trepidation. Individuals who struggle with such emotions for a large amount of time are most likely to struggle with emotional upset and turmoil throughout their lives. While the symptoms of anxiety come from psychological distortions, a slew of physical symptoms of anxiety can become obvious to others.
The most common types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobias. Regardless of the type of anxiety disorder that an individual is diagnosed with, allowing it to remain untreated can impact their ability to carry out every day tasks. Additionally, if an individual who is battling with anxiety as well as another mental health issue like an eating disorder, the symptoms of their anxiety can become much more severe.
Those who battle with anxiety should know that anxiety disorders are treatable. Effective care is available and there are a number of helpful interventions that can allow these individuals to cope with their anxiety disorder appropriately.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of American (ADAA) states that anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions that impacts people today, with nearly 40 million people said to meet the criteria needed to diagnose at least one type of anxiety disorder.
Among people who struggle with eating disorders, nearly 67% of these individuals also battle with a form of anxiety disorder. In addition, researchers have found that more than 40% of those who have an eating disorder have also faced anxiety prior to their bulimia, anorexia, or binge-eating disorder symptoms.
Causes and risk factors for anxiety
To fully understand why and how an individual develops an anxiety disorder, it is important to consider genetics and one’s environment. Below are some explanations for the many causes and risk factors linked to anxiety:
Genetic: There is an exceptional amount of research that shows there is a link between genetics and the development of anxiety disorders. For instance, if an individual has a biological parent or other close relative with anxiety disorders, there is a strong chance that they will also suffer with similar issues.
Environmental: If an individual does not have a genetic tie to an anxiety disorder, their environment can serve as an influence in the development of symptoms of this mental health condition. For example, if an individual is going through tremendous stress, anxiety can develop. In addition, factors such as being exposed to trauma, violence, or other upsetting experiences can trigger the onset of anxiety symptoms. If any of the environmental influences occur and the individual is not able to properly cope and/or does not have a healthy support system, the chances that they will meet the diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorders heightens significantly.
- Exposure to chronic stress or violence
- Personal history of trauma
- Having subpar coping skills
- Family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions
- Low socioeconomic status
- Low socioeconomic status
Signs and symptoms of anxiety
The most common indicators that an individual is battling with an anxiety disorder can vary based on the type of anxiety disorder they are experiencing. While some symptoms might not be obvious to on-lookers, below are some of the many behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms that might occur and become obvious to an afflicted individual’s friends or loved ones:
- Avoiding certain people, places, or situations
- Procrastinating tasks
- Exaggerated startle response
- No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed
- Repetitive or ritualistic behaviors
- Frequent urination as a result of ongoing trepidation or apprehensiveness
- Inability to sleep soundly
- Appetite changes
- Headaches or migraines
- High blood pressure
- Muscle tension
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Fleeting ideas
- Memory impairment
- Inability to make decisions
- Lack of sound judgment
- Poor concentration
- Racing thoughts
- Ongoing nervousness
- Feeling as if one’s body or environment is not real
- Feelings of shame
- Drastic shifts in mood
Effects of anxiety
Allowing symptoms of anxiety disorders to persist in one’s life can bring on a string of adverse effects if treatment is not obtained. If an individual is also battling with an eating disorder at the same time, the short-term and long-term effects can be highly destructive. The following are many examples of what can occur when an individual continues to battle anxiety:
- 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
- Social isolation
- Demise of meaningful relationships
- Development of an addiction to substances if drugs and/or alcohol are used as methods for coping with distress
- Onset of self-harming behaviors
- Inability to perform well at work, which could lead to job loss and subsequent financial difficulties
Anxiety and co-occurring disorders
When an individual is faced with an anxiety disorder, it is not uncommon for that individual to also struggle with additional mental health issues simultaneously. Eating disorders tend to co-occur alongside anxiety disorders and require specific treatment approaches for an individual to truly defeat the mental upset that comes with both of these conditions. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder symptoms can grow worse when an anxiety disorder is present and vice versa. In addition to eating disorders, the below listed mental health conditions are highly commonly among those who are also battling with an anxiety disorder:
- Body dysmorphic disorder
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
- Substance use disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Other anxiety disorders
- Depressive disorders