Anxiety - Symptom Evaluation

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Anxiety is a state of mind where the person experiences feelings of fear, uneasiness, tension or apprehension in response to an unfamiliar stressful situation and loses control on emotions. Other symptoms include excessive worry, restlessness, irritability, unsteadiness, and inability to concentrate and think rationally. The patient may also report physical symptoms like increased muscle tension, sweating, increased heart rate, chest pain, sleep disturbances, stomach upset, headache, and fatigue. Excessive anxiety may lead to depression and panic attacks.

Some amount of anxiety is normal and helps in efficient functioning. Normal state of anxiety becomes a disease, which the symptoms interfere with day-to-day life and activities of the patient. The degree of anxiety is measured using Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale.

Anxiety disorders are clinically recognized as:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): This is a state characterized by excessive anxiety and constant worry, in the absence of any clear reason for the same. Symptoms include restlessness, fatigue, impaired concentration, irritability, increased muscle tension and sleep disturbance. Excessive anxiety may lead the person to suicide.

Panic Disorder: Panic disorder is characterized by sudden attacks of overwhelming fear associated with marked symptoms, such as sweating, palpitations, trembling, chest pain, loss of control on emotions, numbness, and shortness of breath, sometimes along with the fear of dying.

Phobias: Phobia is anxiety associated with strong fears towards a specific object or stressful situations. Phobias can be of various types and include social anxiety disorder (social interactions) or specific phobia to objects and situations like sight of blood, heights, flying, animals, water, etc. Phobias can cause emotional distress, depression and can even lead to suicide.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: In post traumatic stress disorder, the patient has been previously exposed to a traumatic situation and feels anxiety with recall of those experiences. The patient may experience intense fear, helplessness, flash back episodes, illusions, hallucinations, dreams and psychological distress.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Patients with obsessive compulsive disorder develop irrational anxiety, e.g. fear of contamination, safety, perception etc. Symptoms, patient history, physical and mental status examination help to diagnose this condition.


Anxiety may develop more easily in a person genetically prone to this condition. These patients have certain personality traits, as described above, that make them susceptible to anxiety. Besides, several external factors could also contribute to anxiety. A diagnosis of these conditions could help to control anxiety in these patients. These include:

Stress: Stress is a common cause of anxiety in all age groups. Stress could be due to a job; a child may experience stress at school. Family issues like financial problems, and unhappiness in marital and other family relationships also result in anxiety disorders. Anxiety is also a consequence of natural disasters, bereavement, trauma, abuse and abduction. Patients who have been previously exposed to a stressful situation are likely to be anxious and may suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder.

Disease Conditions: Patients who suffer from chronic diseases may experience anxiety; these conditions include heart diseases, respiratory diseases and kidney diseases where the patients lose control over urination, anemia, and mental health disorders like depression, Parkinsonís disease and Alzheimerís disease. Anxiety in these conditions is often due the inability to perform normal functions and discomfort associated with the illness.

Hormonal Effects: Hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy, menstrual cycle, and puberty/adolescence can contribute to anxiety. Also, some hormonal diseases like thyroid problems, diabetes, hypopituitarism and use of birth control pills are associated with anxiety.

Medication and Alcohol: Steroids and certain other medications can cause anxiety. For example, methyldopa used to treat blood pressure stimulates dopamine production and may cause anxiety. Others drugs associated with anxiety include anti-asthmatic drugs, decongestants, amphetamines, oral contraceptives and antidepressants. Alcohol and drug abuse with drugs like cocaine are also associated with anxiety.

Food and Nutrition: Certain foods and beverages are associated with anxiety. These include caffeine, excessive salt and white sugars. Also, excess dairy products could raise adrenaline levels and exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Deficiency of magnesium, folic acid, tryptophan, vit-B12 and omega-3 fatty acids may be associated with anxiety.

Social Interaction: Certain people experience anxiety in public, especially if they have to speak or perform.Such patients avoid social interactions and may show symptoms like poor performance at work place, school academics and low self esteem. On the other hand, loneliness may result in anxiety in some patients.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Which doctor should I visit in case I suffer from anxiety?

You should visit your psychiatrist in case you suffer from anxiety. Your doctor will diagnose the cause of your anxiety based on your history, thorough physical examination and mental status examination, and various tests.

2. Why should you consider anxiety as a serious problem?

Any type of anxiety should be diagnosed as early as possible. This is because excess anxiety interferes with everyday activities and social relationships. If not treated on time, it may lead to panic attacks and other mental health disorders like depression.

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