Anxiety is a natural feeling which is evolutionarily necessary; it is usually associated with a new, unforeseen, or threatening situation, and it increases when the importance for the body increases. For example, when a person is going to have a complex operation. Anxiety is abnormal and pathological only when it becomes incredibly intense and unpleasant for a person, makes them suffer, and violates the quality of life. Anxiety disorder often becomes chronic, and without treatment, a person only gets worse. Due to sleep disorders, they do not get enough sleep and lose productivity. Their professional status is declining: they change their job to a low-paid ones or even quit. In this case, one of the types of anxiety disorders can be talked about. The effects of anxiety disorders in a person involve more than just feelings of stress or fear; it can significantly affect their health and also interfere with their activities of daily living.
Causes and Effects of Anxiety Disorders
The Different Causes of Anxiety Disorders
To date, there is no clear understanding of how anxiety disorders arise. This pathology can develop under the influence of various mental and bodily factors. Anxiety can respond to external stimuli with various somatic diseases, brain injuries, and endocrine disorders. Sometimes an anxiety disorder can occur as a side effect of an underlying endocrine disease that causes hyperactivity of the nervous system (Poole, 2018). Such conditions include pheochromocytoma (a hormone-active tumor of the cerebral layer) and hyperthyroidism (hyperthyroidism).
Medications, Narcotic and Psychotropic Drugs Intake
Anxiety states can be caused by taking certain medications and psychotropic drugs. It can also be caused by alcohol abuse; even moderate sustained alcohol consumption can increase anxiety levels in some people. Dependence on caffeine, alcohol, and benzodiazepines can worsen or cause anxiety and panic attacks. Anxiety usually occurs during the acute withdrawal phase of alcohol (complete withdrawal or reduction of the dose of alcohol after prolonged use). It can persist for up to two years, as part of the post-acute withdrawal syndrome, in about a quarter of people recovering from alcoholism. Taking caffeine can cause or worsen anxiety disorders, including panic disorders. In some classifications, an anxiety disorder caused by caffeine is considered a substance/drug disorder (Balinson, 2018). However, this subtype should not be classified as a disorder associated with addictive substances. The use of cannabis is associated with anxiety disorders, but this relationship still needs a more severe evidence base.
Scientific Theories of the Occurrence of Anxiety Pathologies
Several theories explain the causes of anxiety pathologies; from the point of view of psychoanalysis, pathological anxiety indicates that a person has a forbidden or unacceptable need. On a subconscious level, there is a prevention of actions that have an aggressive or intimate coloring. This leads to the development of anxiety disorders, and anxiety, in this case, displaces or restrains this unacceptable need (Kahn et al., 2021). The behavioral theory describes anxiety as a reflex response to painful or frightening stimuli. In the future, anxiety can occur in the absence of these factors. Cognitive psychology draws attention to mental images that precede the onset and increase of anxiety symptoms. As a rule, the thoughts of a sick person are twisted and irrational. The biological theory believes that pathological anxiety results from a malfunction of metabolic processes in the brain. It was noted that a sharp increase in the production of neurotransmitters leads to an increase in the level of anxiety. The risk of developing pathological anxiety largely depends on the characteristics of a person’s character and temperament.
The Effects of Anxiety Disorders On a Person’s Health
The symptoms inherent in an anxiety disorder are also inherent in depression, so they can later lead to it. For example, anxiety can cause a person to stop engaging in any activity or stop active social interaction; with depression, a person also behaves similarly. This happens because these things cause panic; symptoms such as loss of interest in activities and apathy may appear. People who experience anxiety are often diagnosed with one of these depressive states. In many cases, these conditions are observed as simultaneous.
Complaints about sleep-related problems are typical for patients with all diseases included in the group of anxiety disorders. There are objective reasons for the development of sleep disorders within the framework of anxiety disorders. Anxiety is manifested by increased cortical activation, which entails difficulty falling asleep and maintaining sleep. In the patient, it is possible to identify changes characteristic of insomnia: increased time to fall asleep, frequent awakenings, decreased sleep efficiency, and a decrease in its total duration (Yoon et al., 2020). Sleep paralysis, typical of narcolepsy, can also occur with anxiety disorders. It is a motor paralysis that occurs when falling asleep or waking up. Patients experience fear, a feeling of compression in the chest, and other bodily manifestations of anxiety. These symptoms occur in the vast majority of patients with anxiety disorders.
Digestive System Diseases
The idea of psychosomatization of various diseases of the digestive organs first arose in the XIX century (Tyler et al., 2006). Patients with anxiety disorders are at risk for peptic ulcer disease and non-ulcerative dyspepsia. They also develop gastroesophageal reflux disease, ulcerative colitis, biliary dyskinesia, and irritable bowel syndrome. With anxiety disorders, patients often have clinical symptoms of intestinal problems, such as abdominal pain, nausea, heartburn, etc. Against the background of anxiety reactions, exacerbations of chronic diseases of the digestive system most often occur.
The most common somatic symptom in patients with anxiety disorders is headaches, observed in most patients. Both tension headache and migraine are noted, which occur in forced static positions of the head and neck and increase with movement. In this regard, it should be pointed out that muscle tension is one of the critical manifestations of anxiety disorders, acting as a risk factor for painful spasms. In the case of chronic tension headache, the scalp hurts – the skin and subcutaneous formations of the head (aponeurosis). This is due to the tension of the muscles of the head, which stretch this scalp. Such muscle tension mainly occurs in various negative emotional states, for example, an anxiety disorder.
Interference with a Person’s Activities of Daily Living
Most people get nervous several times before speaking publicly or being in front of TV cameras; even persuasion, training, and coaching cannot reduce anxiety. Often a person spends several weeks in anxious anticipation of a public event. Several months or even years may pass after the event. Still, a person with an anxiety disorder continues to worry about how they look or how the public perceives them. This condition is a form of social anxiety disorder known as social phobia.
Anxiety disorder is not always associated with speaking in public or the need to be in the spotlight. In most cases, anxiety can be triggered by ordinary, everyday situations: one-on-one communication, small parties, or meetings. In such situations, people with an anxiety disorder may feel as if everyone is looking only at them. They may blush for no reason, feel trembling, nausea, sweating, and difficulties in maintaining a conversation. This extreme shyness can prevent people from making new acquaintances, keeping friendships, moving up the career ladder, or achieving academic success.
A sophisticated and obsessive mindset known as perfectionism goes hand in hand with anxiety disorders. Such a person constantly judges themselves, and they have concerns about their possible mistakes and inconsistency with their standards. Perfectionism is particularly inherent in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which, like PTSD, has long been considered an anxiety disorder. OCD can manifest suddenly, as in the case when a woman could not leave the house even after 3 hours of applying makeup. To her, it still did not look perfect, and she had to redo everything.
In obsessive-compulsive anxiety disorder, obsessive thoughts should be accompanied by compulsive behavior. These can be mental (repeating to oneself, “Everything will be fine” without stopping) or physical (washing hands, the correct location of objects, cleaning, etc.) manifestations. Obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior become a real disorder when it becomes impossible to complete actions, so-called rituals. For example, suppose a person is used to the radio working at volume 3, and it breaks down and gets stuck at 4. In that case, this causes a full-fledged panic and the inability to distract until the situation is corrected.
A fragile, barely discernible line is drawn between the feeling of anxiety in norm and pathology. This is due to the fact that the sense of fear is a natural protective reaction of the body to external stimuli. Social, economic, demographic, and environmental problems lead to an increase in negative trends in personality formation; among them, anxiety disorders occupy a special place. Anxiety affects all spheres of life, noticeably worsening his well-being, relationships in the family, and society, reducing work productivity. It is quite natural to worry about current problems. However, constant anxiety worsens the quality of life and requires treatment.
Balinson, A. (2018). Depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders. National Highlights Inc. Web.
Kahn, J. P., & Nardi, A. E. (2021). Anxiety disorders and systems biology research: A challenging brave new world. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, 43(4), 130-139. Web.
Poole, H. W. (2018). Symptoms and treatments of anxiety disorders. National Highlights Inc. Web.
Tyler, P., & Baldwin, D. (2006). Generalised anxiety disorder. Lancet, 368(9553), 2156-2166. Web.
Yoon, S., & Kim, Y. K. (2020). The role of the oxytocin system in anxiety disorders. Anxiety Disorders, 15(5), 103-120.