Anxiety is a serious medical condition and people with anxiety disorders should receive proper medical treatment. Anxiety can be caused by genetic factors and environmental factors, including after experiencing a traumatic injury or traumatic experience. Victims of medical malpractice, personal injury accidents, and car accidents may get treatment for their physical injuries but fail to address their mental health.
Anxiety Disorders and Treatment
Anxiety is a normal emotion but an anxiety disorder is a disproportionate reaction that may interfere with everyday life. Anxiety disorders can involve fear, apprehension, embarrassment, and nervousness that causes people to avoid anxious situations, relationships, and participate in daily activities. Anxiety disorders can also manifest in physical symptoms like sweating, shakiness, increased heart rate, hyperventilation, and dizziness.
Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness in the U.S., affecting tens of millions of people. However, less than half of the people with an anxiety disorder receive treatment. Many people never have their mental illness diagnosed.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common disorder. General anxiety is characterized by anxiety that does not focus on one situation or thing and causes persistent fear and worry, even over everyday situations. Symptoms may include difficulty sleeping, restlessness, trouble concentrating, irritability, and fatigue.
Other classifications of anxiety disorders may include:
- Panic disorder
- Specific phobias
- Social anxiety disorder
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Situational anxiety
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Panic disorders can cause panic attacks, which are sudden periods of intense fear when there is no danger. Panic attacks can come on suddenly, without warning, and may last for several minutes or more. Panic attacks and fear of panic attacks can interfere with normal daily activities.
Specific phobias involve a fear of a specific thing or situation that poses little real danger. When exposed to the specific phobia, the individual may experience trembling, shortness of breath, and increased heart rate. Examples of common phobias including flying, blood, tunnels, driving on bridges, snakes, and spiders.
Agoraphobia is a specific phobia about being in a place or situation where it may be difficult to leave, control, or find help. For some people, agoraphobia can cause panic attacks that may cause them to avoid large crowds, elevators, open spaces, public transportation, or shopping centers.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is a social phobia involving fear of social situations. Social anxiety can be caused by genetics, social influences, environmental factors, or a combination. Symptoms may include excess sweating, increased heart rate, nausea, or shaking.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation anxiety disorder involves feeling excessive anxiety when separated from a person or place. Separation anxiety is common for children but when it becomes excessive or inappropriate, it may become a disorder.
Situational anxiety can be caused by new situations that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable. Many people experience some anxiety around change but excessive anxiety, unfounded fears, or panic attacks may be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Situations that may cause anxiety can include being in crowded places, or major life changes like going away to college or having a baby.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is sometimes classified as an anxiety disorder that involves obsessions and compulsions caused by urges or distressing thoughts. An individual may know that the fears are unreasonable but still feels compelled to complete rituals or perform specific acts. Common examples of OCD include compulsive hand washing, counting things, or checking to make sure a door is locked.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that results from a traumatic experience. A traumatic event can involve one experienced or witnessed. Traumatic events may include combat, a serious accident, child abuse, or sexual assault. PTSD can involve a one-time traumatic event or long-term exposure to stressful experiences. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, anger, and depression.
Anxiety or a Normal Reaction
Many people are not sure if they have a possible anxiety disorder or if they are experiencing a normal reaction to a stressful situation. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has some comparisons for people to understand the difference between everyday anxiety and anxiety disorders.
Everyday anxiety may involve worrying about paying bills, getting a job, or other important life events. An anxiety disorder may involve constantly worrying about irrational fears that interfere with daily life. Everyday anxiety may involve sadness or difficulty sleeping after a traumatic event. An anxiety disorder may involve recurring flashbacks or nightmares months or years after the traumatic event occurred.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Symptoms of anxiety can be constant or recurring or develop in a situation that triggers anxiety. Common signs and symptoms may include:
- Feeling of impending danger or doom
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Shaking or trembling
- Difficulty concentrating or memory problems
- Difficulty sleeping
Treatment for most anxiety disorders usually involves medication and/or psychotherapy. Cognitive behavior therapy can help many people with anxiety to focus on changing cognitive distortions, behaviors, and improve emotional regulation. This may also help patients develop coping strategies for when patients recognize anxiety-inducing situations.
Medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be helpful for patients who do not respond well to therapy. SSRIs are a class of antidepressants that include Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa, Paxil, and Zoloft. As with most medications, there are possible side effects of SSRIs that can include nausea, headache, insomnia, sexual problems, or change in appetite.
Causes of Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders
The exact causes of anxiety could be related to a number of factors, including genetic and biological makeup, brain chemistry, personality, brain damage, and life events. Anxiety can be hereditary, with a higher risk of people developing anxiety disorders when their parents have anxiety disorders.
Anxiety can also be caused by traumatic events like a car accident or warfare. Traumatic events that can cause anxiety can be those suffered by the individual or witnessing a traumatic injury or death of someone else. Traumatic events include more than physical injury and violence, and can also be caused by sexual abuse. These types of events may develop into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A physical injury to the brain can also cause anxiety or other mental health conditions. The brain is a complex organ and injury to even a small part of the brain can have extreme consequences. A brain injury could damage a part of the brain that is responsible for keeping anxiety in check, allowing the brain to constantly worry about unsubstantiated fears, making it difficult to engage in everyday life.
Anxiety Disorders After an Injury or Accident
Victims of car accidents, workplace accidents, or medical malpractice can suffer emotional harm as well as physical injury. Treating mental health is as important as treating physical health. At Gilman & Bedigian, we will use our experience, knowledge, and dedication to help victims of accidents and medical injuries. Our aggressive trial lawyers have helped our clients recover millions of dollars in compensation related to injuries. Contact us online or call our law office at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.