Anxiety is a classification of mood disorder characterized by feelings of intense worry or fear that cannot be easily overcome and interferes with a patient’s day to day activities, relationships, and responsibilities. While everyone experiences a certain level of anxiety or stress from time to time, anxiety disorder causes much longer lasting feelings, often unrelated to a specific event, although some patients do experience heightened anxious feelings about certain situations. Anxiety disorder can be broken down into three types: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social phobia.
While non-clinical people may use the terms panic and anxiety disorders interchangeably, from a clinical perspective, anxiety and panic are characterized by different symptoms and behaviors in the DSM-IV. During a panic attack, the patient experiences sudden and intense feelings of fear for a short period of time, usually around 10-20 minutes. Panic attacks often occur seemingly out of nowhere and may leave the patient feeling stressed or unwell for the rest of the day. Panic attacks are diagnosed when at least 4 of the following symptoms are experienced:
Anxiety, on the other hand, intensifies over a period of time and is related to excessive worry about a perceived threat or danger. The symptoms are similar to panic attacks, although in a general anxiety disorder the patient experiences less intense symptoms over a longer period of time. Patients may experience anxiety that lasts for months.
Dr. van Riel uses a customized combination of talk therapy and medication to treat anxiety and panic disorders. The precise treatment depends on the needs of the patient, the severity of the disorder, and how he or she is responding to therapy or medication. Many patients benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches them to recognize their feelings and respond to them in a healthier way. Mindfulness may also be helpful as it promotes focusing on the current moment instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
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