Everyone experiences anxiety at one time or another. Feeling a bit of anxiety is very normal. Anxiety protects us and can help us cope with a worrying or perhaps dangerous situation. Anxiety is felt as a fear whose cause is difficult to pinpoint. This feeling is accompanied by physical symptoms and, at times, psychological symptoms as well.
It is natural to feel a certain level of anxiety in some circumstances, for instance, when experiencing a life-changing event such as a wedding or a divorce. It is also normal to be anxious on the eve of an exam, when going through a job interview or during a sporting event. Anxiety is therefore linked to specific events and subsides when life resumes its normal course.
However, anxiety becomes a problem if:
Such anxiousness can thus be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
The Main Types of Anxiety Disorders
The most common types of anxiety disorders are the following:
Someone with anxiety disorder can experience various physical and psychological discomforts of varying degrees that accompany their feeling of anxiety.
Here are the most common physical symptoms:
The most common psychological symptoms are the following:
Do not wait to be unable to conduct your usual activities in order to consult. If you have symptoms, you can consult certain organisations and associations working with anxiety disorders. They offer information, help and support.
However, see your family doctor or another health professional if you experience one of the following situations:
A health professional can assess whether you have anxiety disorder or another health problem with similar symptoms. To be properly assessed, it could be necessary to conduct a physical exam or to prescribe laboratory tests. You will be proposed a treatment plan that is adapted to your needs.
See the Help and Resources section to find resources available to you.
If you have suicidal thoughts and fear for your safety, or that of people around you, see the Preventing Suicide page. You will find further information on help and resources available.
Anxiety disorders are illnesses that can be treated. There are known treatments available to treat this disorder. Treatments allow people affected to regain control of their lives and daily activities. The earlier an affected person consults with a doctor, the faster he or she will recover.
In most cases, anxiety disorders are treated very effectively with psychotherapy, anti-anxiety medication, or a combination of these 2 treatments.
Experts generally recommend cognitive behavioural therapy to treat anxiety disorders. This psychotherapy aims to change the individual’s thoughts and problematic behaviour, and replaces them with thoughts and responses appropriate to reality. It helps understand the origins of the problem and to find solutions.
Other therapies are also available and are recommended according to the type of anxiety disorder to be treated.
Different medicines can be used to treat anxiety disorders, including antidepressants and anxiolytics.
Antidepressants are medicines that fight depression. In the treatment of anxiety disorders, they help reduce symptoms of anxiety and re-establish the brain’s chemical balance. They rebalance:
Anxiolytics are medicines that help reduce symptoms of anxiety. They also help reduce stress and allow you to sleep better. Examples of anxiolytics include sleeping pills, as well as tranquilisers that reduce the physical symptoms of stress.
If your doctor prescribes you medicines, it is important to take them by carefully following instructions provided.
You must also be patient in order to see results. Re-establishing chemical balance can take as much as 4 to 8 weeks.
Even if you feel better, you must continue the treatment as prescribed in order to prevent your symptoms from reappearing.
If you have uncomfortable side-effects due to the medication, discuss the issue with your doctor promptly. They will likely recommend another medicine.
People with anxiety disorders know that their behaviour is irrational and that it affects their lives. Thus, they often end up feeling inadequate and depressed.
Certain symptoms associated with anxiety disorders can also lead to depression if they are not treated rapidly. These particularly include fatigue, sleeping difficulties and headaches. Depression very frequently accompanies anxiety disorders.
People with anxiety disorders often try to control their anxiety by drinking alcohol or doing drugs. Hence, they may develop a dependency problem.
Conflicts can also occur with close relations, who do not always understand the behaviour of the person affected. These conflicts impact the life of the individual and their family.
It is not always possible to prevent anxiety disorders. However, if you have symptoms associated with anxiety disorders, you can act now. Advice on maintaining good mental health will help you change certain lifestyle habits. These changes will not heal you, but they can help you eliminate factors that worsen or maintain your condition.
Anxiety disorders do not always have a single cause. Often, it is a combination of several factors resulting in the onset of symptoms of anxiety disorders. The following are examples of these factors:
In adults, women are twice more likely than men to have an anxiety disorder.
Resources are available for help and to obtain further information about anxiety disorders:
To receive care or services, or to find a psychotherapist with whom you are comfortable, contact one of the following resources:
To find contact information for your family medicine clinic, your CISSS or your CIUSSS, go to Finding a Resource.
Last update: September 26, 2016 2:09 PM
The information on this website by no means replaces the advice of a health professional. If you have questions regarding your health, contact Info-Santé 8-1-1 or see a health professional.