What is an anxiety disorder?

Anxiety disorders are disorders that involve feelings of extreme worry and fear. Anxiety disorders are more than temporary anxiety brought about due stressors; they are constant fear and worry that may progress and worsen over time. The cause of these disorders are unknown; however, they may be caused by a combination of changes in the brain, environmental stress, family history and genetics. There are several types of anxiety disorders including generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder and various phobia-related disorders.

  • Generalised anxiety disorder – is the overwhelming feeling of worry, fear and tension for little or no reason. When feelings of anxiety occur most days for at least six months related to issues of personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday routine life circumstances, a generalised anxiety disorder may be diagnosed.
  • Social anxiety disorder – the feeling of fear, worry and self-consciousness brought about in everyday social situations and the fixation on the idea that others are judging you may lead to an aversion of social situations completely. Agoraphobia is another related disorder in which individuals have an intense fear of open or enclosed spaces, crowds, public transport or being away from home by themselves. Many individuals who suffer from this disorder begin to withdrawal from social situations in which these fears may be encountered and isolate themselves at home. These types of anxiety disorders may be very isolating but can be treated.
  • Panic disorder – excessive and overwhelming feelings of terror that strike, bringing about physical panic attacks is known as panic disorder. Panic attacks can occur unexpectedly or can be brought on by a trigger, such as a feared object or situation and may cause physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, sweating, shaking and feelings that you are dying.
  • Specific phobias – phobias of specific objects or situations that may bring intense fear or aversion. These phobias cause fear that may be out of proportion to the level of danger. These may include phobias of flying, heights, specific animals like snakes, spiders or dogs, receiving injections or the sight of blood.

Although everyone experiences fears, anxiety and worry at some point, anxiety that overwhelms and interferes with daily tasks, social situations and relationships requires treatment from a medical professional such as Dr Mhlane.


How do I know I have an anxiety disorder?

The symptoms of each specific type of anxiety disorder may differ; however, the following symptoms are common amongst such disorders:

  • Panic, fear and worry
  • Problems with sleep
  • Cold, sweaty, numb or tingling hands
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tense muscles
  • Dizziness

How can Dr Tsepiso Mhlane help?

Because anxiety disorders can greatly impact daily activities and quality of life, it is essential to seek help from Dr Mhlane if you or your loved one may be suffering from such a disorder. Treatment for these kinds of disorders usually includes anti-anxiety medications to reduce the symptoms of panic attacks or extreme fear. In other cases, antidepressant medications may be used to improve the way your brain controls mood or stress, by altering the chemicals in your brain. Furthermore, beta-blockers that are commonly used for high blood pressure may aid in relieving the physical symptoms of anxiety such as a rapid heartbeat, shaking and trembling. When it comes to treating anxiety disorders with medication, a patient-centred approach is required to see which are best fit for each patient.

In addition to medication, she may suggest cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to treat anxiety disorders by teaching alternative ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to the anxiety trigger. Therapy in such cases may be done by your psychiatrist herself or by a referred specialised psychologist for long-term therapy.

No matter the approach needed, Dr Mhlane prides herself in providing her patients with accurate and comprehensive treatment to enhance the quality of life and mental and emotional wellbeing of each individual that enters her doors.