Frequently asked questions about Anxiety Disorders

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Where do I start if I want help?

If you think you may have an anxiety problem, talk to your family doctor (or pediatrician, in the case of children or adolescents aged under 15 years). They will be able to assess what kind of help you need. In some cases, the family doctor or pediatrician will directly offer you guidelines or treatment options. If your doctor decides that specialized help is required, they will refer you to your corresponding psychiatric and clinical psychology service.

If I have an anxiety disorder, will my children have it too?

No. There is a family component in the development of some anxiety disorders, but this does not necessarily imply that the children of a person with an anxiety disorder will also have this disorder, because several factors can explain the origin of these disorders.

Can these disorders come from a trauma?

There are several factors that can explain the appearance of these disorders. A ‘trauma’, understood as a traumatic situation which exposes a person to situations that endanger their life or integrity, may increase their risk of having an anxiety disorder. However, most people who have experienced a trauma do NOT develop an anxiety disorder, and many people who have an anxiety disorder have not experienced any traumas. Traumas are one of the factors, among many, that increase the risk of having an anxiety disorder, but experiencing a trauma does not necessarily mean that the person will also suffer an anxiety disorder.

Does everyone who has an anxiety disorder have the same symptoms?

No. Although some disorders necessarily share a series of symptoms, every person presents a different profile of symptoms. For example, one person may have much more intense symptoms than another, or may have several symptoms and could even suffer from more than one anxiety disorder, such as a panic disorder and a generalized anxiety disorder.

Which is better, psychological or pharmacological treatment?

As a rule, it is usually recommended that people with anxiety disorders receive psychological treatment (Cognitive-behavioral therapy) first.

The professional providing healthcare will help the patient to make the best decision for them, considering different factors such as the availability of professionals trained in psychological treatments or the previous experiences the person with the anxiety disorder has had with other treatments.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of cognitive behavioral therapy?

CBT involves practicing skills every day or almost every day. In other words, without practice, there is no CBT. Very often, and in the case of most anxiety disorders, the therapist helps the person to face their fears. At first, this may be difficult, but it is the best way for patients to overcome their fears.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of pharmacological treatment?

An advantage of this treatment is that the person will ‘only’ have to take a pill, that is, they will not have to be so involved in practicing tasks. However, in some cases, these medications can produce some unwanted side effects. The patient should talk to their health professional if this happens.

Are there other pharmacological treatments for anxiety disorders?

In scientific studies, the treatments that achieved the best results were antidepressant drugs, which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

If these antidepressants do not have the desired effect in a patient, the healthcare professional treating them will assess whether the patient can benefit from other drugs, usually another type of antidepressant. As mentioned above, another family of drugs called benzodiazepines may also be recommended for a very short time.

Will I have to be permanently medicated?

When the treatment is pharmacological, in most cases, the treatments must be maintained continuously for at least a few months. If the professional healthcare provider sees an improvement in your symptoms, they will evaluate whether the prescribed treatment can be progressively withdrawn and, when doing so, will check if the symptomatic improvements are maintained. However, there are cases in which the symptoms are not properly resolved and so the treatment will have to be maintained for a longer time.

Are any other psychological therapies recommended for anxiety disorders?

There are many psychological treatments, which aim to treat anxiety disorders. However, the psychological intervention that has achieved the best results for anxiety disorders in scientific studies is CBT.

What is the prognosis of anxiety disorders?

If the person with an anxiety disorder does not get proper treatment, their symptoms may not ever go away. However, it is important to note that with proper treatment, most people with anxiety disorders do considerably improve.

Can cured patients suffer from anxiety again?

The symptoms of anxiety can return in some people who have had an anxiety disorder in the past. An important part of the final stage of CBT treatment is that it is designed to make ‘relapses’ less likely and to help patients recognize when they should seek help again.

How long does it take for patients to feel better after starting a treatment?

Both psychological and pharmacological treatments will probably require at least a few weeks before any improvements will be noticeable. As the treatment progresses, the healthcare professional attending the case will evaluate its evolution. If no improvements are seen, the treatments can be changed (for example, by increasing the frequency of psychological treatments or by increasing the dose of pharmacological treatments).

Substantiated information by:

Eduard Forcadell López
Luisa Lázaro García
Miquel Àngel Fullana Rivas
Sara Lera Miguel

Published: 29 January 2019
Updated: 29 January 2019

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