Anxiety- common symptom, many causes

Anxiety is one of the hallmark symptoms associated with almost every psychiatric condition.

It is probably the most common mental health concern that exists and most of us will experience anxiety at some point in our lives - whether as part of a disorder or as a normal reaction to life's stresses.

Aside from feelings of worry and apprehension, anxiety often causes disrupted sleep patterns, fatigue, jumpiness and physical symptoms such as headaches, diarrhea and a knotted stomach.

In appropriate circumstances, anxiety is a normal and necessary part of life. It is the body's way of preparing and protecting us in dangerous situations. Our nervous system goes on the alert and kicks us into high gear.

Unfortunately, when anxiety persists outside of life and death situations, it can be a nuisance and can even cause disruption and disability in our daily functioning.

As a symptom, anxiety can occur as the primary problem, as with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and agoraphobia.

However, it can also occur as an accompanying and related symptom or co-existing disorder with other mental health conditions. For example, anxiety often accompanies depression. When a depressed individual also experiences panic attacks, it indicates an increased risk of bipolar disorder.

Further, anxiety disorders with depression are associated with increased severity, increased risk for suicide and poorer treatment outcomes.

In one follow-up study of suicide in depression, panic attacks were present in more than 60 per cent of patients who completed suicide within one year.

Generalized anxiety disorder occurs in more than a quarter of all bipolar disorder patients and 10 per cent of patients with major depression. Also, social anxiety disorder occurs in 30 per cent of patients with either bipolar disorder or depression.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder co-exists in 10 per cent of patients with bipolar disorder and five per cent of depressed individuals.

As mentioned above, having a co-existing anxiety disorder can often complicate treatment or remission for other conditions and is just one more thing that health care providers need to account for. For example, it takes longer for a person with bipolar disorder to go into remission if that person also has an anxiety disorder.

Clearly, anxiety is a big problem in psychiatry and for the general population. More research needs to be done to continue finding better and more effective ways to deal with anxiety in all its forms.

At Okanagan Clinical Trials we currently have a number of studies underway examining various anxiety disorders. We have several looking at generalized anxiety disorder and one starting up that is examining social anxiety disorder (which I will discuss in more detail in an upcoming column).

If you are an adult who suffers from chronic anxiety, contact our office to learn whether you meet the criteria for one of our studies.

As with all mental health conditions, it is important to be proactive in getting the help you need to get back to enjoying life.


Current Studies

 Alzheimer's Disease 


 Parkinson's Disease





 Interested in participating? Call us for more information!