Anxiety is a common feeling of nervousness, worry, or unease in human experience. Under certain circumstances, it can heighten a person’s alertness and readiness in the face of challenges. And fear is a strong mental tension to specific items or events. It doesn’t occur normally, but it can be overwhelming and interfere with daily activities.
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental
disorders characterized by significant feelings of anxiety and fear. Anxiety is
considered a disorder when it:
- Occurs at inappropriate times
- Occurs frequently
- Is so intense and long-lasting that it interferes with a person’s normal activities
Being more common than any other category of psychological disorders, anxiety disorders afflict nearly nine percent of Americans during any six-month period and affect about 15% of adults as a total in the United States.
Significant anxiety can persist for years and begin to feel normal to the person with anxiety. For this and other reasons, anxiety disorders are often not diagnosed or treated.
Anxiety disorders include five types:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
With chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and
tension even without any external stimulus.
- Panic disorder
With unexpected and repeated episodes of
intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders
With recurrent, unwanted thoughts
(obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions) to perform certain kind of “rituals”.
- Post-traumatic anxiety disorder
With an exposure to terrifying events,
including violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents,
or military combat.
- Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder)
With overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.
Doctors haven’t fully figured out the
causes of anxiety disorders, but the following ones may involve:
- Brain changes
There may exist faulty circuits in the
brain that control fear and other emotions.
Generalized anxiety disorder is six times more common in children who have family members living with this condition.
Environmental issues such as the breakup of
a significant relationship, highly stressful living environment or exposure to
a life-threatening disaster can bring about anxiety disorders.
It is not uncommon for people with anxiety
disorders to have the following symptoms:
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Having repeated heartbeat
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Sweating and trembling
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the
- Having trouble sleeping
If your anxiety is related to your physical
health, your primary care provider may:
- Give you a psychological evaluation
- Compare your symptoms to the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)
If your anxiety is so severe that your normal life is interfered, a mental health specialist and other mental health professionals can:
- Diagnose and treat your mental health conditions
- Provide counseling (psychotherapy)
Treatment varies from one anxiety disorder
to another, so it may take some trial and error to discover which treatments
work best for you.
Psychotherapy involves working with a
therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. It can be an effective treatment for
anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective form focusing
on our reactions to the event.
- Complementary health approaches
Some of the most common approaches for treating anxiety include self-management strategies, stress and relaxation techniques, yoga and aerobic exercise.
Keywords: anxiety disorder; mental illness.