If at times you feel a bit of anxiety, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have an anxiety disorder. Feeling anxious is normal and can help you keep alert in case of danger or in preparation for a big event, such as a weeding or graduation. Anxiety can be hurtful only if it becomes overwhelming and prevents you from coping with life or if it disables you in such a way that you fear to go outside, are unable to do your job, or even live with unrelenting unexplainable fear.
Anxiety disorders are chronic and can get worse if they are not treated. Children and adolescents, as well as adult can develop anxiety disorders. As a group, anxiety disorders “are the most common mental illness in America. More than 19 million American adults are affected by these debilitating illnesses each year.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: is one of the most common anxiety disorders among older adults. People with GAD tend to expect the worst even if there is no reason to. This excessive worry can last at least six months. Some symptoms of GAD are: irritability, trembling, insomnia, abdominal upsets, dizziness, and muscular aches.
Panic Disorder: is unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear or attacks of panic that strike often-along with physical and mental symptoms. Physical and mental symptoms include: chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, dizziness, a fear of dying, a fear of loosing control or abdominal distress.
Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder) is the most common in the United States. People with social phobia have an intense and chronic fear of being watched, judged, embarrassed or humiliated in public situations. Heart palpitations, faintness, blushing and profuse sweating are some of the symptoms for this disorder.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): is obsessive, repeated thoughts or behaviors that seem impossible to control or stop. Someone with OCD may repeatedly wash hands, repeat phrases-to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsession.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): doesn’t just affect veterans as once believed. It can affect anyone who has experienced or witnessed “a traumatic event such as rape or other criminal assault, war, child abuse, natural or human-caused disasters, or crashes. Nightmares, flashbacks, numbing of emotions, depression, and feeling angry, irritable or distracted and being easily startled are common. Family members of victims can also develop this disorder.
Anxiety can be treated either with medication and/or variations of psychotherapy. There are also self-help groups that people with anxiety disorders can join. Brain chemistry, personality, stress, traumatic experience, genetics, family history and life events can all factor in the causes of anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders can also co-exist with other mental or physical illnesses such as: depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, cancer, and heart disease. The co-illnesses will usually have to be treated too. Recently some medications (SSRIs), approved for treating depression, have been found to effectively treat anxiety disorders too.