Anxiety disorders are behavioral disturbances associated with excessive fear, nervousness and worry. Everyone feels anxiety sometimes. When anxiety becomes so powerful that it interferes with your daily life, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are a common mental illness.
Anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million Americans each year.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): GAD produces chronic, exaggerated worrying about everyday life. This can consume hours each day. A person with GAD may find it hard to concentrate or finish daily routine tasks. Physical symptoms of GAD include headaches, muscle tension and fatigue.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): OCD produces repeated, intrusive and unwanted thoughts that results in the feeling or need to perform rituals to reduce the intensity of the anxiety. Left untreated, the need to perform rituals and obsessions can take over a person’s life.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a potentially debilitating condition. It can occur in people who have witnessed or experienced trauma. Symptoms may include repeatedly thinking about the trauma, being constantly alert and having panic attacks.
- Panic disorder: Panic attacks characterize panic disorder. Panic attacks are sudden feelings of terror which strike without warning. Severe physical symptoms often accompany panic attacks. Symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and an upset stomach.
Treatment for anxiety disorders can be extremely effective in eliminating symptoms. Common treatment for anxiety disorders includes a combination of medication and therapy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a well-established and highly effective form of treating anxiety disorders. CBT teaches patients to become aware of their thinking patterns. By doing this, the patient learns to recognize and change unreasonable patterns of thinking and behavior.
There are many medications available to effectively treat anxiety disorders. These include anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants. It is important to talk with your doctor about the potential benefits, risks and side effects. Medication alone is not a “cure” for anxiety disorders. It simply helps control the symptoms.
Where to Start
If you or someone you know is struggling with an anxiety disorder, you can start by:
- Educating yourself about the problem and treatment.
- Keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings. Putting your thoughts on paper can help you identify triggers of your anxiety.
- Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, yoga and meditation. These techniques have helped many people improve the management of their anxiety disorders.
- Joining a support group. Find one in your area through the following sites.