All of us feel anxious at times. Normal anxiety can help us to mobilize our resources. However, you may be one of those individuals who feels anxious most of the time, often without any reason. Or you may have anxiety so intense that it terrifies or immobilizes you. Anxiety disorders are the most common of all the mental problems.
If you have an unusual amount of anxiety, this normally helpful emotion can keep you from coping and can disrupt your daily life. Excess anxiety and anxiety disorders are often related to the biological makeup and to life experiences of the individual. People often misunderstand these problems/disorders and think they should be able to overcome the symptoms by sheer willpower. This is often not possible, but there are a wide variety of treatments that can help.
There are a number of anxiety disorders. Technically, "anxiety disorders" are those defined in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) by the American Psychiatric Association. It is the standard classification of mental problems/disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States.
Kinds of Anxiety
If you have anxiety to the degree that it disrupts your life you are far from alone. The majority of my clients report anxiety issues. While there are a number of anxiety disorders, each with its own distinct features, the common factor in all of them is the anguish caused by anxiety.
Anxiety is chronic and exaggerated worry and tension. It may be caused by a specific situation or problem (such as Agoraphobia and Social Phobia) or the anxiety may have no apparent cause. Having an anxiety disorder means that most of the time you are worrying and anticipating problems.
Anxiety is often accompanied by a variety of physical symptoms such as trembling, twitching, muscle tension, fatigue, headaches, irritability, sweating, feeling lightheaded, nausea, feeling like a lump is stuck in your throat, and difficulty concentrating. Feelings of worry, dread, lack of confidence, lack of energy, depression, a loss of interest in life, and sleep problems are common. The symptoms appear to worsen during periods of stress, even the common stresses of everyday life often aggravate anxiety.
In one form of anxiety, call a Panic Attack, you may experience sudden, unpredictable, and often unaccountable feelings of terror so extreme that you can not breathe, think you are going "out of your mind ", or feel like you are about to die or lose complete control.
Another type of anxiety, call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the result of having experienced a traumatic life experience such as having been in an accident, experienced physical or sexual abuse, lived through events such as a earthquake or hurricane, etc. As a result of this trauma, the person suffers future anxiety and panic over the traumatic event and may also have flashbacks.
Treatment of Anxiety Problems
You do not need to accept the disruption and pain that anxiety causes. For the vast majority of people who come in for therapy, treatment has been shown to be very effective in reducing and eliminating anxiety and its side effect.
Anxiety can be treated with therapy, coaching, and medication. Many persons have demonstrated improvement with counseling techniques such as behavioral therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and desensitization. Most patients with mild symptoms can be treated with supportive counseling and education without need for medication.
Other therapies including relaxation training and medication have been found to be of benefit as have regular exercise and avoidance of caffeine and alcohol.
For more information about anxiety and specific anxiety disorders and other mental health problems, please click on the linked websites listed below.
|National Mental Health Association|
|NIMH: Facts about anxiety disorders|
|National Institute of Mental Health's anxiety menu|
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Major Anxiety Disorders
In case you want more technical information about the Major Anxiety Disorders, I have listed them below:
1) Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is much more than the normal anxiety people experience day to day. It is chronic and exaggerated worry and tension, even though nothing seems to provoke it. Having this disorder means always anticipating
disaster, often worrying excessively about health, money, family, or work. Sometimes, though, the source of the worry is hard to pinpoint. Simply the thought of getting through the day provokes anxiety. The source of the worry may be hard to pinpoint.
People with GAD can't seem to let go of their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. Physical symptoms that often accompany GAD include trembling, twitching, and muscle tension, difficulty
sleeping and/or un-refreshing sleep, headaches, feeling edgy, irritable or keyed up, sweating or hot flashes, feeling lightheaded or out of breath, nausea or a need to go to the bathroom frequently, the sensation of a lump in the throat, fatigue, and
Excessive anxiety and GAD may be caused by both biological and psychological factors. The symptoms appear to worsen during periods of stress. Although some studies have reported that GAD runs in families, others have not found this connection. GAD usually does not cause people to avoid situations but it is the thinking, dwelling, ruminating, and inability to shut the mind off that so incapacitates the person. At times, all thoughts seem almost non-existent because the anxious feelings are so dominant. Feelings of worry, dread, worthlessness, lack of energy, depression,and a loss of interest in life are common. Many times there is no cause for these feelings and the person realizes these feelings are irrational. Nevertheless, the feelings are very real.
The normal stresses of everyday life often aggravate generalized anxiety. The person who typically performs well at work and receives a sense of accomplishment from it suddenly feels that work has become drudgery. If work is perceived as a negative environment, and the person no longer feels fulfilled, then considerable additional anxiety and worry takes place. The same process can also happen with the person's home life, marital and sex life, and social life.
2) Panic Disorder
A person with a panic disorder has feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. They cannot predict when an attack will occur, and many develop intense anxiety between episodes, worrying when and where the next attack will strike. In a panic attack the person may feel their heart pounding, they may feel sweaty, weak, faint, dizzy, feel flushed or chilled, they may feel nauseous, feel like they can't breathe, that they are having a heart attack, are going “crazy”, or feel like they are about to die or lose control.
Agoraphobia is the abnormal fear of expecting or experiencing a difficult or embarrassing situation from which the sufferer cannot find an escape. The word is an English adoption of the Greek words agora and phobos, literally translated in modern Greek as "a fear of the marketplace". This translation is the reason of the common misconception that agoraphobia is a fear of open spaces. This is most often not the case since people suffering from agoraphobia usually are not afraid of the open spaces themselves, but of public spaces or of situations where a person is afraid of having a panic attack and will not be able to receive help. As the panic attacks occur more frequently, the person begins to fear going anywhere outside of their security zone. Thus, it is common for the person with agoraphobia to avoid travel and stay close to home.
4. Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia
Social phobia is a persistent fear of one or more situations in which the person is exposed to possible scrutiny by others and fears that he or she may do something or act in a way that will be humiliating or embarrassing. People with social phobia are nervous, anxious, and afraid about many social situations. This persistent and irrational fear of situations in which the person feels they may be closely watched and judged by others, as in public speaking, eating, or using public facilities, includes most any type of social interaction, especially small groups, dating, parties, talking to strangers, and restaurants.
5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the result of a person having experienced a traumatic life experience. As a result of this trauma, the person suffers future anxiety and panic over the traumatic event. For example, severe wartime experiences not only elicit on-gong and future anxiety and stress, but they may induce future flashbacks and panic attacks. Other post-traumatic conditions include rape or other sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and living through negative natural events, such as a devastating earthquake or hurricane.