Everyone feels anxious and under stress from time to time. Situations such as meeting
tight deadlines, important social obligations or driving in heavy traffic often bring
about anxious feelings. Such mild anxiety may help make you alert and focused on
facing threatening or challenging circumstances. On the other hand, anxiety disorders
cause severe distress over a period of time and disrupt the lives of individuals
suffering from them. The frequency and intensity of anxiety involved in these
disorders is often debilitating. But fortunately, with proper and effective treatment,
people suffering from anxiety disorders can lead normal lives.
What are the major kinds of anxiety disorders?
There are several major types of anxiety disorders, each with its own characteristics.
generalized anxiety disorder have recurring fears or worries, such as about health or finances, and they often have a persistent sense that something bad is just about to happen. The reason for the intense feelings of anxiety may be difficult to identify. But the fears and worries are very real and often keep individuals from concentrating on daily tasks.
Panic disorder involves sudden, intense and unprovoked feelings of terror and dread. People who suffer from this disorder generally develop strong fears about when and where their next panic attack will occur, and they often restrict their activities as a result.
A related disorder involves phobias, or intense fears, about certain objects or situations. Specific phobias may involve things such as encountering certain animals or flying in airplanes, whereas social phobias involve fear of social settings or public places.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by persistent, uncontrollable and unwanted feelings or thoughts (obsessions) and routines or rituals in which individuals engage to try to prevent or rid themselves of these thoughts (compulsions). Examples of common compulsions include washing hands or cleaning house excessively for fear of germs, or checking over something repeatedly for errors.
Someone who suffers severe physical or emotional trauma such as from a natural disaster or serious accident or crime may experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns become seriously affected by reminders of the event, sometimes months or even years after the traumatic experience.
Symptoms such as shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, trembling and dizziness often accompany certain anxiety
disorders such as panic and generalized anxiety disorders. Although they may begin at any time, anxiety disorders
often surface in adolescence or early adulthood. There is some evidence of a genetic or family predisposition to
certain anxiety disorders.
Why is it important to seek treatment for these disorders?
If left untreated, anxiety disorders can have severe consequences. For example, some people who suffer from recurring panic attacks avoid at all costs putting themselves in a situation that they fear may trigger an attack. Such avoidance behavior may create problems by conflicting with job requirements, family obligations or other basic activities of daily living. Many people who suffer from an untreated anxiety disorder are prone to other psychological disorders, such as depression, and they have a greater tendency to abuse alcohol and other drugs. Their relationships with family members, friends and coworkers may become very strained. And their job performance may falter.