What are anxiety disorders?
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It helps one deal with a tense situation in the office, study harder for an exam, or keep focused on an important speech. In general, it helps one to cope. But when anxiety becomes an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it has become a disabling disorder.
Anxiety Disorders affect about 40 million American adults age 18 years and older (about 18%) in a given year, causing them to be filled with fearfulness and uncertainty. Unlike the relatively mild, brief anxiety caused by a stressful event (such as speaking in public or a first date), anxiety disorders last at least 6 months and can get worse if they are not treated. Anxiety disorders commonly occur along with other mental or physical illnesses, including alcohol or substance abuse, which may mask anxiety symptoms or make them worse. In some cases, these other illnesses need to be treated before a person will respond to treatment for the anxiety disorder.
Effective therapies for anxiety disorders are available, and research is uncovering new treatments that can help most people with anxiety disorders lead productive, fulfilling lives. If you think you have an anxiety disorder, you should seek information and treatment right away.
Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things.
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder suffer from unwanted and intrusive thoughts that they can’t seem to get out of their heads (obsessions), which compel them to repeatedly perform ritualistic behaviors and routines (compulsions) to try and ease their anxiety.
Posttraumatic stress disorder is a serious, potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist accident, war, violent personal assault (such as rape), or other life-threatening events.
Social anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. Social phobia can be limited to only one type of situation or, in its most severe form, may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people.
Panic disorder is diagnosed in people who experience spontaneous, seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and are preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack. Panic attacks occur unexpectedly, sometimes even during sleep.