Anxiety is a response to danger or threat. It is a natural state that can, in moderate degree and frequency, be a productive driving force. For millions of people, however, anxieties and fears are overwhelming and persistent, often drastically interfering with daily life. These people may be suffering from anxiety disorders, a widespread group of psychological disorders that can be terrifying and crippling. Fortunately, anxiety disorders are treatable and the vast majority of people with an anxiety disorder can be helped with the right professional care. The conditions classified as anxiety disorders include (but are not limited to) Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Specific Phobia, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Panic Disorder is characterized by a cluster of physical and cognitive symptoms including panic attacks (a sudden rush of intense fear or anxiety), and anxiety/worry about the panic attacks or interference in a person’s life caused by the panic attacks. During these attacks, symptoms such as shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, choking or smothering sensations, and fear of “going crazy” or losing control are present.
Agoraphobia is anxiety about, or avoidance of, places or situations where a person expects panic attacks or panic-like symptoms to occur, especially if it seems that escape might be difficult or help may not be available. Typical situations include being alone outside the home or being home alone, being in a crowd of people, traveling in a car, bus, or airplane, or being on a bridge or in an elevator. Some people are able to enter these situations but endure them with considerable distress.
Specific Phobia is characterized by significant anxiety provoked by exposure to a specific feared object or situation, often leading to avoidance behavior to a degree that interferes with the person’s life. Some examples include fears of heights, snakes, spiders, and closed-in situations. Typically, people with specific phobias recognize that their fear is excessive or unreasonable.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by significant anxiety in social or performance situations, often leading to avoidance behavior. A person may have an intense fear of a single circumstance, such as public speaking, but be perfectly comfortable in all other social settings. Others may become anxious about a variety of social situations in which they might be judged by others.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) refers to chronic and excessive worry about many different areas, such as finances, health, and the well being of others. Typical symptoms include difficulty controlling the tendency to worry, muscle tension, fatigue, irritability, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, and poor concentration. GAD is characterized by at least six months of persistent and excessive anxiety and worry.