What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion. It’s typically experienced as tension, worry, and physical effects such as rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, trembling, sweating, dizziness and stomach upset. Anxiety is not fear. How can you tell the difference? Fear is an emotion you have in response to a real threat— like something you see, right here, right now. Anxiety is a “free-floating” feeling similar to fear but it is in response to thoughts about a potential future event. It’s the difference between having a gun pointed at you (fear) and thinking, “what if someone walks in here with a gun?” (anxiety). Everyone experiences anxiety on occasion. It is part of being human because we have a brain and the ability to use language which allows us to think about things that have not yet happened. Normal anxiety becomes an “anxiety disorder” when it prevents us from living the life we want. In this way, anxiety disorders can become disabling.
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. There are a number of different types of anxiety disorders including:
- Panic Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
as well as specific phobias such as social, confined places, germs, heights, and flying…read more
Statistics compiled by the The National Institute of Mental Health show that approximately 40 million American adults ages 18 and older have an anxiety disorder. That’s about 18% or every 1 in 5 adults for any given year. It’s highly likely that you or someone close to you is suffering from this debilitating disorder. Also, anxiety disorders frequently co-occur with depressive disorders and/or substance abuse and most people with one anxiety disorder also have another anxiety disorder. Nearly three-quarters of those with an anxiety disorder will have their first episode by the age of 21.
Anxiety disorders are typically treated with specific types of psychotherapy and/or medication. The treatment choice depends on the problem and the person’s preference. Before treatment begins, a practitioner must conduct a careful diagnostic evaluation to determine whether a person’s symptoms are caused by an anxiety disorder or a physical problem. If an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, the type of disorder or the combination of disorders that are present must be identified, as well as any coexisting conditions, such as depression or substance abuse. Sometimes alcoholism, depression, or other coexisting conditions have such a strong effect on the individual… read more