Worry is a normal part of life, like paying taxes or being on time to an appointment. Anxiety disorders can be thought of as intense and/or prolonged states of worry that interfere with daily life – and can take up several hours of every day.
Common anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Social Phobia and other phobias
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Anxiety disorders vary, but all create overwhelming feelings of distress and discomfort, a false sense that something threatening is happening – or about to occur. These conditions are limiting. People with anxiety disorders often avoid situations, places and social encounters with any potential to increase their anxiety. In some cases, they even choose to remain housebound because going outside increases their feelings of dread and fear.
No matter their cause, anxiety disorders trigger the brain to produce the physical symptoms of fear. This is especially true of panic disorders, which can cause sweating, trembling, chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, and a sense of impending doom.
Whether they are caused by an external trigger such as a traumatic event (PTSD), or are part of a person's biology, anxiety disorders are treatable. With psychotherapy and/or medication most people with anxiety disorders are able to overcome or manage their fears and lead full lives.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common of the anxiety disorders, and characterized by unrealistic or excessive worry and anxiety about multiple life circumstances.
Patients with panic disorder report discrete periods of intense terror and fear of impending doom, which are almost intolerable, and typically accompanied by palpitations, sweating, trembling, chest pain, and dizziness.
In obsessive-compulsive disorder intrusive, recurrent, and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images cause marked anxiety. These may be accompanied by repetitive behaviors or acts that the person feels compelled to perform in response to the obsession.
Social Phobia is a marked and persistent fear of social or performance situations where there is a chance of being evaluated, embarrassed, or humiliated. Specific phobias are excess fear caused by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation such as animals, heights, airplanes, elevators, or blood.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs after exposure to a traumatic event that is associated with intense fear or horror, and is re-experienced later.