What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to
stress. It is a feeling of fear and apprehension about what’s to come. We all
feel it at times; the first day of school, going to a job interview, or giving
a speech cause most people to feel fearful and nervous. But if your feelings of
anxiety are extreme, last for longer than six months, and are interfering with
your life, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Who Gets Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety disorders can affect anyone at any age.
Anxiety disorders are the most common form of emotional disorder. (APA) Approximately 40 million American adults (18
percent of the population) are affected by an anxiety disorder in any given
If you have an anxiety disorder, you may also be
depressed. Some people with anxiety disorders abuse alcohol or other drugs in
an effort to feel better. This may provide temporary relief, but can ultimately
make the condition worse. It may be necessary to treat an alcohol or drug
problem before the anxiety can be addressed.
What Does Anxiety Feel Like?
Anxiety is hard to describe. You might feel like
you’re standing in the middle of a crumbling building with nothing but an
umbrella to protect you. Or you might feel like you’re holding onto a
merry-go-round going 65 mph and can’t do anything to slow it down. You might
feel butterflies in your stomach, or your heart might be racing. You could
experience nightmares, panic, or painful thoughts or memories that you can’t
control. You may have a general feeling of fear and worry, or you may fear a
specific place or event.
What Is the Difference Between Anxiety and an Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety is a feeling of fear you have when you must
do something stressful. It’s normal to feel anxious about moving to a new
place, starting a new job, or taking a test. Normal anxiety is unpleasant, but
it may motivate you to work harder and do a better job. Normal anxiety is a
feeling that comes and goes, but does not interfere with your everyday life.
In the case of an anxiety disorder, the feeling
of fear may be with you all the time. It is intense and sometimes debilitating.
This type of anxiety may cause you to stop doing things you enjoy. In extreme
cases, it may prevent you from entering an elevator or crossing the street or
even leaving your home. If left untreated, the anxiety will keep getting worse.
What Are the Types of Anxiety Disorders?
An anxiety disorder can take many forms,
- panic disorder: characterized by bouts of intense
fear or terror that develop quickly and unexpectedly
- phobia: excessive fear of a specific object,
situation, or activity
- social anxiety disorder: extreme fear of being
judged by others in social situations
- obsessive-compulsive disorder: recurring
irrational thoughts that lead you to perform specific, repeated behavior
- separation anxiety disorder: fear of being away
from home or loved ones
- hypochondriasis: anxiety about your health
- post-traumatic stress disorder: anxiety following
a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, war, or being the victim
of a crime
What Is the Outlook for Someone with an Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety disorders can be treated with medication,
psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. Some people who have a mild anxiety
disorder or a fear of something they can easily avoid decide to live with the
condition and to not seek treatment.
It is important to understand that anxiety
disorder is an illness and can be treated, even in severe cases. Treatment may
not result in a complete cure, but in most cases, the symptoms can be
controlled so you can live a normal life.