Anxiety Disorders involve excessive fears (anxieties) related to a variety of experiences, circumstances and insecurities. These fears can be related to continuous or episodic symptoms.
An individual may experience one or more forms of anxiety. Anxiety Disorders are characterized by panic, avoidance, specific phobia, obsession/compulsion, trauma/stress, or as related to medical condition or substance use. Features of anxiety may include mental apprehension (a psychological fear of something), physical tension (mental unrest or state of latent hostility), various physical symptoms or disassociation.
Both biological and environmental variables can contribute to anxiety disorders.
Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by a non-specific, constant fear or worry about every day matters, without an apparent reason to worry. This form of anxiety is the most common and is more frequent in adults than children.
Panic Disorder and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia are the next two classifications. In the case of Panic Disorder, an individual experiences repeated attacks of intense fear and anxiety and is overcome by the fear future attacks and inability to control these then. Agoraphobia involves the fear of being fear of being in places where escape might be difficult, or where help might not be available. Agoraphobia usually involves fear of crowds, confined areas, bridges, or of being outside alone.
A Specific Phobia is an excessive worry or fear that is caused by the presence or thought of a specific object or situation that causes no obvious or real danger. This fear is so excessive it interferes with everyday life and functioning and usually causes the individual to avoid the object or situation entirely.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder involves recurring and often debilitating thoughts, fears or obsessions that the individual cannot control. The anxiety produced by these thoughts causes an intense urge to perform an act, ritual or routine (compulsion) in order to stop or prevent the thought. The result is a repetitive cycle that interferes with everyday activities and functioning and can consume hours of a person’s day.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder involves a heightened reaction to a traumatic event or experience characterized by intense fear, helplessness and difficulty functioning in life as one used to, including developmental delays in children. An individual experiencing PTSD typically experiences a re-living of the event, a state of heightened arousal and/or avoidance of situations or people that might remind him/her of the event.
Social Anxiety Disorder is an intense fear of social situations and what the individual will do or say while around other people. The person may be fearful of all or only certain social situations and experiences strong stress and physical symptoms when thinking of and experiencing these situations.
Diagnoses of anxiety need to be done by a mental health care provider who has been trained in specific mood and anxiety disorders. The sooner an individual begins getting help the better the chances are for treatment and alleviation of the anxiety.
There are several different anti-anxiety medications available by prescription that can be used to treat anxiety. Sometimes a health care provider may prescribe a combination with other medications, including anti-depression, stimulants or anti-psychotic medication.
In some cases hypnosis can help an individual resolve fears or phobias. Relaxation and meditation have been used to varying degrees of success in controlling some types of anxiety. The main advantages of these types of treatment vs. medication are the absence of side-effects and the possibility for long-term use without medical concern.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy has been demonstrated to be one of the most effective treatments for depression and anxiety (both independently and in conjunction with medication).
Coping with any form of mental illness is very difficult. However, with the help of a professional therapist, an individual can learn to better understand his/her anxiety, rationally evaluate fears and responses and better address symptoms when they occur. A therapist may also provide resources for educational reading, community support groups and online support. With the help of a support network and a better understanding of both the causes and effective responses to one’s fears, anxiety can be resolved for many people.