By: Nikhil Jaisinghani

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders include disorders that share features of excessive fear and anxiety and related behavioral disturbances. Fear is the emotional response to real or perceived imminent threat, whereas anxiety is anticipation of future threat. Obviously, these two states overlap, but they also differ, with fear more often associated with surges of autonomic arousal necessary for fight or flight, thoughts of immediate danger, and escape behaviors, and anxiety more often associated with muscle tension and vigilance in preparation for future danger and cautious or avoidant behaviors. Sometimes the level of fear or anxiety is reduced by pervasive avoidance behaviors. Panic attacks feature prominently within the anxiety disorders as a particular type of fear response. Panic attacks are not limited to anxiety disorders but rather can be seen in other mental disorders as well.

This short but detailed definition of anxiety comes from the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM-5, the tool used by mental health professionals to diagnose their clients. As it says, people suffering from anxiety disorders experience severely heightened levels of fear and anxiety. This affects their ability to interact with the people and world around them, as they are often trying to deal with the effects of being in a state of nervous arousal, including the fight-or-flight response, which limits their capacity to respond to the reality of things around them.

There are many different types of stress disorders, each of which can vary in cause, “trigger”, and intensity, such as panic disorders, OCD, agoraphobia (the fear of being in public), up to and including PTSD. Overall, anxiety disorders affect nearly 30% of American adults throughout their lives, and among these, social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is the most common. It also has an early onset. Nearly half of all individuals who will develop it already do so by age 11, while 80% of all potential sufferers will have developed it by age 20. But the problems don’t just stop there. Social anxiety can also increase one’s risk of developing depressive and substance abuse disorders. Agoraphobia (and specific phobias) shows a similar average onset age to social anxiety while separation anxiety can set in as early as age 6, on average.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

There are several types of anxiety disorders. Here are just a few of the more common ones with some of their symptoms, according to the NIMH – the National Institute for Mental Health.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  • Being continuously anxious, sometimes for months on end
  • Restlessness or feeling wound-up or on edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Having difficulty concentrating or having their minds go blank
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty controlling the worry
  • Sleep problems (difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless, unsatisfying sleep)

Panic Disorders

  • Sudden and unexpected recurrent panic attacks- sudden feelings of extreme fear
  • May include: “palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate; sweating; trembling or shaking; sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking; and feeling of impending doom.”
  • Fear of or avoiding places where previous attacks have happened

Social Anxiety Disorder

  • Fear of performance or social situations
  • Expectations of embarrassment, judgement, and rejection
  • Can have:
    • Difficulty being around and talking to other people
    • Extreme feelings of self-consciousness
    • Difficulty making friends
    • Feelings of nausea or illness around others

All in all, anxiety is a very common problem which affects many Americans and other people around the world these days. If you feel like anxiety is making your life difficult, head over to our contact page and give us a phone call or send us an email and we can help get you started on the road to remission!

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