Thursday, February 18, 2010

Introduction to Anxiety Disorders

What is the difference between "normal" anxiety and an anxiety disorder? We all face anxiety at certain times and sometimes anxiety can even help us. But if anxiety becomes disabling -- interfering with one's work or relationships, or resulting in irrational behaviors to accommodate excessive worry -- this may be a sign of a diagnosable illness.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 40 million American adults, or 18% of the adult population age 18 or older, suffer from an anxiety disorder in a given year.

The five types of anxiety disorders which are the most prevalent are:
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder
The range of symptoms is broad, and can be manifested as physical symptoms, behavioral symptoms, and psychological symptoms.

Symptoms vary by disorder, but in general may include: feelings of excessive worry, fear, or uneasiness; numbness or muscle tension; repeated thoughts; ritualistic behaviors; uncontrollable anxiety; other physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, pounding heart, dizziness.

One way to think about the symptoms of a mental illness is usually there are both some symptoms that ADD something that wasn't there, and other symptoms that TAKE AWAY.

For example, generalized anxiety may add a pounding heart, inability to sleep, and headaches - and at the same it may take away your sense of humor, enjoyment, or ability to concentrate.

This is a double-edged sword, so to speak, of many mental illnesses. It is this adding & taking away across physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms that makes mental illnesses as, or more, disabling than many physical ailments.

Check back for next week's follow-up post, including resources to help treat anxiety disorders. Treatments can include self-help techniques, cognitive-behavior therapy, medication, or a combination of these. An anxiety disorder is a treatable illness & many people have found that anxiety disorders respond well to treatment.

~ Oriana at Erasing the Distance

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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I have just removed a comment plugging a website that supposedly sells anxiety medication without prescriptions that was posted here. I want to comment on that. It is never a good idea to attempt to "self medicate" to treat any kind of disorder. The choice to use medication as a form of treatment is one that should only be made with the guidance and supervision of a doctor. There is no "one size fits all" pill out there - dosage, choice of medication, and other potential medical conditions all need to be taken into account. It is also important that a doctor be involved to monitor the effect and efficacy of a medication. Furthermore, not every person with anxiety will need medication. For some people behavioral therapy alone will be the best choice. Many people find it is a combination of treatments-not any one on its own-that works best...the only way to know what will be right for you is to talk to a mental health professional or physician. Our aim in writing these posts is to encourage you to take care of yourself, be mindful of your own emotional and physical health, and to seek appropriate treatment and support when you need it - and that means talking to people who you know you can trust, and to people trained to help.

    If you want to find treatment or support for anxiety you can visit the Anxiety Disorders Association of America ( for guidance and advice.

    -Jessica, Outreach Director