What is an Anxiety Disorder

What is an Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety disorder is a prolonged exaggerated state of fear or alertness which is not triggered by a real threat. It can lead to avoidance behavior in which you choose to avoid people, places or circumstances that you feel threatened by. The difference between normal anxiety and anxiety disorder is that normal anxiety disappears as soon as the trigger or threat is gone, while anxiety disorder remains even after the threat has passed. Anxiety disorders can be divided into six main categories based on how severe their symptoms are and how long the symptoms last.

  1. Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD
  2. Panic disorder with or without agoraphobia
  3. Phobias
  4. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  5. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  6. Separation anxiety disorder (in children)

What is an Anxiety DisorderThe most commonly seen anxiety disorders are general anxiety disorder and panic disorder. It is believed that your genes, your thinking patterns and the physiological functioning of your body can lead to the development of anxiety disorders. There are however multiple treatment options which is considered to be very successful.

You will need to see a doctor in order to determine whether you suffer from normal anxiety or an anxiety disorder. If you experience three or more of the following symptoms on most days of the week for a period of 6 months or longer you are suffering from generalized anxiety disorder or GAD:

  • Feeling on edge and overly restless
  • Fatigue
  • Struggling to concentrate
  • Feeling irritable
  • Muscle tension
  • Abnormal sleeping patterns

Many people will experience a panic attack at least once in their lives. If you feel an intense fear and you experience any four of the following symptoms you are suffering a panic attack:

  • A pounding heart
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Feeling out of breath
  • Choking or feeling like you are suffocating
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Feeling disconnected or unreal
  • Numbness
  • Hot flashes or cold chills
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • A fear of dying
  • A fear of losing control or going insane

Having one panic attack in response to a stressful situation does not mean that you suffer from panic disorder. If you experience two panic attacks close to each other and you fear another panic attack for at least a month after the last attack you may suffer from panic disorder.

Regardless of the type of anxiety disorder that you may suffer from treatment is available and many people have been cured permanently of anxiety. The most popular and very effective treatment option is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT, a type of psychotherapy, which can help you to deal better with stressful situations. This is an important skill to learn since it is not possible to avoid stress for the rest of your life.

Other self help techniques which could be attempted together with CBT to further help you beat anxiety are relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises or yoga. There is a  treatment option out there or at least a combination of treatment options which will help you overcome anxiety and lead a full life.

References:

Simon, Harvey; Zieve, David.  “Anxiety Disorders”. University of Maryland Medical Center. 2009. Umm.edu. (November 15, 2012) http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/what_anxiety_disorders_000028_1.htm

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