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What is Anxiety?
Everyone feels anxious and stressed at times due to certain situations like academic stress, meeting deadlines, important social situations, family or relationship stress, or driving in heavy traffic. Such mild anxiety is normal and helps keep us more alert and focused when facing challenging or even threatening circumstances. Yet, when fear and anxiety become overwhelming, this can reduce an individual's productivity and cause extreme distress.
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Signs & Symptoms
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, with 40 million of the adult population affected (roughly 19% of all American adults). "Anxiety disorders" is a broad term that encompasses several psychiatric disorders.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Recurrent, excessive fears or worries about everyday issues, often with a persistent sense that something bad is about to happen.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Avoidance of everyday social situations due to extreme fear of being judged negatively by others, or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or ridicule.
Sudden, intense feelings of terror and dread for no apparent reason, shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, trembling, dizziness, and fear that one is having a heart attack or going crazy. People with panic disorder often fear where and when their next panic attack will occur and restrict their activities as a result.
Intense fear of an object, place, or situation, such as riding in elevators, driving on highways, or heights, that leads to an avoidance of the object, situation, or place. People with specific phobias usually recognize that their fear is irrational and inappropriate for the circumstance.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Several months or even years after severe physical or emotional trauma (natural disaster, serious accident or crime) an individual may relive the event, experience mood disturbance, or have difficulty sleeping.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Characterized by persistent, uncontrollable, and unwarranted feelings or thoughts (obsessions) or rituals or behaviors (compulsions) in which individuals try to prevent or rid themselves of these distressing thoughts or feelings. Examples of common compulsions includes excessive hand washing or checking behaviors.
Anxiety disorders are real, serious and, if left untreated, can have severe consequences. Most cases of anxiety disorder can be treated successfully. According to research, both behavioral therapy (such as relaxation techniques) and cognitive therapy (understanding how thoughts contribute to anxiety symptoms and how to change thought patterns) can be highly effective treatments.
Along with psychotherapy, anti-depressant medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI's like Prozac, Paxil and Lexapro), and anti-anxiety medications (like Ativan and Klonopin) are also effective when used on an as needed basis and monitored closely by a prescribing physician or psychiatrist.