What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a state of apprehension or uneasiness. It is a natural and normal emotion that every one of us experiences. We can feel anxiety across different contexts in our lives, in both good and bad situations. The “butterflies” you feel in anticipation of seeing a loved one or starting a new job can be positive forms of tension. Distress and anguish before taking an important test or about making a life-changing decision are commonly experienced feelings.

What is an Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety disorders differ from these typical experiences. Normal feelings of anxiety can sometimes intensify and become overwhelming. Excessive feelings of fear and worry can interfere in everyday life and impair functionality. This may indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder. Common types of anxiety disorders include Panic Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Currently, there are many excellent treatments available for anxiety.

Who can get Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders comprise some of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders. They affect almost 40 million adults in any given year in the United States alone. That translates to about 18% of the American adult population, 23% of which are considered “severe” cases. Almost 19 million (about 25%) children and adolescents between the ages of 13-18 will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.

Statistics reveal that women are 60% more likely to experience an anxiety disorder over their lifetime than men. People between the ages of 30-44 experience the highest incidence of anxiety disorders, followed closely by the brackets of 45-59 and 18-29.

Anxiety and Other Disorders

Anxiety disorders commonly coincide with other mental and physical disorders, such as depression or alcohol and substance abuse. These co-occurring conditions can often disguise symptoms of anxiety and may need to be treated prior to treating anxiety.

What are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

Millions of people suffer daily from anxiety disorders and their often debilitating symptoms. Symptoms of anxiety are commonly felt in the body as physical tension. Intense feelings of worry and fear can escalate into panic attacks. These symptoms of anxiety are often unpleasant and can be severe, mirroring physical sensations to that of a heart attack. Each anxiety disorder has its own specific set of symptoms.

List of symptoms of anxiety:

  • Extreme worry about normal everyday things and events
  • Difficulty controlling or handling worry/anxiety
  • Acknowledging that the worry is excessive
  • Difficulty relaxing, restlessness, feeling “on edge”
  • Constant feelings of fatigue
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Being easily startled
  • Muscle tension
  • Disturbances in falling or staying asleep
  • Headaches, stomach aches, muscle aches, chronic or unexplained pain
  • Shortness of breath, throat constriction, feeling light-headed, dizziness, excessive perspiration

Treatment for Anxiety

There are many modalities for the treatment of anxiety, including medication, psychotherapy, and mindfulness that offer promising and long-lasting results. Many people learn to effectively cope with their extreme feelings of anxiety and are able to lead more fulfilling lives. If you feel like you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms of anxiety, please talk to your primary care physician or a mental health professional for more details.

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