What is Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are serious medical illnesses that affect approximately 19 million American adults. These disorders fill people's lives with overwhelming anxiety and fear. Unlike the relatively mild, brief anxiety caused by a stressful event such as a business presentation or a first date, anxiety disorders are chronic and can grow progressively worse if not treated. The 'fight and flight' response is a natural response to danger in humans and in animals. When activated, hormones are released through the body to enable us to either fight the dangerous situation or to run from it. The effects of the fight and flight response include an increase in our heart rate to pump blood faster to the brain, lungs, and muscles. We can begin to breathe quickly to increase our oxygen levels, our muscles tense, and we can begin to perspire. Many of us don't realize the way we think when we have an anxiety disorder turns the 'fight and flight' response on.

Types of Anxiety

Panic Disorder
Repeated episodes of intense fear that strike often and without warning. Physical symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal distress, feelings of unreality, and fear of dying.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Repeated, unwanted thoughts or compulsive behaviors that seem impossible to stop or control.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Persistent symptoms that occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event such as rape, assault, war, child abuse, natural or human-caused disasters, or crashes. Nightmares, flashbacks, numbing of emotions, depression, and being easily startled are common.

Two major types of phobias are social phobias and specific phobia. People with social phobia have an overwhelming and disabling fear of embarrassment, or humiliation in social situations. People with specific phobia experience extreme, disabling, and irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Constant, exaggerated worrisome thoughts and tension about everyday life events and activities. Almost always anticipating the worse even though there is little reason to expect it.

Recovery is Possible
Effective treatments for anxiety disorders are available. Improved therapies can help most people with anxiety disorders to lead productive, fulfilling lives.