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What Are Anxiety Disorders?

 

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention.

Anxiety Disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness and involve excessive fear or anxiety.  Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental health disorders and affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives.

Anxiety Disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. The most clinically validated  is CBT Therapy. A course of 6-12 sessions of CBT Therapy helps most people lead normal and productive lives.

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Panic Disorder
Generalised Anxiety Disorder:

Generalized anxiety disorder involves persistent and excessive worry that interferes with daily activities. This ongoing worry and tension may be accompanied by physical symptoms, such as restlessness, feeling on edge or easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension or problems sleeping. Often the worries focus on everyday things such as job responsibilities, family health or minor matters such as chores, car repairs, or appointments.

Phobias, Specific Phobia:

A specific phobia is excessive and persistent fear of a specific object, situation or activity that is generally not harmful. Patients know their fear is excessive, but they can’t overcome it. These fears cause such distress that some people go to extreme lengths to avoid what they fear. Examples are fear of flying or fear of spiders.

Agoraphobia:

Agoraphobia is the fear of being in situations where escape may be difficult or embarrassing, or help might not be available in the event of panic symptoms. The fear is out of proportion to the actual situation and lasts generally six months or more and causes problems in functioning. A person with agoraphobia experiences this fear in two or more of the following situations:

  • Using public transportation
  • Being in open spaces
  • Being in enclosed places
  • Standing in line or being in a crowd
  • Being outside the home alone

The individual actively avoids the situation, requires a companion or endures with intense fear or anxiety. Untreated agoraphobia can become so serious that a person may be unable to leave the house. A person can only be diagnosed with agoraphobia if the fear is intensely upsetting, or if it significantly interferes with normal daily activities.

Social Anxiety Disorder (previously called social phobia)

A person with social anxiety disorder has significant anxiety and discomfort about being embarrassed, humiliated, rejected or looked down on in social interactions. People with this disorder will try to avoid the situation or endure it with great anxiety. Common examples are extreme fear of public speaking, meeting new people or eating/drinking in public. The fear or anxiety causes problems with daily functioning and lasts at least six months.

Health Anxiety (Hypochondriasis)

A person with Health Anxiety 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

A person with social anxiety disorder has significant anxiety and discomfort about being embarrassed, humiliated, rejected or looked down on in social interactions. People with this disorder will try to avoid the situation or endure it with great anxiety. Common examples are extreme fear of public speaking, meeting new people or eating/drinking in public. The fear or anxiety causes problems with daily functioning and lasts at least six months.

How Common Are Anxiety Disorders?

In any given year the estimated percent of U.K. adults with various anxiety disorders are:

  • 7 to 9 percent: specific phobia
  • 7 percent: social anxiety disorder
  • 2 to 3 percent: panic disorder
  • 2 percent: agoraphobia
  • 2 percent: generalized anxiety disorder
  • 1 to 2 percent: separation anxiety disorder

Women are more likely than men to experience anxiety disorders.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The first step is to see your doctor to make sure there is no physical problem causing the symptoms. If an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, a mental health professional can work with you on the best treatment. Unfortunately, many people with anxiety disorders don’t seek help. They don’t realize that they have an illness that has effective treatments.

Although each anxiety disorder has unique characteristics, most respond well to two types of treatment: psychotherapy, or “talking therapy,” and medications. These treatments can be given alone or in combination. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), a type of talking therapy, can help a person learn a different way of thinking, reacting and behaving to help feel less anxious.

Medications will not cure anxiety disorders, but can give significant relief from symptoms. The most commonly used medications are anti-anxiety medications (generally prescribed only for a short period of time) and antidepressants. Beta-blockers, used for heart conditions, are sometimes used to control physical symptoms of anxiety.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Separation Anxiety Disorder:

Risk Factors

The causes of anxiety disorders are currently unknown but likely involve a combination of factors including genetic, environmental, psychological and developmental. Anxiety disorders can run in families, suggesting that a combination of genes and environmental stresses can produce the disorders.

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