Some anxiety is normal, useful and necessary: we worry about doing well on an exam, and so we study harder. We feel anxious about an important presentation, and so we set aside more time to practice. (And we stop leaning back too far on chairs.) That kind of anxiety is helpful and appropriate. But when anxious feelings barge in the door and stay there — when you feel like that all the time — you're probably dealing with an anxiety disorder. And that's when it's time to get help.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that anxiety disorders affect about 18 percent of American adults and about 13 percent of children and adolescents in a given year — making these conditions the most common of all mental health disorders. They can affect every aspect of a person's life, interfering with relationships, work, and physical health. Often, anxiety accompanies depression, eating disorders, substance abuse or dependence, or physical illness.
Perhaps because anxiety disorders are so common, people may mistakenly believe, ”I'm just wired that way — I just have to live with it.“ But that isn't true. All of the anxiety disorders can be treated.
Types of anxiety disorders
- Panic disorder
- Feelings of extreme fear and dread for no apparent reason, often with intense physical symptoms - pounding heart, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal distress.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Intrusive, repetitive thoughts and rituals performed out of a sense of urgent need.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- an occur after exposure to a terrifying event. Individuals with PTSD re-experience the event in the form of flashbacks, recurrent memories or dreams; they may become hypervigilant and experience numbing of normal emotions.
- Specific phobia
- Extreme or unreasonable fear of any number of things: for example: spiders, heights, closed spaces, flying.
- Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder)
- Fear or irrational self-consciousness in social or performance situations; intense worries about acting in a way that could be humiliating or embarrassing.
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Excessive worry about a number of ordinary life events (such as work or school) on more days than not for six months or more.
What causes anxiety disorders?
There is no known single cause of anxiety. A tendency to worry, to become anxious easily, often runs in families — either through modeled behavior or a genetic link. Stressful environments, traumatic events, or relationship distress can all be factors. As with depression, the possibility of a medical or biological cause must always be explored. And when anxiety is extreme or incapacitating, a referral to a psychiatrist for medication evaluation may be indicated. CWPA has relationships with several psychiatrists in the area.
If you are experiencing anxiety, if you're having more bad days than good ones, and every morning brings another onslaught of dread, we can help. Our therapists can work with you to sort out what needs to change, help you build on the resources and strengths you already have, and teach you new ways to cope. Peace and serenity are possible. You don't have to just live with it.
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