We all get nervous or anxious from time to time when speaking in public, for example, studying for an exam, or just facing the every day stresses that life that throw at us. For some of us, however, anxiety becomes so frequent, or so forceful, that it begins to take over their lives. People with Anxiety Disorders often have a tendency to expect negative outcomes or to feel a loss of control over upcoming feared situations.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a psychological condition characterised by persistent, excessive worry. It can take a number of forms. Common to all of these forms is an anxiety so distressing, it can interfere with a person’s ability to carry out or take pleasure in day-to-day life. A person may experience more than one type of disorder. Some people may also experience depression, or have problems with alcohol or drug abuse.
The DSM-IV (Diagnostic Statistical Manual) lists seven different types of anxiety disorder which are as follows:
- Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
What are the symptoms?
A person with an anxiety disorder will feel distressed a lot of the time for no apparent reason. An episode can be so severe it is immobilising. The person might have:
- persistent, excessive or unrealistic worries (generalised anxiety disorder)
- compulsions and obsessions which they can’t control (obsessive compulsive disorder)
- intense excessive worry about social situations (social anxiety disorder)
- panic attacks (panic disorder)
- an intense, irrational fear of everyday objects and situations (phobia)
Other symptoms of such disorders may include a pounding heart; difficulty breathing; upset stomach; muscle tension; sweating or choking; feeling faint or shaky.
What causes Anxiety Disorders?
The causes are not fully understood. It is likely that a particular anxiety disorder is a result of several interacting factors and is affected by stressful life events and personality traits.
How many people develop Anxiety Disorders?
Every year, around 15% of all adult are affected by an anxiety disorder. More women (18%) than men (11%) will experience one.
How is anxiety treated?
Treatment can help people manage, reduce or even eliminate the symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. Diagnosis is generally made by a GP. Treatment can be provided by the doctor, or they may give a referral to a psychiatrist, psychologist or other suitably-qualified health professional. Psychological therapy is an effective treatment for most people affected by anxiety disorders. Medication may also be helpful for a while. With the appropriate treatment and support, most people can learn to deal with their symptoms and get on with their lives again.
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