What is an anxiety disorder?
Most people experience feelings of anxiety before an important event such
as a big exam, business presentation, speaking in public, or a first date.
Anxiety disorders, however, are a group of mental illnesses that cause people
to feel excessively frightened, distressed, or uneasy during situations in
which most other people would not experience these same feelings. Anxiety
disorders can further cause low self-esteem, lead to substance abuse, and
isolation from one’s friends and family.
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in America;
Anxiety disorders include panic disorders, agoraphobia, social and other
specific phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder,
acute stress disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
What things put a person at higher risk of experiencing an anxiety disorder?
People are more likely to have an anxiety disorder if their parents have
anxiety disorders, but it has not been shown whether biology or environment
plays the greater role in the development of these disorders. Some anxiety
disorders have a very clear genetic link (e.g., OCD). Some anxiety disorders
can also be caused by medical illnesses. Parents and friends should be aware that
a traumatic event may be causing their loved one to become more nervous or to
have other symptoms of anxiety disorders.
Can anxiety disorder be treated? How?
Treatments are extremely effective and often combine medication or specific
types of psychotherapy.
More medications are available than ever before to effectively treat
anxiety disorders. If one medication is not effective, others can be tried.
The most effective form of psychotherapy used to treat anxiety disorders is
cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches patients to
understand their thinking patterns so they can react differently to the
situations that cause them anxiety.
The importance of having a good diet and getting enough sleep are known to
decrease symptoms in people with anxiety disorders.
does anxiety progress?
usual course of anxiety disorder waxes and wanes; some individuals may have
repeat episodes of anxiety with years in between, and others may have
continuous severe symptoms. Left untreated,
these disorders can dramatically reduce productivity and significantly diminish
an individual's quality of life.
people with anxiety disorders get better?
In general, the outlook is good. With appropriate treatment, about
50% of patients improve within 3 weeks of starting treatment, and 77% improve
within 9 months. (Harvard Health
Publications, Harvard Medical School)
· National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov
· Anxiety Screening Quiz. Use this quiz to help you determine
if you might need to see a mental health professional for diagnosis
and treatment of an anxiety or panic disorder: http://psychcentral.com/quizzes/anxiety.htm
· Another screening tool from the Anxiety and Depression Society of America: http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/ask-and-learn/screenings/screening-generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad
· The United States National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) mission is to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and alternative medicine interventions and their roles in improving health and health care. They do that by advancing the science and practice of symptom management; developing effective, practical, personalized strategies for promoting health and well-being; and enabling better evidence-based decision making regarding CAM use and its integration into health care and health promotion. Information available there about complementary and alternative treatments for anxiety, for example, can be found at http://nccam.nih.gov/health/anxiety.