Everyone feels stressed, worried and anxious at times. Our body is hardwired to respond with anxiety when we anticipate something might be dangerous or threatening. However, when anxiety begins to negatively impact one’s activities, relationships and overall well being, it is important to obtain treatment/support.
Anxiety affects people both physically and emotionally. When anxious, we might feel tense and restless, have difficulty sleeping, and feel foggy, lightheaded, and fatigued. We might be plagued by worry, fear, irritability, and anger. It might be more difficult to concentrate and remember things, and we may be more inclined to interpret things around us in a negative way.
Some people experience anxiety without an obvious cause, and sometimes anxiety occurs in response to something very specific. Often, anxiety disorders are accompanied by panic attacks, or sudden feelings of intense anxiety and terror (see panic attacks/panic disorder). Sometimes anxiety develops in response to a medical condition or new medication. Those who have a biological relative with an anxiety disorder may be more likely to develop an anxiety disorder themselves. Regardless of cause, anxiety may not go away on its own, and may get worse over time. It is best to obtain treatment early on.
Common anxiety disorders:
Generalized anxiety disorder involves feeling worried and stressed about everyday events and activities. Quite often, the things we are worried about are small and not very important. Nevertheless, this general sense of worry disrupts life on most days. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) usually starts during childhood or adolescence; most people who suffer from GAD have felt nervous or anxious for as long as they can remember.
Specific phobia is marked by extreme fear of a specific object, situation, or activity. The fear/anxiety is greater than what most others would experience in a similar situation. People with specific phobias avoid what they are afraid of in order to reduce their anxiety, so much so that it may be hard for them to engage in their everyday activities. Examples of specific phobias include animal phobias, blood and injection phobias, and situational phobias (e.g., fear of flying, driving over bridges, riding in elevators). Someone might have a specific phobia because something bad happened to them (a dog bite), because they had a panic attack in a specific situation (when driving across a bridge), or because they saw someone else who was very scared in the same situation (sitting next to a frightened individual on an airplane).
Social anxiety disorder (or social phobia): Social anxiety is more than just being shy or nervous. Those suffering from social anxiety disorder are extremely anxious about what they might say or do in front of other people, and feel very concerned about being judged or viewed negatively by others. They feel nervous, sad or easily upset before or during a social event, from casual social experiences to formal public speaking. Social anxiety can cause blushing, sweating, and shaking, and can make it hard to focus.
Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) occurs in childhood and is marked by significant worry about being apart from parents or other close adults. The anxiety is excessive given the child’s age and developmental stage. Children suffering from SAD worry that they might get lost from parents/close adults, or that something bad might happen to parents when they are not together.
Refer to other specific resources on Panic Attacks/Panic Disorder/Agoraphobia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)