Mental Help Net
  •  
Anxiety Disorders
Basic Information

Anxiety Disorders Can Be Debilitating

What is Anxiety?

What is anxiety? Ask anyone to define anxiety and you will quickly realize there is no shortage of examples that people can provide. Although anxiety is a very common human experience, the descriptions that people provide are quite varied.

Anxiety is a human emotion. Everyone experience it. Yet, each person experiences this emotion in unique ways. The following case examples illustrate these various experiences of anxiety:

Sally is a 24-year-old sales associate in a highly prestigious pharmaceutical firm. She constantly works under a great deal of pressure. She says it's "no big deal." She even believes she thrives off this stress. However, she recently walked into her local grocery store and began to sweat. Her heart began to race. She felt like she was losing control. This happened on several occasions. She became so distressed she decided to order her groceries online to avoid another repeat episode.

Bill is a 47-y...

 

 
Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

What is Anxiety?

  • Anxiety is a human emotion that everyone experiences.
  • Anxiety is a complex, individual experience that is produced by multiple causes and is expressed by a diverse set of symptoms, including physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive ones.
  • People differ in how often, and how intensely, they experience anxiety.
  • A normal degree of anxiety is part of the everyday human experience, but sometimes people may experience anxiety to such a heightened degree that it causes them great distress.
  • Abnormal anxiety is a chronic condition that impairs a person's functioning and interferes with his/her well-being.

For more information

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

  • Anxiety can produce physical, behavioral, emotional, cognitive and psychological symptoms. Common physical symptoms include a feeling of restlessness, feeling "keyed up," or "on-edge;", shortness of breath, or a feeling of choking, sweaty palms, a racing heart, muscle tension, nausea, feeling faint or shaky and sleep disturbances.
  • Behavioral symptoms of anxiety refer to what people do (or don't do) when they are anxious. Typical behavioral responses to anxiety may include avoidance, such as avoiding social situations or taking the stairs instead of an elevator, escaping behaviors, such as excessive drinking or drug use; or limiting the amount and scope of daily behaviors and activities to feel safe.
  • Emotional symptoms of anxiety include distress, apprehension, dread, nervousness, feeling overwhelmed, panic, worry, jumpiness or edginess.
  • The thoughts people experience when anxious are commonly referred to as worry. Although the content of the thoughts may vary depending on the person and situation, common themes include "What if _ happens?" or "I can't possibly tolerate not knowing_" or "I am going crazy" or "What's happening to me?"
  • Psychological symptoms of anxiety may include problems with concentration, or difficulty with staying on task; memory difficulties; and, depressive symptoms such as hopelessness, a lack of energy, and a poor appetite.

For more information

What causes anxiety?

  • The biopsychosocial model suggests that the causes of anxiety can be roughly categorized into three main groups: 1. biological causes, 2. psychological causes, and 3. environmental or social causes.
  • The biological category refers to the body's physiological, adaptive responses to fear. It also refers to genetic traits, and the brain functioning that we inherit.
  • The biological model involves 6 systems in the body including the nervous system (including the brain), the cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, excretory, and endocrine system.
  • Biological causes also include the "fight or flight" response where when we are in the presence of an immediate danger, our bodies will automatically begin to prepare us to either attack the threat (fight) or to escape from the danger (flight). A person's heart begins to beat very fast and this increased blood flow ensures extra oxygen is delivered to the muscles to prepare for that fighting or flight.
  • The psychological factors refer to our thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions about our experiences, our environment, and ourselves.
  • Research has identified four important variables that predict a psychological vulnerability to anxiety. These are perceived control (our ability to control a potentially stressful event), cognitive appraisals (the way we evaluate and assess a particular environmental event or situation), cognitive beliefs (our core beliefs about ourselves, and the world around us), and cognitive distortions (errors we make in our thinking).
  • Environment refers to our life experiences, particularly social interactions with other people, especially caregivers, family members, etc.

For more information

How common are Anxiety Disorders?

  • According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, 2008), approximately 40 million American adults (about 18%) have an anxiety disorder in a given year.
  • On average, the first episode occurs before a person is 21.5 years old.
  • Both adults and children can be diagnosed with Anxiety Disorders, although some disorders are more common in one group than the other.
  • Many of these disorders develop during childhood, and persist into adulthood when left untreated.
  • While both adults and children may experience anxiety, children may display different symptoms and may also describe their symptoms differently.
  • In order to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the criteria require that symptoms must cause a person significant distress or problems in their functioning.

For more information

What is a panic attack?

  • Panic attacks are a specific, common symptom of many anxiety disorders.
  • Panic attacks are sudden, extreme feelings of fear and/or discomfort lasting for a distinct period of time. This sudden surge peaks in intensity within a few minutes, at which point it begins subside.
  • There is often a sense of doom and gloom and a powerful desire to escape.
  • Common symptoms include palpitations and/or pounding heart; sweating; trembling or shaking; chest pain or discomfort; feeling dizzy; numbness or tingling sensations; hot flashes or chills; fear of losing control or "going crazy" or a fear of dying.
  • Panic attacks are a false alarm that triggers the "fight or flight" response system.
  • There are 2 types of panic attacks - uncued and cued.
  • Unexpected, or uncued, panic attacks seem to come from "out of the blue." They do not have an identifiable source that sets them off. It is believed these occur in response to some kind of life stress. They are found in Panic Disorder.
  • Expected, or cued, panic attacks are attacks with an obvious trigger. They occur when a person is exposed to certain situations or objects where panic attacks have happened before. The onset is sudden and occurs immediately upon exposure to the situation or object.
  • Cued panic attacks are found in Social Anxiety Disorder, specific Phobias, and agoraphobia.
  • Panic disorder is characterized by uncued (unexpected) panic attacks.
  • In order to be diagnosed with Panic Disorder, a person must experience repeated, unexpected (uncued) panic attacks and be followed by constant concerns about having more attacks; worrying about the consequences of the attacks; or significantly changing behavior to avoid the attacks. These worries and concerns about experiencing another attack must continue for a month or longer for a diagnosis of Panic Disorder.

For more information

What types of Anxiety Disorders are there?

  • Separation Anxiety Disorder is characterized by a developmentally inappropriate and excessive fear of becoming separated from a primary attachment figure. For more information about Symptoms and Treatments  
  • Selective Mutism occurs when a child or adult persistently refuses to speak in specific situations where speaking is expected. For more information about Symptoms and Treatments  
  • Agoraphobia is characterized by an intense fear or anxiety that occurs when someone is faced with a situation that is difficult or embarrassing to leave, or where help would be unavailable if they were to experience panic-like symptoms, such as becoming dizzy or disoriented. For more information about  Symptoms and Treatments
  • Specific phobia is the intense fear, anxiety, and avoidance of a specific object or situation, such as flying, heights, getting a shot, or being near animals. For more information about Symptoms and Treatments  
  • Social phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder, is the intense fear, anxiety, and avoidance of social situations where there is the potential of being negatively judged by others. For more information about Symptoms and Treatments  
  • People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) have uncontrollable, excessive anxiety and excessive worry. For more information about Symptoms and Treatments  

What types of therapy are generally used to treat Anxiety Disorders?

  • Anxiety disorders are one of the most treatable psychiatric conditions.
  • Research consistently finds that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective treatment strategy for treating a variety of conditions including anxiety disorders.
  • Supportive psychotherapy (often thought of as "talk therapy") and psychodynamic or psychoanalytic therapy tends to be ineffective for anxiety disorders.
  • A common type of behavioral therapy used in the treatment of Anxiety Disorders is called exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP). Exposure means facing or confronting one's fears repeatedly until the fear subsides. Response prevention means not engaging in avoidance or escape behaviors when faced with a feared situation.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) recognizes that words (and the thoughts formed with words) have individual and unique meanings. Because language allows us to attribute meaning to thoughts, it is possible for us to allow thoughts to enter our minds without giving them importance. ACT teaches people how to accept their emotional distress.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) teaches participants skills that enable them to: 1) better regulate their intense emotions; 2) become more effective in their interpersonal relationships; 3) improve their ability to cope with emotional crises; and, 4) decrease their reliance on unhealthy coping behaviors such as substance abuse, self-injury, and suicidal behaviors. Dialectical behavior therapy may be beneficial for persons who are reluctant to engage in exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP).

For more information 


 
Latest News
 
Questions and Answers
Ask a Question...
Anxious About Opinions
Possible OCD and Anxiety issues
Fear
Stay in Therapy Because I Like it?
Is My Anxiety a Normal Reaction?
What am I Supposed to do With a Hypochondriac Step Daughter?
Need Help
Husband Continually Annoyed/Angry With Me
How Can I Overcome my Debilitating Shyness and Fear of Life?
Really Desperate..Please Help
OCD and Trauma?
Depression
I Don't Care For Anything, I Feel as Though I'm Wasting my Life.
Unwanted Thoughts
Anxiety Has Taken Over My Life...
CBT Therapy and Transference
Transference II
OCD
19 Yr Old Naive Daughter
Fear of Choking
Help
Should I be Worried?
Too Much Time doing Homework
Falling Apart
Can't Stand Noise
What Is Intimacy, Exactly?
Is She Ill?
Social Anxiety, Depression and More...
Do I Have Just Social Anxiety or Other Diagnoses Combined with SA?
Need To Ask Someone
False Memories
Help! Please!
Two Year Old Son Wandered
Infections and The Brain
Are Personality Disorders For Life?
I am Terrified of Death.
Anhedonia
Our 23 Year Old Son Refuses to Get Help for His Anxiety Attacks and Depression.
Anxiety
Anxiety Disorder vs. Personality Disorder: Differences?
Restroom Phobia
I'm Afraid I'm Going Crazy
Post Brain Surgery Mental Problems
Would Medication Help?
obsessive strange thoughts about life and existentialism
Am I Crazy?
Is it Anxiety? Is it Normal to Be Like That?
Depressed 19 year old college student
Depression helps to contribute to my unemployment! - Paula
Relationship Anxiety
Disconnected
I'm Scared
Please help fix my mom. - Kenny
OCD?
Saving my Son
Scary thoughts, dark feelings, help?
Swallowing fear
Is there something wrong with me?
I have PTSD and I feel nothing
OCD Cure
Repressed Memory
I have OCD. Will this increase my child's chance of developing Autism?
Crazy Thoughts
20 Year Old Female: no friends, depressed, what should I do?
unwanted thoughts!
crazy thoughts... all the time
A very low threshold for stress tolerance
Why can't I get gross images out of my head?
fear of expiration
SPECIFIC PHOBIA
anxiety or going crazy?
OCB
visions of what could have been
about depersonalization
obsessive compulsive disorder
OCD/ANXIETY while pregnant
Amnesia
Social Phobia
Constant Counting Disorder
Anxiety
Is this OCD?
Worried about my therapist
No Friends
Teenager...angst vs. mental health issue
phobia regarding uncertainty
Obsessed with running out of things
Do I Have OCD?
Do environmental factors hold a person back?
Never Had a Relationship
Shy Rural Student
Nursing Student's Anxiety
I'm Afraid They Are Judging Me
Part Time Work and Stress
Anxiety
Panic
Bathroom Phobia
Anxiety?
Mastery Of Anxiety And Panic
Very Determined Panicker In The South
Panicking Boyfriend
Alternatives For Anxiety Treatment
Is Anxiety A Hereditary Factor?
Unable To Keep Eye Contact
Is It Really Panic? And How Do We Get Help
A Cure For Claustrophobia?
Panic Attacks
Shyness And The Post Partum Blues
Klonopin
Alternative Treatment
Can't Afford Therapy
Driving Phobia
Indecisive
Agoraphobia?
Social Fear
A Cure For Anxiety?
Panic Attacks
Fear of Driving
Shy Guy
Anxiety?
Social Anxiety
Linda writes:
 
Weblog Entries
Benzodiazepine Use Linked to Alzheimer's Disease
Obsessions and Addiction
How Exercise Can Reduce Anxiety
Fear of Heights – Story of a Rock Climber
Aromatherapy and Anxiety
Be Careful About What You Read Online
Meditation and Anxiety
Stress and Anxiety: The Impact the Government Shutdown and The Fiscal Cliff Had on People
Stress, Anxiety and Mindfulness Meditation
What We Fear More Than Death
Embrace Your Past
You Are So Much More Than Fear
A Simple Trick to Stopping Automatic Negative Thoughts
Of Anxiety and Stress
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): Another Type of Psychotherapy
How to Ground Your Fear of Flying
The Mental Squiggle: A Good Way to Gain Freedom from Mind Traps
Test Anxiety – When Your Mind Goes Blank
Your 14:57 Minute Rule
The Helicopter Parent and the Dangers of Over Protecting
Meditation for Difficult Emotions
Just Breathe: A Practice to Calm the Anxious Mind
It's Called Onychophagia or Nail Biting
Managing Anxiety by Accepting your Brain's Alarm System
Do We Need Anxiety? Thoughts for Entering the New Year
Does Anxiety Plus Depression Equal Depression Plus Anxiety? How Clinicians Really Think
What are Thoughts and Who Are You?
One Breath at a Time
Cultivating Hope in the Eye of a Storm
Increased Childhood and Adolescent Anxiety and Depression
3 Steps to Silence the Inner-Critic
A Way to Turn the Worry Volume Down
Practice a Self-Care Diet
Brain: Chronic Alcohol Maintains Fear
What You Need to Know About Generation Xhausted
Strangers and The Need For Personal Space
Recognize How Precious Your Life Is
Taming Anxiety's Effect on Memory
Buried Alive: Saving, Collecting and Hoarding
Stress on the Rise? Two Simple Practices to Find Relief
Kids are More Stressed than We Realize: 4 Steps to Take
Why You Just Can't Stop Texting and Driving
Getting Unstuck: One Practice that Can Help
The Transitional Objects and Self Comfort
Being Kind to Your Body is Healing to the Mind
Stress Reduction, Tropical Fish and Aquariums
Are You Superstitious?
Dental Phobia
When Calmness is a Trigger for Fear and How to Change it
Why You Need to Get in Your Body Now
5 Steps to Change Feelings of Anxiety
Of Anxiety and Depression and Play
The Importance of Saying "No"
OCD and Reassurance
A Tip for Happiness: Turn Routine into Wonder
Taking Back Control of Your Mind: The Power of Acceptance
Avoidance in OCD: It's Never the Answer
Residential Programs for OCD: How Long Should You Stay?
Angst in the Face of Economic Meltdown: Managing Your Anxiety When The Stress Won't Go Away! Part II
Angst in the Face of Economic Meltdown: Managing Your Anxiety When The Stress Won't Go Away! Part I
Would You Want to Do Therapy Online?
8 Ways to Overcome Homework Anxiety
Sensory Overload, Tension and Stress
Keep Calm and Carry On: Potential Pitfalls
Cognitive Consistency and Cognitive Dissonance
Be in the Eye of the Storm
Understanding Recovery Avoidance in OCD
Breaking Free from Limbo
CBT and Mindfulness for Social Anxiety: Train your Brain for Social Success
How to Work with Uncertainty
National Debt, Stress and Perception, Is It Really That Bad?
Helping or Enabling...A Fine Line When Dealing with OCD
Got IBS? Study Says to Try a Little Mindfulness
Is Mindfulness Uniquely Buddhist?
Decision Making, Who Is In Control?
Can you Improve Life Satisfaction by Changing Your Focus?
ERP Therapy - A Good Choice for Treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Clear Away the Mental Clutter
Depression & Panic Disorders: Jennifer’s Story
Unchecked Journalism Can Lead to Mindful Misperceptions
I Wish I Had an Illness...Mental or Physical
Do You Know How Overgeneral Memory Can Impact Depression?
Did You Know You May be Keeping Difficulty Around?
Negative Self-Talk: A Culprit of Anxiety and Depression
Online Mindfulness-Based Anxiety Therapy
How to Stop Panic Attacks and Panic Anxiety
Panic Attacks: The 30-Minute Rule
The Childhood Anxiety Epidemic: What Parents Can Do About It
Help for Panic Attacks & Panic Anxiety
How to Mindfully Work with Difficult Emotions
Overcoming Social Anxiety with Mindfulness Therapy
The Guilts: A Psychoanalytic and Cognitive View
Why We Fear Success and What to Do
PTSD, Veterans and Equine Therapy
Agoraphobia and Spatial Orientation: An Interesting Angle
Elisha Goldstein's Top 10 MentalHelp Blogs of 2010
Online Mindfulness Therapy for Anxiety
Newly Married Couples and Sexual Frequency
An Interview with Joseph LeDoux, Ph.D., on the Synaptic Self and Memory Reconsolidation
Anxiety Therapy
Although We are Wired to Feel Stuck: There is Hope
Let's Learn: Trichotillomania (Part 2)
An Interview with Monica Ramirez Basco, Ph.D., on Procrastination
Let's Learn: Trichotillomania (Part 1)
What Does the Tetris Effect Have to Do With You?
How to Flood Your Life With Confidence
Fascinating Explanations: Kindling
What to Do in the Places that Scare You: Pema Chodron
Self Therapy: An Interview with Jay Earley, PhD
Reflections On A Season
Make Your Life as Inconvenient as Possible
Self Compassion
Perceptions of Life Today
New Study: 5 Million Californians Need Mental Help
Prepare Now: How to Get Teens to Focus with Homework
You May be Trapped in Your Own Mind
Your Subconscious Mind May be Making Critical Errors in Judgment
Overweight? Your Brain May not Know When to Stop
Our Anxiety Disorders Topic Center has been Updated!
Shyness and Marital Problems
Peace not War
What Everyone Should Know about the Dangers of Their Minds
How Well Do You Know the Committee in Your Mind?
More Mindfulness Research for Anxiety and Depression: Here's the Rub
How to Slow Down Your Racing Heartbeat When Feeling Anxious
Your Worry or Your Life?
The Dark Side of Happy Anniversary
Taking a Mindful Path Through Shyness
You vs. Procrastination: 1 (Mindful) Secret to Winning the Battle
Freedom from Your Anxious Mind
Are You Wired to Worry?
3 Common Mistakes People Make When Working with Insomnia
There is No Such Thing as ADD
What You Need to Know to Help Heal Insomnia
Overcoming School Anxiety: An Interview with Diane Peters Mayer
An Interview with Gail Steketee, PhD, on Hoarding and OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)
In a Falling Economy, Trust Your Gut Or Reason?
Avoidant Personality Disorder and Social Phobia
What Every Parent Should Know About School Anxiety
5 Steps to Emotional Freedom: Placebo or Panacea?
Can Anxiety Be a Good Thing?
I Blush, Therefore I...
Feeling Stuck with Anxiety or Depression? Try this Today!
Catastrophizing Controlling Your Life: 3 Steps to Break Free
New A&E Series Explores Anxiety Disorders
Rejection, Why Does It Hurt So Much?
An Interview with Steven Phillipson, Ph.D. on the Nature and Treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Anxiety, Stress and Depresion in Light of the Recession
Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder – building a life instead of digging up the past?
Young Yet Sad: The Social Phobic
How trying to avoid your fear, anxiety, and panic keeps it knocking on your door
Catastrophizing Illness: Mind and Body Revisited
An Interview with Victoria Lemle Beckner, Ph.D. on Treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Social Phobia and Self Concept and the Brain
An Interview with Frank Ochberg, MD on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
TIME OUT! 2 Things you can practice today to stave off anxiety and depression in this hectic time.
Shy Bladder Syndrome (Paruresis): Getting Help
An Interview with Edna Foa, Ph.D. on the Nature and Treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Going to the Dentist: Fears and Phobias
Stuff, Why Is It So Difficult to Part With?
An Interview with Michelle Craske, Ph.D. on Anxiety Disorders Research and Treatment
Blenophobia, The Fear of Needles
Anxiety and Alcoholism and Stigma
Do You Have a Shy Bladder?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Plagued by Doubt
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Iraqi Veterans
Psychotherapy and Murder in New York: Should We All Stay Home?
An Interview with David H. Barlow Ph.D. on the Nature and Treatment of Anxiety and Panic Disorders
Worried Sick
An Interview with Richard Heimberg, Ph.D. on Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder Research and Treatment
Treating PTSD, Part Two
National Stress Řut Week
Halloween...Fear With A Purpose
College and Mental Health Problems, They Go Together
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Recognizing emotion gets harder or easier depending on your mood
The Story of A Psychiatric Service Dog Team
Early verbal abuse results in more adult depression
On Being A Perfectionist
Chronic cortisol exposure causes mood disorders
Treating PTSD with Beta-Blockers
David Beckham has OCD
Cortisol May Be an Anxiety Treatment
Genetic contribution to OCD may have been identified
 
Videos
 
Links
 
Book Reviews
 
Self-Help Groups
 
Resources
Basic Information
What is Anxiety?The Biopsychosocial Model of AnxietyDevelopment & Maintenance of Anxiety DisordersClassification & Diagnosis of Anxiety DisordersAnxiety Disorder Theories and TherapiesTreatment of Anxiety DisordersAnxiety Disorder References & Additonal Resources
More InformationLatest NewsQuestions and AnswersBlog EntriesVideosLinksBook ReviewsSelf-Help Groups
Therapist Search
Find a Therapist:
 (USA/CAN only)

Use our Advanced Search to locate a therapist outside of North America.

Related Topics

Depression: Depression & Related Conditions
Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Emotional Resilience
View the Depression Primer - an illustrated book about Depression

Follow us on Twitter!

Find us on Facebook!




This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.

Powered by CenterSite.Net