An anxiety disorder causes a person to feel that life is filled with overwhelming worries and fears. Several different types of conditions fall into this category, including social phobia, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. While the exact causes are unknown, a combination between a person's genetic predisposition and environment may play a role. Treatment often includes medication and psychotherapy.
Most people experience feelings of anxiety before an important event, such as a big exam, business presentation, or first date. An anxiety disorder, however, is an illness that fills people's lives with overwhelming anxiety and fear that are chronic and unremitting, and that can grow progressively worse. Tormented by panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, flashbacks of traumatic events, nightmares, or countless frightening physical symptoms, some people with the condition even become housebound.
Anxiety disorders, as a group, are the most common mental illness in America. More than 19 million adults in America are affected by these debilitating illnesses each year. Children and adolescents can also develop them (see Anxiety in Children).
There are several conditions related to extreme anxiety. These anxiety disorders include:
- Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Specific phobias.
Each anxiety disorder has its own distinct features, but they are all bound together by the common theme of excessive, irrational fear and dread.