Anxiety disorders affect more than 19 million people in the United States, filling these people's lives with overpowering feelings of anxiety and fear. Several disorders fall under this category, each with its own symptoms, but all share the common trait of excessive, irrational fear and dread. Treatment generally includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Most people experience feelings of anxiety before an important event, such as a big exam, business presentation, or first date. Anxiety disorders, however, are illnesses that fill 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 anxiety disorders 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 anxiety disorders (see Anxiety in Children).
There are several types of anxiety disorders. These include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Specific phobias
Each of these anxiety disorders has its own distinct features, but they are all bound together by the common theme of excessive, irrational fear and dread.
Most people experience anxiety at some point in their lives and some nervousness in anticipation of a real situation. However, if a person cannot shake unwarranted worries, or if the feelings are jarring to the point of avoiding everyday activities, he or she most likely has an anxiety disorder.