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 load 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).
Each anxiety disorder has its own distinct features, but they are all bound together by the common theme of excessive, irrational fear and dread.