By Linda G. Ritchie, Ph.D.
Anxiety is a normal part of life. It can even be useful in certain situations. However, anxiety is a prevalent problem for many people. According to the National Institute of Health, about 40 million adult Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder in a given year. For these people, anxiety is a persistent problem that interferes with their daily activities, disrupts their relationships and negatively impacts on their enjoyment of life. Over time, left untreated, anxiety can lead to other problems and health concerns.
Anxiety disorders most often begin in childhood or adolescence, but can begin in adulthood. Anxiety produces a wide range of symptoms and comes in several different forms from generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, to post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a variety of phobias. Frequently, people will experience symptoms associated with more than one type of anxiety disorder. Additionally, a whopping 50 percent of people with an anxiety disorder also suffer from depression. Some of the symptoms of anxiety are:
1. Excessive worry over routine activities like work or school.
3. Difficulty concentrating
4. Sleep disturbance (frequent awakening, wake up tired, difficulty getting to sleep).
5. Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
7. Trembling or twitching
8. Muscle tension, headaches
9. Feeling weak or fatigued
10. Avoiding going out
11. Panic attacks (rapid heart beat, smothering or chocking sensation fear of going crazy, feeling of impending doom, loosing control, sweating, weak, dizzy, chest pain, tingling in the hands, trembling, shaking, nause).
Anxiety symptoms are different for different people; however, one symptom common to all anxiety disorders is the presence of an irrational fear that makes it difficult to carry out normal daily activities.
In some cases, anxiety is caused by a medical condition that needs to be treated. For this reason, if you think you have an anxiety disorder, the first person you should see is your family doctor. He or she can determine whether the symptoms you are experiencing are due to an anxiety disorder or another medical condition. If your physician diagnoses an anxiety disorder, the next step is seeing a mental health professional as anxiety disorders are best treated with specific types of psychotherapy. The treatment depends on the problem and the person’s preference. When you find a mental health care professional that you’re satisfied with, the two of you will be working together to develop a plan to treat your anxiety disorder. Treatments for anxiety disorders are extremely effective. It may be psychotherapy alone or a combination of psychotherapy and medication. With proper treatment, most people with anxiety disorders are able to overcome the anxiety and lead normal, fulfilling lives.
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