Anxiety is a psychological condition causing mental, emotional and physical symptoms such as uneasiness, apprehension, fear, sweating and palpitations.

This film examines the five main anxiety disorders and explains why they develop.

Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders

In this video you’ll learn about anxiety disorders – some of their symptoms, how they’re diagnosed and the treatment options currently available. We all know that modern life can be stressful, balancing the demands of our family and work lives can often cause feelings of stress and anxiety as we try to do all that we need to. And for most people, anxiety about deadlines or social situations is normal. But for people suffering with an anxiety disorder the symptoms of nervousness is chronic lasting for six months or more. These feelings can be overpowering and often out of proportion with reality.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem affecting adults. Billions of dollars are spent on helping patients overcome anxiety and that includes pharmaceutical support, psychotherapy, medical visits and so on. It also includes the economic aspect of lost wages.

While the exact causes of anxiety disorders is unknown, experts believe hereditary may be involved. Environment, personal development, even your diet may play a role in whether you have an anxiety disorder.

What is anxiety?

So what is anxiety? In part it’s a physiological response to a stressful situation. It’s related to the so called ‘fight or flight’ response. When faced with a dangerous situation anxiety can be a useful tool to anticipate trouble spurring us into action and keeping us out of harms way. In dangerous or frightening situations our heart rate goes up, blood flow to heart and muscles increases and production of the hormone adrenaline rises. Under normal circumstances, when the danger passes the physical responses and the heightened feelings of fear and stress that go along with them will pass too.

But with an anxiety disorder, these feelings and symptoms are persistent and interfere with everyday life. It’s a normal emotion, there are countless situations where anxiety is appropriate and a good thing. If you’re walking down a dark street and you hear somebody walking behind you you want to be vigilant. When it’s interfering with your day to the point where you’re unable to get basic needs completed, basic job functions done, school things completed because you’re worried about it then it’s a problem.

There are five types of anxiety disorders, each is usually diagnosed by its symptoms. There’s Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder and Social Phobia, also called Social Anxiety Disorder.

General anxiety

Generalised Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, is one of the more common forms of anxiety disorders. GAD affects millions of people, it can begin at any age but many people develop GAD in childhood or early adolescents. Women are twice as likely as men to develop this form of anxiety. As the name suggests, worries for people with Generalised Anxiety Disorder tend to be general and often related to everyday life.

Obsessive/Compulsive anxiety

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is a second type of anxiety disorder. In this disorder, a person persistently experiences troubling thoughts or obsessions which lead to rituals or compulsions that are used to try and control those thoughts. For example, somebody with OCD may feel the need to perform certain acts like locking a door in a certain sequence. Or they may also do things repetitively. These rituals may temporarily keep the obsessive thoughts at bay but many people with OCD are fully aware of their habits and are troubled by them. Obsessions are intrusive, unwanted, repetitive and individuals see them typically as senseless ,they don’t seem to jibe with who they are as a person.

Anxiety brought on by stress or trauma

An anxiety disorder can also develop following a particularly traumatic or stressful event. This type of anxiety is called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It often develops after an event in which a person has experienced the threat of physical harm or has actually been hurt. People suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may be emotionally numb or may startle more easily. They may lose interest in activities they used to enjoy. Flashbacks, or thoughts and memories about the event are common and tend to be persistent.

Anxiety associated with panic

A person with Panic Disorder typically experiences a rush of panic which can involve a sudden feeling of terror along with very frightening physical responses such as rapid heart-beat, sweaty palms and dizziness. During a panic attack, a person may feel as if they’re having a heart-attack.

Social anxiety

Social Phobia, also called Social Anxiety Disorder, is an intense fear of everyday social interactions. A person with social phobia may feel as if they’re being watched or judged by others or they feel intense dread about an upcoming social situation sometimes worrying over it for weeks in advance.

Treating anxiety

Much has been learned in recent years about how they can best be treated. For many, a combination of psychotherapy and prescription drugs can help keep these conditions under control. As with any condition, talk to your doctor if you think you may be suffering with an anxiety disorder. Your GP can work with you to find the best treatment.

Anxiety is not a fear of a thing, it’s really a fear of the way we think about a thing. It’s something that can be easily treated and something that has a great outcome if the medications work and the therapy helps it’s possible to get better.

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