Anxiety

What is Anxiety? 

Anxiety is a normal part of life. It comes with being human and living in our high-stress world. Normal anxiety keeps us busy. It reminds us to pay our bills, and it pushes us to pursue success. In its purest form, anxiety can serve a useful purpose; but anxiety is only normal up to a point. As long as anxious feelings are short-lived and don’t become excessive, they won’t interfere with healthy living. However, anxiety becomes destructive when it throws people into a state of distress and weighs them down to such a degree that they cannot function normally. 

The Definition: Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension or nervousness. Usually, over something imminent that has an uncertain outcome and affects a person both physically and psychologically. It stems from uncertainty and is an uneasiness over uncertain outcomes. Anxiety differs from anxiety disorders.

Anxiety shows up unexpectedly, uninvited, and unannounced. It presses on your chest making it hard to breathe. Anxiety steals your sleep, stifles your joy, and preys on your peace. When adrenaline infuses the body, the surge of energy can seem productive. That same exhilaration that serves to fuel a “fight or flight” response in an emergency, can also mask signs of overstress. In such cases, a seemingly “out of nowhere” panic attack could be a warning that anxiety is building and needs to be addressed.

There are several types of anxiety disorders: Agoraphobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder including Panic Attacks, Selective Mutism, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Specific Phobias, and Social Anxiety Disorder.

The manifestations of anxiety disorders vary greatly from one person to the next, but typically center around feelings of irrational fear, worry or tension. These thoughts are overwhelming and persist over a significant period of time. Anxiety that is situational and triggered by specific life events is not the same thing as an anxiety disorder, which may last for months or years.

The impact is not just mental and emotional. People who are suffering from an anxiety or panic attack will exhibit physical symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat, trembling, dizziness and sweating. This combination can be very stressful and may cause the individual to avoid social situations for fear of having an attack in public.

If this describes you or someone you know, you are not alone. About 18% of Americans aged 18 or older suffer from some form of anxiety disorder in a given year, with women about 60% more likely to suffer from anxiety disorder than men.*

Treatments for anxiety disorders include medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. Two types of medications often used are anti-depressants, which include SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) like ProzacTM, LexaproTM and PaxilTM, or benzodiazepines, such as KlonopinTM or XanaxTM. Each type of medication should only be taken under a doctor’s supervision, particularly because benzodiazepines can be extremely addictive if misused and are not intended for long term usage/treatment.

* NIMH: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml