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Anxiety Disorders: Cause and General Information 


Anxiety disorders: General information 

anxiety disorderAnxiety disorders involve a state of distressing, chronic but fluctuating nervousness that is inappropriately severe for an individualís circumstances (Merck Manual). Anxiety is a normal response to stress and is experienced at least occasionally by almost everyone and  is quite different from the experience of anxiety disorders.  

Normal anxiety is related to a sense of fear which serves an important function to our survival. When you are faced with what may be perceived as a dangerous situation, anxiety is stimulated causing a phenomenon referred to as the fight or flight response. Physiological reactions occur in relation to the fear or perceived threat involved, resulting in such physical changes as increased blood flow to the heart and muscles, which then provides the body with the necessary energy and strength to deal with life-threatening situations such as running from an animal or fighting off a would-be attacker.  However, when anxiety appears at inappropriate times, is too frequent, too intense, long-lasting, and interferes with your life it may become an anxiety disorder. 

Anxiety disorders are the most common of the mental disorders and are believed to affect about 15% of adults in the United States.  Unfortunately, anxiety disorders are frequently not recognized by people who have them or by healthcare professionals and are not treated. 


Cause of anxiety disorders 

The cause of anxiety disorders are not fully known and understood, although both physical and psychological factors have been identified. Because anxiety disorders are so prevalent among some families, it is believe that there may be a hereditary component.  On the psychological level, anxiety is viewed as a response to environmental stresses such as the breakup of important interpersonal relationships or exposure to life-threatening circumstances. When an individualís response to stress is improper or if they are feeling totally overwhelmed by events in their life, an anxiety disorder may arise.  For example, some people are absolutely terrified of speaking in front of a group of people, while others may find it exhilarating. Even the thought of this type of experience may cause anxious symptoms such as sweating, fear, rapid heart rate and tremor.

Anxiety disorders are also believed to be caused by a physically disorders such as the use of certain drugs.  For example, an overactive thyroid gland, use of prescribed corticosteroids, or the use of illegal drugs such as cocaine has been known to produce symptoms of anxiety disorder. 

Some information from the Merck Manual of Medical Information 

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic  Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist (Health and Geriatric Psychologist) 

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