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Anxiety: Is it as bad as it seems? 

Anxiety: An Overview 

anxietyAnxiety in the form of anxiety disorders is the most common mental health problems in the United States.  Researchers have found that in any given year as many as 19% of the adult population experience anxiety to the degree of becoming an anxiety disorder.  There are six anxiety disorders identified by DSM-IV (which is used by mental health clinicians to diagnose mental problems). These problems with anxiety are believed to cost our society at least $42 billion each year in health care expenses, lost wages and lost productivity. 

Anxiety: What is it? 

Anxiety does not always have to be experienced in a dramatic form in order to be a problem. You may be able to think of a time when your breathing quickened, your muscles tensed and your heart pounded with a sudden sense of dread or fear.  Anxiety is what you felt when your boss suggested your job performance needed to improve or when a person you were in love with went out with someone else.  Any time you face what seems to be a threat to your well-being and you react with a state of immediate alarm or fear, you are experiencing anxiety. Anxiety may be experienced as a vague feeling of tension as if you expect something unpleasant to happen, or may be related to more specific circumstances.  The vague sense of being in danger usually referred to as anxiety, involves an increase in breathing, muscular tension and perspiration. 

 

Anxiety may or may not be adaptive: 

Although everyday experiences of fear and anxiety may be unpleasant they may have some adaptive qualities in that they may prepare us for "fight or flight" when danger is on the horizon. They may cause us to drive more carefully in a snowstorm, keep up with our reading assignments at school or be more diligent at our jobs.  Unfortunately, some people experience fear and anxiety in a way that seems disabling, making it difficult for them to lead a normal life.  If your discomfort is too frequent, too intense, lasts for too long, or is triggered too easily, you may be experiencing either an anxiety disorder or some other type of stress related disorder. 

What are the anxiety disorders? 

Anxiety in the form of anxiety disorders come in many shapes and sizes. Generalized anxiety disorder is experienced as a very general, but persistent feeling of anxiety.  Panic disorder is when you have recurrent attacks of an intense feeling of fear or terror. Individuals with phobias experience persistent and irrational fear of specific objects, situations or activities.  People who have obsessive-compulsive disorder usually feel overrun by recurrent thoughts that cause them to feel anxious and feel compelled to perform repetitive actions to reduce their anxiety.  People experiencing acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are tormented by fears and related symptoms well after the traumatic experience have ended. Research has continued to find that individual's who experience one anxiety disorder frequently suffer from a second one as well.  Other pages of this web site will review each specific anxiety disorder as well as its related treatment. 

Information Inspired by Ronald J. Comerís Abnormal Psychology 

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

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