Everybody knows what it's like to feel anxious
- the butterflies in your stomach before a first date, the tension
you feel when your boss is angry, the way your heart pounds when
you are in danger. Anxiety prepares us to face threatening situations,
rouses us to action, and helps us cope. But, for a person with an
anxiety disorder, this normally helpful emotion can do just the
opposite - it can make it impossible to handle a situation and disrupt
Anxiety disorders affect more than 23 million Americans each year.
Types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder,
panic disorder, specific phobias, social phobias, obsessive-compulsive
disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
People with generalized anxiety disorder suffer
with unrealistic or excessive anxiety and worry about life circumstances.
For example, they may feel panicky about financial matters even
though they have a good bank balance and have paid their debts.
Patients with this disorder often feel "shaky," reporting
that they feel "on edge" and that they sometimes "go
blank" because of the tension they feel.
This type of anxiety disorder afflicts over
12 percent of all Americans during their lifetimes. People who suffer
from this illness feel terror, dread or panic when confronted with
a feared object, situation or activity. Many have such an overwhelming
to desire to avoid the source of fear that it interferes with their
jobs, family life and social relationships. Agoraphobia, the fear
of being alone or in a public place that has no escape hatch (such
as a public bus or crowded store), is the most disabling because
victims can become housebound.
Victims of panic disorders suffer intense,
overwhelming terror for no apparent reason. The fear is accompanied
by symptoms such as sweating, heart palpitations, hot or cold flashes,
trembling, choking or smothering sensations and shortness of breath.
Often, people suffering a panic attack for the first time rush to
the hospital, convinced they are having a heart attack.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized
by anxious thoughts or rituals you feel you can't control. People
with OCD often are plagued by persistent, unwelcome thoughts or
images, or by the urgent need to engage in certain rituals. For
example, a person with OCD might be obsessed with germs or dirt,
and wash his or her hands over and over. An individual may check
things repeatedly or be preoccupied by thoughts of violence and
fear. Obsessive counting is also a characteristic of OCD.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Often associated with war veterans, post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD) can occur in anyone who has experienced a
severe and unusual physical or mental trauma. People who have witnessed
a midair collision or survived a life-threatening crime may develop
this illness. People who suffer from PTSD re-experience the event
that traumatized them through nightmares, flashbacks, excessive
alertness, general anxiety and depression.
There are effective treatments for people with anxiety disorders.
Generally, psychiatrists prescribe a combination of psychotherapy
and medication. In addition to antidepressants and other drugs,
psychiatrists treat people with anxiety disorders with specially
designed antianxiety medications, including both benzodiazepines
For further information, please contact
Counseling and Wellness Services at