Most people experience feelings of anxiety before an important event such as a big exam, business presentation or first date. Anxiety disorders, however, are illnesses that cause people to feel frightened, distressed and uneasy for no apparent reason. Left untreated, these disorders can dramatically reduce productivity and significantly diminish an individual's quality of life.
How Common Are Anxiety Disorders?
- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in America: more than 19 million are affected by these debilitating illnesses each year.
- Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. $46.6 billion in 1990 in direct and indirect costs, nearly one-third of the nation's total mental health bill of $148 billion.
What Are the Different Kinds of Anxiety Disorders?
Panic Disorder - Repeated episodes of intense fear that strike often and without warning. Physical symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal distress, feelings of unreality, and fear of dying.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - Repeated, unwanted thoughts or compulsive behaviors that seem impossible to stop or control.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - Persistent symptoms that occur after experiencing a traumatic event such as rape or other criminal assault, war, child abuse, natural disasters or crashes. Nightmares, flashbacks, numbing of emotions, depression and feeling angry, irritable, distracted and being easily startled are common.
Phobias - Two major types of phobias are specific phobia and social phobia. People with specific phobia experience extreme, disabling, and irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger; the fear leads to avoidance of objects or situations and can cause people to limit their lives unnecessarily.
People with social phobia have an overwhelming and disabling fear of scrutiny, embarrassment, or humiliation in social situations, which leads to avoidance of many potentially pleasurable and meaningful activities.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder - Constant, exaggerated worrisome thoughts and tension about everyday routine life events and activities, lasting at least six months. Almost always anticipating the worst even though there is little reason to expect it; accompanied by physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headache, or nausea.
Test to See How Anxious You Really Are
The Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN), a self-rated questionnaire, is a social phobia scale that measures the three commonly seen types of social anxiety disorder: fear, phobic avoidance and autonomic symptoms such as blushing, sweating, and trembling.
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