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Anxiety Disorders

Everybody knows what it feels like to be anxious. You may get butterflies in your stomach, or maybe your palms are sweaty or your heart flutters a bit. Anxiety prepares your body for action and allows you to face a threat or a tough situation. A little anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. It can give you a boost to study for the bar exam or make a speech. And it is often there to help you cope in times of danger. But for those with an Anxiety Disorder, that little boost is a completely different thing. It can prevent the patient from coping and disrupt their life. Anxiety Disorders are more than just a simple case of nerves or jitters. Those who suffer from Anxiety Disorders feel anxious most of the time, without any logical reason.

These feelings can be so uncomfortable that patients will often avoid regular tasks and activities in an attempt to avert the anxiety that accompanies them. This anxiety can become so intense that the patient is terrified and immobilized. Some people feel that patients suffering from Anxiety Disorder should be able to overcome their symptoms by will power. But these disorders are very real and are not a figment of the patient’s imagination. Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental disorders.

The general diagnosis of Anxiety Disorder is categorized into specific disorders as follows:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Each of these disorders has a specific set of symptoms, summarized below. For more detailed information on each of these Anxiety Disorders, please refer to the related articles.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of anxiety disorder and anxiety will vary with the type of sexual activity and the severity of the condition, as exhibited by the individual patient. Symptoms can include:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Chronic and exaggerated worry, tension, irritability with no apparent cause or more intense than the situation seems to warrant. Restlessness, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, headaches, trembling or twitching, muscle tension, sweating.

Panic Disorder: Heart pounding or chest pain, dizziness or feeling light-headed, nausea, shortness of breath, shaking, choking, fear of dying, sweating, feeling disconnected, tingling or numbness, hot flashes, chills, feeling out of control.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Symptoms of PTSD can range from constantly reliving the event to a general emotional numbing. Persistent anxiety, exaggerated startle reactions, difficulty concentrating, nightmares, and insomnia are common. People with PTSD typically avoid situations that remind them of the traumatic event, because they provoke intense distress or even panic attacks.

Social Anxiety Disorder: Many of the physical symptoms that accompany panic attacks - such as sweating, racing heart, and trembling - also occur with phobias.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Obsessed with germs or dirt, unwelcome thoughts against beliefs or moral values, obsessively thinks about possible harm or violence to others or to self, repeatedly washing hands, constantly counting or rearranging things, praying, counting, repeating words silently, checking door locks, stove knobs repeatedly to ensure they are secure

How is it diagnosed and treated?

To diagnose and treat the various Anxiety Disorders, doctors will often perform a full medical and psychological evaluation to ensure that no other health problems are contributing to the patient’s symptoms and to include a treatment plan for the Anxiety Disorder and any secondary disorders such as depression.

For more detailed information on each of these Anxiety Disorders and their diagnosis and treatment, refer to the related articles and information for each disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Diagnosis - at least six months of extreme worry about everyday problems.
Treatment – can include cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation and meditation techniques, medication (anti-anxiety drugs, benzodiazepine, diazepam, alprazolam, and lorazepam, non-benzodiazepines like buspirone)

Panic Disorder
Diagnosis - four attacks in four weeks or one or more attacks followed by at least 30 days of persistent fear of another attack, accompanied by a minimum of 4 of the symptoms listed above.
Treatment – includes cognitive behavioral therapy, medications like alprazolam, antidepressants like paroxetine, tricyclics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, therapy.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Diagnosis - symptoms that persist beyond three months.
Treatment - includes psychotherapy, EMDR, relaxation techniques, medication like antidepressants and anti-anxiety agents.Treatment – includes cognitive behavioral therapy, medications like anti-anxiety agents or antidepressants.

Social Anxiety Disorder
Diagnosis - extreme anxiety with exposure to a particular social situation or to all social situations, patient recognizes that fear is unreasonable, significant impairment of routine, relationship and social activities.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Diagnosis - obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors or rituals must consume at least one hour each day. These thoughts and behaviors must interfere with normal work, life and social routines.
Treatment – includes Psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, medications like SSRIs (Clomipramine, Paroxetine etc)

Index of Articles


As a group, Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental disorder in America. It is estimated that these disorders affect about 13% of the U.S. population. More than 19 million adults are affected, and approximately 13 out of every 100 children and adolescents between the ages of 9 and 17 have an anxiety disorder. 50% of these children also have a second anxiety disorder or other form of mental or behavioral disorder. Girls are affected more often than boys.

In the 1998 U.S. Census of 143.3 million people, aged 18-54, prevalence for specific anxiety disorders was estimated as follows:

Any Anxiety Disorder: 19.1 million adults (13.3% of the population)

Panic Disorder: 2.4 million adults (1.7% of the population)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: 3.3 million adults (2.3% of the population)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: 5.2 million adults (3.6% of the population)

Any Phobia: 11.5 million adults (8% of the population)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: 4 million adults, (2.8% of the population)

If you are in a crisis please call:
1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) or
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

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