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Anxiety Disorders
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Anxiety Disorder Facts and Statistics

In today's society, at least some degree of stress and anxiety have become a normal part of our lives as we struggle with financial troubles, the death of a loved one or friend, demanding jobs, strained relationships, or other difficult situations. Sometimes such feelings can be helpful as they drive us to put forward our best efforts or help us react in emergency situations. However, it is not normal to experience anxiety all of the time or to experience sudden anxiety for no apparent reason as these are symptoms of a possible anxiety disorder.

Some anxiety is normal, but being anxious all of the time or being anxious for no apparent reason may point to a disorder.Millions of Americans suffer from anxiety disorders each year. The problem receives more national attention now as pharmaceutical companies have rushed to provide drug solutions. Anxiety disorders can affect people of all ages but usually affect from the teens up and are more common in women than in men. People suffering from anxiety disorders often live with the constant belief that something bad is going to happen and often believe that they are ill or diseased when they are not.

Symptoms of an anxiety disorder include chest pain, heart palpitations, feelings of suffocation, muscle tension, headaches, back pain, muscle spasms and tics, excessive sweating, dizziness, digestive disturbances, dry mouth, and insomnia. Attacks can be triggered by caffeine, alcohol, sugar, B vitamin deficiency, calcium or magnesium deficiencies, food allergies, certain other drugs, and the infusion of lactate (lactic acid) into the blood.

There are five main types of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorders, phobias, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Anxiety Disorder Diseases

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): GAD is the mildest form of the anxiety disorders. People with generalized anxiety disorder suffer from chronic unease and unrealistic anxiety, especially around other people, and tend to startle easily. This disorder generally begins in childhood or adolescence and is more common in women than in men. It also usually runs in families. Difficulty sleeping and chronic fatigue, headaches, occasional panic attacks, trembling or twitching, lightheadedness, depression, muscle aches, restlessness, sweating, abdominal upset, dizziness, problems concentrating, edginess, and irritability are all symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. GAD is diagnosed when someone spends at least 6 months worrying excessively about a number of everyday problems.

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Obsessive-compulsive disorder occurs when a person suffers from one or more recurring and unrealistic anxieties (obsessions) and uses certain ritualistic behaviors (compulsions) to try to dispel those anxieties. OCD affects 1 in 50 people and is equally common in men and women. This disorder can begin at any age but usually begins in the teens or in early adulthood. Often OCD is accompanied by depression, other anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and alcohol and drug abuse.

    People with OCD know that their fears and subsequent behavior make no sense, but they do it anyway because they can't stop themselves and because they hope to find some relief through their acts. OCD sufferers fear uncertainty and often seek reassurance from others about their behavior. Common compulsions include excessive cleaning, repeatedly checking things to make sure that they are safe and secure, repetition, excessive slowness, and hoarding.

    More than 1 in 10 people suffer from some sort of phobia.

  • Phobias: Phobias are an irrational and involuntary fear of certain things or situations. More than 1 in 10 people suffer from some sort of phobia, they tend to run in families and usually begin in adolescence or adulthood, and women are more prone to suffer from phobias than men. In the case of a phobia, normal methods for coping with fear don't work, and the person suffering from the phobia can become consumed by an overwhelming need to avoid whatever causes him or her such intense fear.

    There are three categories for phobias, the specific phobia (which is an unreasonable fear of a certain object such as spiders, flying, heights, etc.), social phobia (fear of being painfully embarrassed in a social setting), and agoraphobia (fear of being in any situation that might provoke a panic attack, or from which escape might be difficult if one occurred).

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD occurs when a person who has witnessed or has been involved in a traumatic event (war, rape, a natural event, etc.) cannot recover from the event and pursue a normal life. This disorder can occur at any age and is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or anxiety. PTSD usually begins within three months of the trauma (although occasionally it doesn't show up until years after the event), and the length of illness may vary. Those suffering from PTSD may relive the traumatic event, experience emotional numbness, and be unable to concentrate on routine tasks. Symptoms can be divided into three categories: nightmares and flashbacks of the traumatic event, withdrawal from family and friends, and sudden anger. The disorder is diagnosed if symptoms last more than a month. Often PTSD will disappear without treatment, but in severe cases medical help should be sought.

    Panic attacks affect up to 3-6 million Americans, are more common in women than in men, and can begin at any age.

  • Panic Attacks: Panic attacks occur when, for no apparent reason, the body prepares itself to deal with a nonexistent emergency situation. Extra adrenaline is produced and the heart rate and breathing become more rapid. These attacks average only a couple of minutes with some lasting for up to 10 minutes and the rare attack lasting for more than an hour. Panic attacks affect up to 3-6 million Americans, are twice as common in women as in men, and can begin at any age but usually begin as a young adult.

    According to the American Psychological Association, the person suffering the panic attack should experience at least four of the following symptoms: palpitations, pounding heart or rapid heart rate, sweating, tremor, sensations of smothering or shortness of breath, a feeling of choking, chest pain or discomfort, nausea or abdominal distress, dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness, derealization, depersonalization, fear of losing control or of going crazy or of dying, parasthesia, and hot flashes. To be suffering from "defined" panic attacks, your attacks must be unexpected and must recur every two weeks, or if just a single attack, must be followed by at least a month of unrealistic anxiety and stress about the attack.

    Panic attacks can occur with or without agoraphobia (the fear of being out in public and not being able to escape when an attack occurs). Panic attack sufferers often try to avoid future attacks by avoiding places or things that trigger attacks, by using distractions to cope with the attacks, or by turning to drugs and alcohol to hide from the problem.

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Anxiety Disorder Nutritional Support Strategies

Treatment for anxiety disorders typically includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

  • Medication: The medications prescribed to treat these disorders are not cures and are only meant to relieve the symptoms. Each medication comes with its own set of side effects.

  • Treatment for anxiety disorders typically includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy.Psychotherapy: There are several types of psycho therapies used to treat anxiety disorders. Behavioral therapy focuses on changing specific actions and uses such techniques as diaphragmatic breathing (to combat hyperventilation which is common when panicking). During exposure therapy the patient is gradually exposed to what frightens them to help them cope with their fears. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches the patient to react differently to situations that trigger attacks and focuses on helping them change their thinking patterns. Group therapy and self-help groups can also be helpful.

    For more information check out our Anxiety Disorder Self-management Program.

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Related Links

Anxiety Network: Contains general and specific information and articles/research on social anxiety, panic, and generalized anxiety

Anxiety Disorder Association of America: Contains information on the various types of anxiety disorders from the Anxiety Disorder Association of America

National Institute of Mental Health Contains the full text of a booklet on anxiety disorders (information on what they are, the types of disorders, how to treat them), also includes many links to other articles on anxiety disorders.

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