Approximately 40 million American adults are filled with fear and uncertainty every year (Ref1, Pg2). Short-term anxiety is a normal response when facing a stressful or uncertain situation. However, anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive anxiety-related symptoms that persist for 6 months or longer. Although each anxiety disorder is different, they all are based on symptoms of irrational fear or dread. These disorders may be severe and interfere with the ability to live a functional, productive life.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
People with GAD suffer from daily, unprovoked worry and tension (Ref1, Pg13). GAD is diagnosed when a person constantly worries about everyday trivialities for six months or longer (Ref1, Pg13). These people worry about daily hassles, self-doubt, and potential catastrophes (Ref2, Table2). They may also feel as though something bad is about to happen (Ref3, Pg1). People with GAD have difficulty relaxing and concentrating (Ref1, Pg13). The anxiety may be mild, allowing a person to live a full life, or the anxiety can be severe leading to the inability to work or maintain relationships (Ref1, Pg13).
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessions are persistent, upsetting thoughts (Ref1, Pg6). These thoughts go beyond everyday worries (Ref2, Table2). Compulsions are ritual behaviors that people with OCD use to control the anxiety they have over their obsessions (Ref1, Pg6). Common compulsions include checking work repeatedly for mistakes or repeated washing or cleaning for fear of germs (Ref3, Pg1). People diagnosed with OCD, perform these rituals to an extent that interferes with daily living and causes them distress (Ref1, Pg7). The severity of symptoms varies and some may get better but some may get worse (Ref1, Pg7).
The characteristic symptom of panic disorder is a sudden feeling of terror (Ref1, Pg4). This is often accompanied by fast heart beat, sweating, dizziness, or weakness (Ref1, Pg4). A person may also feel other physical symptoms such as numbness, nausea, or chest pain, and the person often feels a sense of dread because of these unexplained symptoms (Ref1, Pg4). The attacks are unpredictable, leaving the person with intense worry between panic attacks (Ref1, Pg4). Patient's often worry about "going crazy" or "losing control" (Ref2, Table2) and will restrict their daily activities out of fear (Ref3, Pg1). On average, the attacks peak at 10 minutes in duration (Ref1, Pg4).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD occurs after a person has undergone something terrifying, whether it happened directly to them or to another person (Ref1, Pg8). People with PTSD may become distant to those they were once close to, lose interest in things they once loved, or they may become irritable, angry or violent (Ref1, Pg8). People with PTSD often relive the traumatic situation through flashbacks (Ref1, Pg8). Some people recover within 6 months but others suffer from PTSD symptoms chronically (Ref1, Pg8).
When to Seek Help
If you are concerned that you may have an anxiety disorder or if you feel that you avoid situations that induce feelings of dread, stress, or anxiety, then seek help from a licensed healthcare provider (Ref1, Pg5). If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others or have feelings of overwhelming stress, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, low energy, difficulty concentrating or sleeping then you may be suffering from depression and should seek help (Ref1, Pg5). By seeking treatment, you can determine if your symptoms are due to an anxiety disorder, a physical condition, or both (Ref1, Pg20). People with anxiety disorders can lead full and productive lives with the variety of available treatments (Ref1, Pg2). Long-term recovery is possible (Ref3, Pg2).