Understanding Anxiety Disorders

Everyone experiences some level of worry or anxiety from time to time. But when that worry or anxiousness becomes overwhelming or subsists for long periods of time, there may be a deeper issue at hand.

In a given year, anxiety disorders affect roughly 18 percent of Americans over the age of 18, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Following are descriptions of some of the more prominent anxiety disorders:

Panic Disorder: A panic attack is a brief period of intense uneasiness, fear or distress. The duration of these attacks can range anywhere from minutes to a few hours. While the cause is not completely clear, it is thought that the tendency toward panic attacks could be genetic or linked to a traumatic occurrence in an individual’s life. Those suffering from panic disorders display an inability to properly process stressful situations and therefore react to them with a heightened sense of fear and apprehensiveness.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Those suffering with OCD are bombarded with persistent thoughts and fears usually focusing on one area. They develop repetitive behaviors in an attempt to “control” the things causing their fears, and end up becoming obsessed with their rituals.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is the result of a terrifying or traumatic event in one’s life where they will re-experience the event and react with intense fear, anger, anxiety or even numbness. These episodes are usually brought about by exposure to a situation, thought or image reminding them of the original experience.

A combination of psychotherapy, behavior modification and medications are used for OCD treatment, PTSD treatment and the treatment of most other anxiety disorders. Mental health professionals continue to gain a better understanding of anxiety-related disorders, which has resulted in more effective methods of therapy.

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