Everybody knows what it’s like to feel anxious.
It is normal to feel anxious when our safety, health, or happiness is threatened; however, sometimes anxiety can become overwhelming and disruptive and may even occur for no identifiable reason. Excessive, lasting bouts of worry may reflect an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety becomes a disorder when it’s out of proportion to what’s going on or is impossible to control. Anxiety can feel so overwhelming that it hurts a person’s ability to work, study, interact with people, or follow a daily routine.
Symptoms such as extreme fear, shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, insomnia, nausea, trembling and dizziness are common in anxiety disorders. Although they may begin at any time, anxiety disorders often surface in adolescence or early adulthood. There is some evidence that anxiety disorders run in families; genes as well as early learning experiences within families seem to make some people more likely than others to experience these disorders.
There are several major types of anxiety disorders, each with its own characteristics.
- People with generalized anxiety disorder have recurring fears or worries, such as about health or finances, and they often have a persistent sense that something bad is just about to happen. The reason for the intense feelings of anxiety may be difficult to identify. But the fears and worries are very real and often keep individuals from concentrating on daily tasks.
- Panic disorder involves sudden, intense and unprovoked feelings of terror and dread. People who suffer from this disorder generally develop strong fears about when and where their next panic attack will occur, and they often restrict their activities as a result.
- A related disorder involves phobias, or intense fears, about certain objects or situations. Specific phobias may involve things such as encountering certain animals or flying in airplanes, while social phobias involve fear of social settings or public places.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by persistent, uncontrollable and unwanted feelings or thoughts (obsessions) and routines or rituals (compulsions) in which individuals engage to try to prevent or rid themselves of these thoughts. Examples of common compulsions include washing hands or cleaning house excessively for fear of germs, or checking work repeatedly for errors.
- Someone who suffers severe physical or emotional trauma such as from a natural disaster or serious accident or crime may experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns become seriously affected by reminders of the event, sometimes months or even years after the traumatic experience.
If left untreated, anxiety disorders can have severe consequences. Some people believe that anxiety disorders can be overcome with willpower, but this is not likely. Untreated anxiety disorders can lead to depression, substance abuse and a range of other problems.
There are as many potential causes of anxiety disorders as there are people who suffer from them. Fortunately, the majority of people with an anxiety disorder improve considerably by getting effective psychological treatment. You can get better whether you know the cause of your anxiety or not.
Please feel free to contact me directly at 604-488-9637 or email me using my contact form on the sidebar or at the link directly below.
Dr. Gordon Reid
Ph.D, R. Psych