Everyone feels anxiety from time to time. Occasional anxiety is generally mild and brief and an anxiety disorder is more intense and usually lasts hours, or even days. Anxiety disorders can make it hard for people to work or study, to manage daily tasks and to relate well with others. Anxiety becomes a problem that requires attention when these symptoms and consequences are so persistent and severe and cause such distress for a person that it interferes with their ability to go about their daily activities.
The main types of anxiety disorders such as phobias, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and post traumatic stress disorder all share common features:
A marked and persistent fear of clearly defined objects or situations such as spiders or social situations
Repeated panic attacks that can include trembling or shaking, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessions are intrusive thoughts repeated over and over in the mind. Compulsions are behaviours or rituals that the person believes must be performed in order to suppress the obsessive thoughts. Recurrent obsessions and compulsions can cause a great deal of distress and inability to perform daily tasks.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Symptoms include flashbacks of a terrifying experience from the past in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. The person re-lives the terrifying experience. Other common symptoms are nightmares, depression and feelings of anger or irritability.
Support groups, relaxation training, meditation and stress management techniques can be helpful with anxiety disorders. Many people also benefit from talk therapy such as supportive counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy. Medications prescribed by a doctor are also effective and often used with CBT.