The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as, “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
Experiencing anxiety occasionally is normal; however, if this feeling occurs frequently, and gets worse over time it may be an indication of an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental health disorders. Nearly 30% of adults living in the United States are affected at some point in their lives.
There are four main types of anxiety disorder, including:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
- Specific phobias
- Separation anxiety disorder
It is important to note that it is possible to have one or more anxiety disorder.
The causes of anxiety disorders are not fully understood; however, there are certain risk factors believed to contribute to developing them. General risk factors include:
- Exposure to negative or stressful life events in early childhood or adulthood
- A family history of anxiety disorders or other mental illnesses
- Having certain health conditions such as heart arrhythmias or thyroid problems
- Taking certain medications that can aggravate symptoms
For those living with any type of anxiety disorder, feelings of excessive worry, fear, apprehension or nervousness are often difficult to control and can interfere with daily activities. These feelings can also lead to physical symptoms such as:
- An increased heart rate
- Trouble concentrating
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Having difficulty sleeping
If you are finding it difficult to control anxiety, and symptoms are affecting your health or ability to live a normal life, please seek help. A mental health specialist can conduct a psychological evaluation to help determine a diagnosis. A physical exam may also be recommended to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
Treatment for anxiety disorders can include psychotherapy or medications.