Anxiety is typically linked with the emotion of fear. One of three protective emotions (anger and sadness being the other two), fear is designed to alert you to danger. Unfortunately, the emotion of fear can show up when you are truly in danger or when you simply imagine you are in danger even when that is not true. Some are scared that something bad might happen or fear that something good might not happen. Worrying can keep them awake at night and rob them of needed sleep.
Overall, anxiety disorders are said to be the most common mental disorders on Planet Earth, affecting 1 in every 13 persons worldwide. Just think, if there are 7 billion people living on planet earth, 538,461,538 will experience an anxiety disorder each year. That number represents the number of people who live in the United States of America, Mexico, Canada, and Iraq combined. A 12-year study at Rush University Medical Center showed that individuals who are anxiety-prone showed a 40 percent higher risk of developing a mild cognitive impairment believed to foreshadow Alzheimer’s Disease.
Most people experience feelings of anxiety before an important event such as a big exam, business presentation or first date. Anxiety disorders, however, are illnesses that cause people to feel frightened, distressed and uneasy for no apparent reason. Left untreated, these disorders can dramatically reduce productivity and significantly diminish an individual’s quality of life.
How Common Are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in America; over 21% of adults (42.5 million) are affected by these debilitating illnesses each year.
What Are the Different Kinds of Anxiety Disorders?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder; Chronic, exaggerated worry about everyday routine life events and activities, lasting at least six months; almost always anticipating the worst even though there is little reason to expect it. Accompanied by physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headache, or nausea.
- Separation Anxiety is an anxiety disorder that can be defined as developmentally inappropriate fear when anticipating or experiencing separation from home or someone with whom the person is strongly attached—referred to as a major attachment figure.
- Selective Mutism is an anxiety disorder that typically begins in early childhood, often between the ages of two and four. It is characterized by a consistent failure to speak in specific social situations where there is a natural expectation of speaking.
- Specific Phobia is an anxiety disorder that can be defined as a persistent fear of an object, creature, environment or situation, or even a person. It is characterized by extremely irrational fear. It is possible to develop a phobia to a great many things, even to some types of food.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; Repeated, intrusive and unwanted thoughts or rituals that seem impossible to control.
- Panic Disorder; Characterized by panic attacks, sudden feelings of terror that strike repeatedly and without warning. Physical symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal discomfort, feelings of unreality, and fear of dying.
- Phobia; Extreme, disabling and irrational fear of something that really poses little or no actual danger; the fear leads to avoidance of objects or situations and can cause people to limit their lives.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; Persistent symptoms that occur after experiencing a traumatic event such as war, rape, child abuse, natural disasters, or being taken, hostage. Nightmares, flashbacks, numbing of emotions, depression, and feeling angry, irritable, distracted and being easily startled are common.
- Social Anxiety Disorder; Fear of social situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anxiety symptoms) that will be embarrassing and humiliating, oftentimes leading to avoidance of social situations and severe distress when participation in social situations can’t be avoided. 
What Are the Treatments for Anxiety Disorders?
Treatments are extremely effective and often combine medication or specific types of psychotherapy.
More medications are available than ever before to effectively treat anxiety disorders. These include antidepressants (SSRIs, SNRIs, Tricyclic Antidepressants, MAOIs), tranquilizers (benzodiazepines, etc.) and in some cases, anticonvulsants. A person may have to try more than one medication before finding a drug or combination of drugs that works for them. Learn more about medications.
One of the most effective forms of psychotherapy used to treat anxiety disorders is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches people to understand their thinking patterns so they can react differently to the situations that cause them anxiety. Learn more about therapy.
Anxiety Disorders and Other Health Conditions
It is common for a person with one anxiety disorder to also have another anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are also frequently accompanied by depression or substance abuse. Anxiety disorders can coexist with physical health conditions as well. In such instances, these physical health conditions will also need to be treated. Before undergoing any treatment, it is important to have a thorough medical exam to rule out other possible causes.
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