There’s nothing to be anxious about when it comes to learning about anxiety disorders. They are simply a group of mental illnesses that cause people to suffer from excessive worry and abnormal feelings of nervousness without particular causes, and which cannot be alleviated through normal actions. Anxiety disorders are the most common of all emotional disorders, affecting more than 23 million Americans annually. An anxiety disorder may coexist with other anxiety disorders, depression, other medical illnesses, or other conditions such as alcoholism or drug abuse.

What causes anxiety disorders?

  • Biochemical changes in the brain
  • Genetic vulnerability
  • Psychological makeup
  • Life experiences

Although specific anxiety disorders are characterized by particular symptoms, general characteristics include both emotional and physical symptoms.

Emotional symptoms:

  • Panic, fear, apprehension
  • Uncontrollable obsessive thoughts
  • Repeated flashbacks (intrusive memories) of traumatic experiences
  • Nightmares
  • Frequent repetition of ritualized behavior such as handwashing

Physical symptoms:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Cold or clammy hands
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Jitteriness
  • Dry mouth
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Muscular tension

Symptoms of anxiety disorders often occur for no apparent reason and are persistent. The continuing anxiety or panic are often unrelated to actual or impending experiences. Rather than functioning as a normal call to action for the body, these emotions can have devastating effects on the sufferer, often damaging relationships with friends, family and coworkers, reducing job productivity, and making everyday experiences terrifying.

Treating Anxiety

The good news is, in addition to be being fairly common, anxiety disorders also generally respond well to treatment. The majority of patients who receive treatment experience significant relief from their symptoms.