Anxiety is a feeling of fearful nervousness to a perceived danger. It's normal to have anxiety in the face of a threat or in other situations like speaking in public, for example. However, for millions of Americans every year, anxiety goes beyond the normal range of reactions and progresses to the point where it's debilitating. At that stage, the condition can be classified as an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders may need medical treatment. They're often, but not always, related to other physical or mental illnesses, such as alcoholism or substance abuse.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several different types of anxiety disorders. They include panic disorder, social anxiety, separation anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and others. The symptoms will vary somewhat based on the type of anxiety disorder, but they do share some common characteristics. For example, each can be classified as an anxiety disorder when the fear related to it rises to an excessive, irrational level. Typically, symptoms last for several months or longer.
Causes and Treatments of Anxiety
Sometimes the cause of anxiety is very specific. For example, a stressful event -- like being in a war -- will cause post-traumatic stress disorder in soldiers. Other times, however, anxiety can crop up seemingly out of nowhere. In some instances, it may be a side effect of another problem, such as dependence on alcohol, drugs or prescription medication.
The treatment of an anxiety disorder will vary somewhat based on the type of disorder a person has, but it typically begins with a diagnostic evaluation to determine the true nature of the disorder. After that, treatment usually will involve some type of anti-anxiety medication, as well as psychotherapy to help get to the root of the anxiety disorder and treat it.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Mental Health