Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders in the U.S.? According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, every year, 40 million American adults are impacted by anxiety disorders. It is likely many more experience anxiety even if they are not clinically anxious. So, what is anxiety anyway?
Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of worry, nervous tension, or fear often about an unknown outcome or an upcoming event or situation. Just like stress or other emotions, anxiety in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact, some anxiety may increase your level of concern just enough to take appropriate action or precautions to lead to a positive outcome or prevent harm. For example, some anxiety may lead a student to study enough to do well on an exam. Anxiety about a public speech may lead a person to prepare for it so that the speech is delivered well despite their nervousness.
When anxiety becomes excessive, intense, and strong enough to interfere with your everyday life (such as in school or interpersonal interactions), it can become a mental health issue. If anxiety is too high, a student might actually avoid studying or become so anxious that during the exam s/he is not able to focus and end up performing poorly. Excessive levels of anxiety may lead someone to not even show up for the public speech.
The following issues may be a clue that you are experiencing anxiety symptoms:
Physiological: feeling dizzy, sweating, fatigue, sleep problems, nausea, chest pain, heart racing
Cognitive: worried thoughts about many things, excessive fear or worry thoughts about a specific object or situation, catastrophizing (thinking about the worst-case scenario), poor concentration
Behavior: avoiding the anxious provoking situation or thing, anxiety leading to problems at school, with family members, peers, or in your work
Affect: excessive fear or worry, irritability
Types of Anxiety Disorders:
Generalized Anxiety: Excessive worry or anxiety (apprehensive expectation) about a number of events or activities. 6 million adults, twice as likely among women than men, often co-occurs with major depression.
Social Anxiety: Intense fear or anxiety of social situations in which one could be judged by others. 15 million adults, equally common among men and women.
Panic Disorder: Recurrent and unexpected panic attacks – an abrupt surge of intense fear or discomfort accompanied by physiological symptoms such as chest pain or accelerated heart rate. 6 million adults, twice as common among women than men
Specific Phobia: Fear or anxiety about a particular situation or object. 19 million adults, twice as common among women than men
*Definitions per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM5). Statistics per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Note: This post is intended to provide general information. It is not medical advice or a substitute for seeking your own medical advice. Consulting with your own healthcare professional regarding your specific situation is needed to properly diagnose and treat any (mental) health disorder.