Anxiety disorders are much different than the normal anxiety we all experience on occasion. Instead, these mental illnesses last at least six months and affect a person's ability to lead a normal life. Generally, anxiety disorders are classified into SIX categories: Specific phobias, social phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. While some individuals have symptoms of more than one anxiety disorder, most fall largely in one distinct group. Affecting some 19.2 million Americans, phobias are the most common anxiety disorder. A phobia is an intense fear of a specific situation or thing. Some of the most common phobias include fear of heights, flying, dogs, highway driving, water, tight spaces, and blood. While people with phobias tend to know their fears are irrational, they often have trouble facing them. A similar disorder, social phobia, is overwhelming embarrassment or fear surrounding normal social situations. About 15 million Americans have social phobias, which can be as distinct as eating in front of others and as broad as being around anyone other than close family. Often, social phobias manifest physically as blushing, trembling, and trouble talking. And no matter what the phobia, it may produce what is known as a panic attack. Panic attacks are the cornerstone of another anxiety disorder called Panic Disorder. For the 6 million Americans with Panic Disorder, intense fear is accompanied by unexpected and severe physical symptoms. These symptoms, or panic attacks, may manifest as dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, and a racing heart. Ironically, it is often the fear of having a panic attack that causes one to occur. Another well-known anxiety disorder is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, which affects about 2.2 million adults. People with OCD tend to become focused on a disturbing or frightening thought, called an obsession. An OCD sufferer will then create an elaborate ritual, or compulsion, to cope with the obsession. Sometimes an obsession - like avoiding germs - matches the compulsion, like repeated hand washing. But sometimes, the two don't seem to relate at all. For example a person may believe that repeatedly checking, touching, or counting things will ensure that a loved one doesn't die. A fifth anxiety issue - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - follows from a traumatic event, like military combat or sexual assault. The 7.7 million Americans with PTSD relieve their trauma through flashback. They often become emotionally numb, losing interest in previously enjoyable activities. Conversely, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, is a mental illness that often exists for little or no reason. People with GAD spend each day filled with intense worry or tension about day-to-day life. For the 6.8 million Americans with the disorder, it can be tough to sleep, eat, or ever feel relaxed. If any of these symptoms sound familiar to you, make an appointment to speak with your doctor about anxiety disorders!
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012