Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Anxiety is a normal emotion that helps people cope with difficult situations. It can become a problem when it’s out of proportion to the situation, when it interferes with daily activities, or when it leads to avoidance behaviors.
There are different types of anxiety disorders, each with its own unique set of symptoms. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive, chronic, and persistent worry that is not focused on any one object or situation. People with GAD often feel agitated, restless, and have difficulty concentrating. They may also experience muscle tension, headaches, and difficulty sleeping.
Panic disorder is characterized by recurrent, unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or stomach distress. During a panic attack, people may feel like they are going to die or have a heart attack. Panic disorder can also cause persistent anxiety and fear of future panic attacks.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by extreme fear of social situations, such as public speaking or meeting new people. People with SAD often avoid social situations, or they may endure them with intense anxiety and distress. SAD can interfere with work, school, and personal relationships.
Specific phobias are intense, irrational fears of specific objects or situations, such as heights, elevators, or flying. People with specific phobias often go to great lengths to avoid the object or situation of their fear.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by repetitive, unwanted, and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to compulsions (repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels compelled to do to relieve anxiety). Common obsessions include fears of contamination, perfectionism, and harm. Common compulsions include handwashing, counting, or checking. OCD can interfere with work, school, and personal relationships.
There are many different treatments for anxiety disorders, including psychotherapy, medication, and self-care.
Psychotherapy, also called counseling or talk therapy, is a type of treatment that involves talking with a mental health professional to help identify and change negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Medication is often used to treat anxiety disorders, especially when symptoms are severe or when anxiety is interfering with daily activities.
Self-care includes things like relaxation techniques, exercise, and support from family and friends.
If you feel you need help in coping with anxiety, never hesitate to contact your PCP.
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