Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders (Overview)
Anxiety can be experienced at any stage of life, it may start in childhood or teenage years and continue into adulthood. It can also be as a direct result of a concerning medical condition that requires treatment.
Anxiety is a psychological, physiological, and behavioural state that may be exhibited in people due to an actual or perceived threat to well-being or survival. Anxiety is characterised by an increase in arousal, expectancy, autonomic and neuroendocrine activation, which results in specific behavioural patterns. These changes in physical and mental states enable the person to cope with adverse or unexpected situations.
Therefore, feelings of fear and apprehension are a natural response to stress and situational triggers. Occasional anxiety about the first day of school, going to a job interview or new place of work, hosting an event, or giving a speech or presentation is a common, often natural response to feeling nervous or a little fearful.
If you experience such feelings in such a way that they are consistently part of your life for longer than 6 months and are interfering with your ability to lead a normal lifestyle, this may mean that your anxiety has escalated to an anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder is considered a serious mental illness.
An anxiety disorder is typically characterised by frequently intense, excessive or persistent worries and fears about everyday situations. Repeat episodes of sudden or intense feelings (overwhelming) can peak within minutes and cause terror or panic (bringing on panic attacks).
Intensity of fear and worry can be difficult to control, especially if out of proportion to an actual danger, or if lasting for a long time. A person may try and counteract these types of feelings by actively avoiding places and situations.
Some anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (or social phobia) and separation anxiety disorder. It is possible to be diagnosed with more than one anxiety disorder.
An anxiety disorder can be disabling, but is manageable. With careful treatment, a person suffering anxiety can get back to and lead a fulfilling life.
Anxiety disorders are the most common of the emotional disorders and can affect anyone at any age of their life. Anxiety, very often, links with depression, substance abuse (alcohol and drugs) and addictions. These dependent behaviours ultimately make the condition worse, but in the short term ‘feel’ like they are providing temporary relief.
In some cases medical professionals find it necessary to treat an alcohol or drug problem before even addressing the anxiety disorder as a way of getting all under control in the long term.