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Anxiety FAQs

What is anxiety?

Woman Checking Hair in Mirror

Anxiety is defined as a diffuse, highly unpleasant, often vague feeling of apprehension, fear and dread. That has three primary components:

  • Body sensations: dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, muscle tightness, shortness of breath, sweating, urge to void, dizziness/light headedness, dilated pupils, stomach distress, hair stands on-end, fidgetiness and agitation, need to move about
  • Thinking patterns: tendency to pay excessive attention to external and internal signs and signals of anxiety, tendency to interpret neutral situations as potentially threatening, bias, catastrophic appraisal, rumination, perceived loss of control and predictability, anxious anticipation or worry, hyper-vigilance
  • Behavioral Responses:  subtle and/or obvious avoidance of anxiety provoking situations, rituals and compulsions, alcohol and drug abuse

Is anxiety always abnormal?

Not at all. Anxiety and worry is, to some extent, a normal aspect of living. Everyone experiences some degree of anxiety and worry in the course of daily living. Anxiety, in mild or moderate degrees, can serve a useful function – by alerting us to potential threats to us or those we care about. Anxiety can then serve as a signal to activate constructive and useful responses in the present, to deal with potential future challenges. For example, the worry about of the loss of one’s income and standard of living can mobilize one to work hard and diligently in one’s job or career. Or, the worry that one’s child may not become independent and productive in the future can activate efforts to provide a child with the best social, emotional and intellectual environment possible. We can refer to this as “clean anxiety.” However, when anxiety is extreme, or is overly focused upon regulating or over-controlling internal thoughts, feelings and experiences (call this “dirty anxiety”), it actually causes anxiety to spiral out-of-control, resulting in impairments in the most important aspects of our lives: our social and family life, as well as our job performance and career advancement.

What are the common symptoms of anxiety?

Physical Symptoms

  • racing or pounding heart (palpitations)
  • sweating
  • muscle tightening
  • trembling or shaking
  • shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • feeling of choking or tightness in neck area causing difficulty swallowing
  • feeling dizzy, unsteady or faint
  • body hair standing on end
  • numbness or tingling sensations (parethesia)
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • nausea or abdominal distress
  • chills or hot flushes

Thoughts and Beliefs

  • Beliefs about imminent danger where no actual threat is present
  • Feelings of unreality or detachment
  • Thinking that you are dying
  • Strong desire to escape or avoid situation where anxiety is triggered
  • “Fear of fear”
  • Perceived sense of loss of control over self/situations
  • Hyper-vigilance to the possibility of being endangered or losing control

Behavioral Symptoms

Avoidance of situations associated with anxiety/fear, such as:

  • Being more than a short distance from home
  • Leaving home alone
  • Shopping in a crowded supermarket
  • Social situations
  • Public bathrooms
  • Walking through a crowded shopping mall, away from the exits
  • Riding a bus, train, or subway
  • Public speaking
  • Flying on an airplane
  • Sitting in a theater, away from exit, middle of a row
  • Enclosed places (e.g., riding elevators, being in tunnels, small rooms)
  • Walking on a crowded street
  • Driving on highways, city streets, or other roads

What is an anxiety disorder, and what are the most common disorders?

Anxiety disorders comprise a set of separate but related disorders that include the following:

Panic Disorder (with and without agoraphobia)

Specific Phobia

Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

For more information about each of these disorders, click HERE.

What is the cause of anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders are a result of a complex combination of risk factors that include genetics, brain chemistry and circuitry, personality, temperament, and a history of stressful life events. Some anxiety disorders occur out of the blue, for seemingly no reason at all. Our treatment approach at the OCD Resource Center of Florida focuses more upon solutions to anxiety problems and the restoration of productive and meaningful living, rather than focusing to excess upon the myriad of possible factors that contribute to anxiety disorders.

How common are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses affecting children and adults. An estimated 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders and over 1 million children. They cost the USA over $42 billion per year in lost productivity. People with anxiety disorders go to the doctor for various medical complaints at a rate 5 times that of people without an anxiety disorder. The cost of anxiety disorders to the overall USA healthcare system is enormous.

What are the most effective treatments for anxiety disorders?

Please click HERE for more information about the effective treatments for anxiety disorders.

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