Anxiety is a normal aspect of life. Occasional anxiety can be experienced by many people in various situations. Whether it be prior to a job interview, a big test coming up, or awaiting medical test results, it is normal to feel a bit uneasy in those situations. However, experiencing persistent, overwhelming, or anxiety attacks can be a sign of a more complicated condition. Anxiety disorders can be disabling and interfere with your daily life.
Anxiety disorders can be serious conditions that debilitate a lot of people – in some cases, anxiety disorders are just as severe as some health conditions like heart disease or autoimmune disorders. In the United States, anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental illness.
“Anxiety disorder” is a phrase referring to a host of psychiatric conditions people may suffer from. These mental health conditions include extreme bouts of fear and worry, panic attacks, extreme social anxiety, separation anxiety, and various fears and phobias.
While anxiety is a fairly normal and human experience (which at times can be beneficial), an anxiety disorder is deeper than that. Anxiety itself is not a disorder, however, anxiety can become problematic when it becomes a source of dread or influences negative reactions to daily life. This can be characterized by irrational thoughts and behaviors that may keep you from functioning normally. These can include: avoidance behaviors, concentration issues, or even severe physical symptoms that may lead to illness or a weakened health. At times, these symptoms can be so severe that they interfere with interactions with your family, friends, work, or social obligations.
Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions that impact your life greatly. Some people may avoid normal daily activities as their disorder progresses while others may fear leaving their home entirely. Many people admit that their struggles are irrational, but have a difficult time overcoming the various thoughts and feelings that they have become trapped in. The good news is, anxiety disorders are treatable! If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, it is important that you seek help.
Below are a few indicators that can help you distinguish between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder:
An easier way to explain this would be by giving an example. Many people have the fear of heights or of being in high places. A normal reaction to this may be discomfort or a mild negative response when flying or walking across a bridge. Yet, in order to get to their destination, they still have to fly in the plane or walk across the bridge. However, in the same situation, people with anxiety disorders might never be able to walk across the bridge or board a plane – even if it may jeopardize their occupation.
Anxiety is considered a problem when physical symptoms (i.e. shortness of breath, heart palpitations, nausea, vomiting, or fainting spells), become severe or a recurrent response to various situations. Other responses may include: distorted thoughts, panic attacks, excessive worry, fear of seemingly normal situations, changes in behavior, dangerous or self-harmful acts, and changes in the way they interact in close relationships. These are signs of severe mental health conditions and are key indicators of different types of anxiety disorders.
An example of an anxiety disorder is social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder can be defined as: “A chronic mental health condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety. For people with [this condition], everyday social interactions cause irrational anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment.” Symptoms can range from fear of leaving the house due to an excess fear of discourse or the inability to interact with others due to the fear of embarrassment.
If you are suffering from excessive bouts of anxiety, medical or mental health related issues due to being anxious, or begin experiencing serious health effects due to uncontrollable anxiety, you are most likely suffering from an anxiety disorder. In some cases, anxiety has been attributed to health conditions like: heart disease, stomach ulcers or digestive issues, and physical pain. It is best to consult with your doctor or a medical professional in order to discuss the appropriate treatment option for you.