Panic and Anxiety Disorders


What is Anxiety?

Most people experience feelings of anxiety before an important event such as a big exam, business presentation or first date. Anxiety disorders, however are illnesses that fill people’s lives with overwhelming anxiety and fear. They are chronic, are unremitting, and can grow progressively worse. Tormented by panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, or countless frightening physical symptoms, some people with anxiety disorders even become housebound. Fortunately, research has led to the development of very effective treatments that can help.

How common are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in America today: an estimated 13 percent of adults ages 18-54 in a given year, or more than
19 million people, are affected by these debilitating disorders.

What are the different kinds of anxiety disorders?

  • Panic Disorders – Repeated episodes of intense fear that strike often and without warning. Physical symptoms include chest pain,
    heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal distress, feelings of unreality, and fear of dying.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – Recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions) that seem
    impossible to stop or control. Examples of compulsions include hand washing, counting, checking, or cleaning.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Persistent symptoms that occur after experiencing a traumatic event such as rape or other criminal
    assault, war, child abuse, natural disasters or crashes. Nightmares, flashbacks of the event, numbing of emotions, depression, being easily startled, and
    feeing angry, irritable or distracted are common.
  • Phobias – Two major types of phobias are social phobia and specific phobia. People with social phobias have an overwhelming and
    disabling fear of scrutiny, embarrassment, or humiliation in social situations, which leads them to avoid many potentially pleasurable and meaningful
    activities. People with specific phobias experience extreme, disabling and irrational fears about something that poses little or no actual danger. The
    intense fear leads to avoidance of objects or situations and can cause people to limit their lives unnecessarily.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – Constant, exaggerated worrisome thoughts and tension about everyday routine life events and
    activities, lasting at least six months. Almost always, people with GAD anticipate the worst, even though there is little reason to expect it. GAD is
    often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headache, or nausea.

Do anxiety disorders co-exist with other illnesses?

It is common for an anxiety disorder to co-occur with depression, eating disorders, substance abuse or another anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can also
accompany physical illnesses. Before beginning treatment for an anxiety disorder, it is important to have a thorough medical examination to rule out other
possible causes of symptoms. When other illnesses co-exist with an anxiety disorder, they too must be appropriately diagnosed and treated.

What are effective treatments for anxiety disorders?

Effective treatments have been developed through research conducted by universities, the NIMH, and other research institutions. These treatments
often combine medication with specific types of psychotherapy.

More medications are available than ever before to effectively treat anxiety disorders. These include groups of drugs called antidepressants and
benzodiazepines. If one medication is not effective, others can be tried. In addition, new medications are currently in development.

Two clinically-proven, effective forms of psychotherapy used to treat anxiety disorders are behavioral therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Behavioral therapy focuses on changing specific actions and uses several techniques to stop unwanted behaviors. Adding to behavioral therapy
techniques, cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches clients to understand and change their thinking patterns so they can react differently to
anxiety-arousing situations.

Manassas Group members having special expertise in Anxiety and Panic Disorders:

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