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Anxiety can make people feel afraid, from a little nervous to really panicked

Feeling nervous, worried, or scared sometimes is normal, especially when things are tough or new. But if those feelings happen a lot, are very strong, and last for a long time (like almost every day for six months), it might mean someone has an anxiety disorder. About one in three adults in America will have an anxiety disorder at some point.

Anxiety can make people feel afraid, from a little nervous to really panicked. It's normal to feel anxious when something happens that's scary or difficult, but if it happens too much, it can be a problem. When someone has an anxiety disorder, they might have lots of negative thoughts, be irritable, restless, or have trouble sleeping. They might also feel physical symptoms, like a faster heartbeat or breathing, and feel like they have a lot of energy.

Anxiety disorders are really common, and in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than ever are feeling anxious. There are many different types of anxiety disorders, but they all make people feel scared or worried a lot, and sometimes those feelings come out of nowhere. There are ways to treat anxiety disorders, like counseling or medication, so people can feel better and live their lives normally.

What is Anxiety? The Basics

Anxiety is a state of mind that occurs when we feel afraid about something in the immediate or distant future. It's normal to have some anxiety now and then, but excessive amounts can be seriously detrimental health-wise

Anxiety symptoms occur because of the body's normal chain reaction called the “fight or flight” response, which involves your brain and nervous system.

The amygdala, part of our brain that responds to threats by triggering a fear response.

Once the stress response is activated, the nervous system releases stress hormones and adrenaline into your bloodstream—causing physiological changes like increased heart rate or respiration.

When Does Anxiety Become a Mental Health Problem?

While fear is not itself a rational response to danger, anxiety that occurs frequently and without apparent cause may be considered abnormal.

The symptoms of anxiety disorders vary depending on the type, but most people experience worried thoughts racing around in their head or catastrophic thinking. They also tend to feel more irritable—more emotional than usual and prone to outbursts —and have an increased amount of nervous energy (they're always either fidgeting with something or moving from place-to-place).

For many people, anxiety can trigger physical symptoms that include increased heart rate and blood pressure.

How Common Are Anxiety Disorders?

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has reported that anxiety disorders affect about 19% of the U.S. population at any given time.

In 2020, Mental Health America (MHA) examined the effects of covid virus pandemic on U.S. mental health—and found that anxiety had risen dramatically over the course of this disaster and was only continuing to grow more severe as time has gone on.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Some of the most common forms of anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): Anxiety that is triggered by a wide variety of situations and does not appear to be connected with any specific thing or circumstance.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Anxiety that occurs in specific situations (such as public speaking or meeting new people) where a person fears being judged and disliked by others.
  • Specific phobias: Intense symptoms of anxiety triggered by a specific thing (e.g., fear of spiders), situation (for example heights) or activity (“public speaking).
  • Panic disorder: is defined by recurrent panic attacks and an irrational fear of future panic attacks.
  • Anxiety related to health issue: Anxiety disorders that occur as a result of physical illness or the use of drugs, such as alcohol or marijuana
  • Separation Anxiety is a condition that causes intense fear or stress when someone who has cared for you (like a parent, guardian, etc.) leaves.
  • Unspecified Anxiety Disorders are characterized by symptoms of anxiety that do not match other known conditions but cause significant distress or impairment.
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by anxiety, intense intrusive thoughts and repetitive ritualistic behavior. (Not an anxiety disorder but commonly related to it).
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not an anxiety disorder, but it does involve symptoms of anxiety such as avoidance and mood problems. It also causes people to experience recurrent memories related to a traumatic event.

Understanding the Symptoms and Signs of Anxiety

The symptoms that a person exhibits can vary depending on the particular mental health or substance use disorder he has. Licensed professionals who are trained in diagnosing these disorders look for specific symptoms when assessing whether someone suffers from such an illness.

People with anxiety often experience some of the same symptoms as people who are diagnosed with other mental health conditions.For example, many individuals suffering from depression or schizophrenia report feeling anxious (or experiencing panic attacks).

Some common symptoms include:

One of the most common symptoms of anxiety is feeling tense or irritable. You may also feel restless, have trouble concentrating and sleep poorly. People often experience feelings of worry or fear without having an explicit reason why they should be anxious—this can lead to physical sensations such as sweating, shaking and dizziness

A feeling of disconnection or dissociation and intense panic attacks involving physical symptoms such as a racing heart and trouble breathing.

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Different Types of Anxiety Disorders and How to Recognize Their Symptoms and Treatments