Anxiety Disorders: What You Need to Know

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 cause people to feel frightened, distressed and uneasy for no apparent reason. Left untreated, these disorders can dramatically reduce productivity and significantly diminish an individual's quality of life.

How Common Are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in America; more than 40 million are affected by these debilitating illnesses each year.

What Are the Different Kinds of Anxiety Disorders?

Panic Disorder-  Characterized by panic attacks, sudden feelings of terror that strike repeatedly and without warning. Physical symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal discomfort, feelings of unreality, and fear of dying.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder-  Repeated, intrusive and unwanted thoughts or rituals that seem impossible to control

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder-  Persistent symptoms that occur after experiencing a traumatic event such as war, rape, child abuse, natural disasters, or being taken hostage. Nightmares, flashbacks, numbing of emotions, depression, and feeling angry, irritable, distracted and being easily startled are common.

Phobia-  Extreme, disabling and irrational fear of something that really poses little or no actual danger; the fear leads to avoidance of objects or situations and can cause people to limit their lives.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder-  Chronic, exaggerated worry about everyday routine life events and activities, lasting at least six months; almost always anticipating the worst even though there is little reason to expect it. Accompanied by physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headache, or nausea

Treatments have been largely developed through research conducted by research institutions. They are extremely effective and often combine medication and psychotherapy.

It is common for an anxiety disorder to accompany another anxiety disorder, including such illnesses as substance abuse. Anxiety disorders can also coexist with physical disorders. In such instances, these disorders will also need to be treated. Before undergoing any treatment, it is important to have a thorough medical exam to rule out other possible causes.

The content of this fact sheet was adapted from material published by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Mayo Clinic.

Overcome Depression and Loss

​Throughout each of our lives we inevitably endure the experience of depression and loss. Whether it is the sudden loss of a relationship, a family member, or a job, it can be difficult to rebound from unwanted changes in life. Depression has so many manifestations, but is most often associated with the following symptoms: sadness, poor mood, crying, decreased motivation and loss of interest in activities and self-care, isolating oneself from others, suicidal thoughts, poor appetite or overeating, and insomnia or hypersomnia. Depressed individuals are often viewed as withdrawn, lethargic, and isolated, but a less talked about manifestation of depression is how it can bring out dependent and clingy behavior in some people. Dependency needs can dominate in interactions with friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, family, colleagues and bosses.

Everyone is prone to experiencing “the blues”, but there is a whole spectrum of depressive experiences that vary from person to person. Dysthymic Disorder, a chronic but less severe form of depression, involves symptoms such as loss of appetite, low energy, and low self-esteem. The individual with Dysthymic Disorder has not experienced a major depressive episode in his or her lifetime, but rather maintains a general sense of unhappiness without experiencing extended periods of relief from depression.

Some individuals endure severe, debilitating episodes of depression that significantly impact functioning at work or school, with family, or in social settings. The frequency of depressive episodes varies depending on the individual. Some people fluctuate between depression and manic symptoms, a condition known as Bipolar Disorder (aka, manic depression). Examples of manic symptoms are impulsive spending or sexual behavior, obsessive thinking, grandiosity and other forms of delusional thinking, pressured speech, and a decreased need for sleep.

The experience of depression can be intense if a person perceives others in his or her support network to be unsupportive or inaccessible. Although life can be exhilarating and full of exciting choices, life significantly more complex, as people are forced to juggle many things at once. A demanding job, obligations to loved ones, and minimal time for fun or relaxation can promote stress and exhaustion. Often times, people feel so busy and rushed that they do not take the time to work through the experience of loss or chronic sadness.

Depression causes an individual to pay a disproportionate amount of attention to cues in the world that support negative beliefs and justify behaviors that are not in one’s best interest. In some ways, depression has an addictive component to the extent that people are heavily invested in avoiding experiences that may challenge their negativistic views, and will seek out situations that are likely to affirm thoughts of the self as worthless, helpless, unlovable, or defective. These negative views about the self are highly treatable through psychotherapy. Depression is often associated with other related and treatable issues such as panic attacks, social anxiety, and medical problems.

Successful treatment of depression involves treating the factors, or causes, contributing and supporting the symptoms of depression by identifying distorted or false beliefs that people may hold about themselves, their relationships, and the future as a whole. Psychotherapy can alter this selective attention to negative aspects of the self, and can create new opportunities for understanding and lasting behavioral change. The negative view of and energy directed toward oneself that depression and loss generate can be transformed through therapy into more productive thinking and action. Once progress is made ongoing therapy involves coaching and guidance to help patients hold on to gains and find momentum. When depression is no longer shading the lenses through which the world is viewed, people tend to be more productive, make better decisions, have more energy, and greater joy can be gleaned from the simple pleasures that the world has to offer.