Anxiety Disorder & Panic Attacks
Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the US. They affect 40 million adults in the U.S. and one in eight children in a given year. They often co-occur with other disorders, such as depression, eating disorders, substance use disorders, and in children, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Learn more.
An anxiety disorder goes beyond getting nervous about public speaking or a first date. People with these disorders experience:
- Overwhelming feelings of panic and fear
- Uncontrollable obsessive thoughts
- Painful, intrusive memories
- Recurring nightmares
- Physical symptoms such as feeling sick to your stomach, “butterflies” in your stomach, heart pounding, startling easily, and muscle tension.
The physical symptoms of anxiety often cause a person to go to their doctor’s office, but anxiety is often overlooked. The physical ailment is often treated, but anxiety, the root cause, is sometimes overlooked.
Everyday anxiety or anxiety disorder?
Source: The Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Have you ever heard someone say something like, “I almost had a panic attack when my boss called me into his office”? While it’s possible that this could happen, chances are the person wasn’t close to having a panic attack. A panic attack is defined as a sudden wave of intense fear when there is no real danger. They occur without warning and are often unrelated to the current situation. Although panic attacks are not dangerous, they produce physical sensations that make the person feel like they are losing control and/or dying. Symptoms include:
- Racing heart
- Difficulty breathing, feeling as though you “can’t get enough air”
- Terror that is almost paralyzing
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea
- Trembling, sweating, shaking
- Chest pains
- Hot flashes, or sudden chills
- Tingling in fingers or toes (“pins and needles”)
- Fear of dying or losing control of yourself
If left untreated, anxiety and panic attacks can paralyze a person to the point that they avoid their normal daily activities or anxiety-inducing situations. The good news is anxiety disorders are highly treatable with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both. If you think you have an anxiety disorder, talk to your primary care physician and ask for a referral to a mental health professional for an evaluation. It is important to be evaluated by a psychiatrist or a psychologist since they specialize in treating anxiety and other disorders.
- The Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Institute of Mental Health
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
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