Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can actually be beneficial in some situations. For some people, however, anxiety can become excessive. While the person suffering may realize their anxiety is too much, they may also have difficulty controlling it and it may negatively affect their day-to-day living.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population). Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.
Symptoms vary depending on the type of anxiety disorder, but general symptoms include:
- Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
- Problems sleeping
- Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- An inability to be still and calm
- Dry mouth
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Muscle tension
In general, anxiety disorders are treated with medication, specific types of psychotherapy, or both. Treatment choices depend on the problem and the person's preference. Medication will not cure anxiety disorders, but it can keep them under control while the person receives psychotherapy.
If you think you have an anxiety disorder, the first person you should see is your doctor. A physician can determine whether the symptoms that alarm you are due to an anxiety disorder, another medical condition, or both. If an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, the next step is usually seeing a mental health professional. The practitioners who are most helpful with anxiety disorders are those who have training in cognitive-behavioral therapy and/or behavioral therapy, and who are open to using medication if it is needed. Through treatment, you gain more control over an anxiety disorder. By developing good coping skills, you have a better chance of preventing future anxiety attacks.
There are various resources available to gain knowledge about anxiety disorders such as: Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) and the Nation Institute of Mental Health.