Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).1 Anxiety is not necessarily something that warrants an immediate trip to a doctor when it is initially experienced since anxiety can be our brain’s way of preparing for a difficult or dangerous situation. It is when anxiety becomes chronic that it becomes important to seek help. Anxiety becomes a disorder when the symptoms become chronic and interfere with our daily lives and our ability to function.2 People suffering from chronic anxiety often report the following symptoms: muscle tension, physical weakness, poor memory, sweaty hands, fear or confusion, inability to relax, constant worry, shortness of breath, palpitations, upset stomach, and poor concentration. Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
Treatment for anxiety disorders can be tricky because sometimes alcoholism, depression, or other coexisting conditions have such a strong effect on the individual that treating the anxiety disorder must wait until the coexisting conditions are brought under control. Once any coexisting conditions are addressed, many different treatment options open up. There are many different types of therapy centered approaches and medication options available based on what you and your doctor decide is the best approach.
- Image source: J Am Board Fam Med © 2009 American Board of Family Medicine