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Symptoms and treatment of anxiety

Anxiety disorders are a group of conditions characterized by extreme uneasiness, fear or worry. Most people feel nervous or apprehensive at various points in their lives, and a certain level of anxiety is useful in keeping us focused on a task or performance. For those suffering clinical anxiety, their lives are subject to a crippling sense of fear that can arise at any time: anxiety attacks. These feelings should not be interpreted as weakness on the part of the sufferer, they are part of a serious medical condition that can be identified and treated.

Some specific types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Social anxiety disorder. People suffering from social anxiety disorder or social phobia have a constant and overwhelming fear of being watched as they perform certain tasks, and of being judged upon making a mistake in a similar situation. This can lead the sufferer to eliminate almost all social situations and greatly reduce their quality of life. Getting help and information on social anxiety is the first step to getting your life back.
  • Phobias. Phobias exist when an individual experiences an irrational and crippling fear of things or situations. Common examples are arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and agoraphobia (fear of open spaces). Behavioral therapy is often useful in treating phobias.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder. This anxiety disorder is rooted in a traumatic event experienced by the patient. Events that typically result in PTSD include war, rape and natural disasters. A sufferer of PTSD experiences flashbacks and nightmares of the event, mood disturbances and depression.
  • Panic disorder. An individual suffering from panic disorder experiences panic attacks where physiological symptoms of the "fight or flight" response are activated. The person's heart rate and breathing may skyrocket, they may feel dizzy and short of breath and they may have stomach pain.

Many doctors will prescribe medication for anxiety, as well as psychotherapy to help them overcome their fear, phobia or anxiety. Many patients find these treatments beneficial in helping them lead a more normal life, less restricted by their attempts to avoid feelings of anxiety. Some typical cognitive-behavioral treatments for anxiety include learning how to control anxious thoughts, controlled contact with the feared object or location and meditation. There are a number of support groups specifically for individuals with one or more anxiety disorder. A little bit of stress is normal, but a constant sense of losing control over certain situations requires help – don't be afraid to get it.

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