What is Anxiety? Anxiety Disorders & Attacks



The feeling of anxiety is common to all and we have all felt it many times in the course of our lives. But when anxiety becomes an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it becomes a disorder.

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Nearly 40 million people above the age of 18 are affected by this disorder in a given year. Anxiety disorder may be caused by a mental condition, a physical condition, the effects of drugs, or from a combination of these.

Some of the common Types of Anxiety Disorders are:


This condition is characterized by periods of intense fear or a psychological distress that lasts for about half an hour.


This condition is characterized by excessive anxiety and worry, occurring more days than not for a period of at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities. Having this disorder means always anticipating disaster, often worrying excessively about health, money, family, or work. Sometimes, though, the source of the worry is hard to pinpoint.


These are persistent, unreasonable, intense fears (phobias) of situations, circumstances, or objects giving rise to anxiety and avoidance. Phobic disorders are classified as general (agoraphobia and social phobia) or specific.

A) Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia literally means “fear of the marketplace”. Therefore, people with agoraphobia are afraid of open or public places. In reality, most people with agoraphobia are actually afraid of having a panic attack in these settings, especially settings in which there will be no one to help in case of panic attack or an actual emergency.

B) Social Anxiety Disorder

The person suffering from this disorder has an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations. The anxiety in this case arises out of the fear of being closely watched, judged or criticized by people around you.

C) Specific Phobias

A specific phobia is fear of and anxiety about a particular situation or object. Specific phobias are the most common anxiety disorders. Among the most frequent are fear of animals zoophobia), heights (Acrophobia) and thunderstorms (Astraphobia or Brontophobia).

i) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is a type of disorder involving two elements: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are repetitive unwanted thoughts that make you feel anxious. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors and rituals that the patient feels compelled to perform as performing them temporarily reduces the anxiety.

ii) Separation Anxiety

This form of anxiety is a normal developmental stage experienced by a child when separated from the primary caregiver. It typically manifests itself as crying and distress when the child is away from a parent or from home.


At Home: In certain cases, it is possible to treat anxiety at home. However, these cases are limited to ones where the attack is of a short duration and where you know the reason for the attack. In such cases, stress can be relieved by practicing activities such as: Meditation, Watching TV, Deep breathing , Resting in a dark room etc.

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Medical Treatment: When the nature of attacks is more serious in nature then the patient has to turn to medical treatment. Medical treatment depends on the cause of the anxiety.

There are cases when the cause cannot be identified. In such cases, the only way to treat is control of symptoms.

Medication does not cure anxiety disorders, but it helps to keep them under control while the person receives psychotherapy.

With proper treatment many people with anxiety disorders can lead normal, fulfilling lives.

Cathy M. Ross