It is common to all of us to experience fear, restlessness or insecurity in interpersonal situations.
For example, it is estimated that around 30% of the population has experienced some episode of intense fear in social situations (Bados,1992). These anxious reactions are part of the adaptive responses that help our brain to react with appropriated behaviors according to the situation.
This way we manage to optimize our behavior based on the different social situations in which we find ourselves. Also, as it is already widely accepted, a certain level of anxiety improves motivation and performance so it will be useful when facing new situations, important oral situations such as a job interview or first dates.
Anxiety is accompanied by moderate physiological activation that causes flushing, sweating, slight tremors, palpitations, or dry mouth.
When you don’t live with an anxiety disorder, you experience it is a response to a current or future social situation and in a few minutes the experience will be gone. However, when you do live with it, your anxiety doesn’t stop after a few minutes or is way stronger than it should be or not adapted to the situation you are in.
Anxiety Disorders is a big family of 6 different types of more specific experiences.
They all have things in common like excessive anxiety, sticky thoughts and behavioral disturbance. However, they differ from each other in the object or the situation inducing it.
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure”. People with anxiety disorders struggle with such emotions on a regular basis.
These experiences often interfere with usual daily life activities, making it harder to have a healthy social life, good job or school performances and love life. The feeling of excessive, unrealistic worry and tension with little or no reason causes distress that can keep you from carrying on with your life normally.
General Facts about Anxiety Disorders
First let’s go through general facts on Anxiety Disorders and then we have a page for each specific experience: Panic Disorder, Specific Phobias, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
General symptoms of anxiety disorders:
- tachycardia (chest pain), excessive sweating and hyperventilation (shortness of breath).
- fatigue and difficulty in concentrating on the present.
- trembling, nausea and diarrhea.
The Stigma around Anxiety Disorders
There is a tendency nowadays to romanticize these experiences. We see it everywhere on social medias, TV and even on shirts with quotes making you believe Anxiety is a beautiful emotion you should embrace.
This might come from a genuine desire to reduce the stigma (or to make money using a new trend), but it often reinforces the thought that experiencing an Anxiety Disorder is not a real mental illness experience, thus no need for treatment, “just breath and it will get better”. As always, stigma prevents people in need from seeking help and this is something we must bring light on.
On the other side, there is a common misconception about people living with anxiety. Way too often, they are portrayed as weak, lazy, too emotional, too sensitive, incapable of controlling their own emotions, or simply too lazy, unwilling to help themselves. In a nutshell, anxiety is viewed as a sign of personal weakness. This supports the idea that anyone going through an anxiety episode should be able to “snap out of it” if they really wanted to.
You see the irony here? This is not a real mental illness, so why should you get help and on the other side, you are too weak to help yourself.
So, let’s make this clear! Anxiety disorders are real mental illness experiences. People really struggle with anxiety and the good news is that recovery is possible.
Therapies as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have proven to be very efficient and sometimes medication is needed for a while and will allow the person to drastically lower the symptoms on a daily basis. However, medication is not always recommended, never take medication without prescription!
Causes of Anxiety Disorders
Multiple factors may trigger anxiety disorders. Some of them are:
- family background: genetic predisposition of members of the same family towards anxiety disorders.
- personality traits: higher likelihood for shy, perfectionist and insecure people of suffering from anxiety disorders.
- stressful life events such as sexual abuse, loss of a loved one and relational problems in the work environment.
- physical disease: close correlation between physical health problems such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes and asthma and anxiety disorders.
People living with anxiety disorders could also exhibit comorbidity with other mental illness experiences (e.g. depression and eating disorders) or struggle with alcohol and drug abuse.
Anxiety disorder’s statistics
- Worldwide over 280 million people struggle with anxiety disorders.
- In the world more than 60% of people with anxiety disorders are women.
- The majority of people starts struggling with anxiety disorders before they turn 21.
- In the US over 30% of people are likely to suffer from anxiety disorder at least once in life.
- 14% of Europeans between the ages of 14-65 exhibit anxiety disorders.
- In Italy 9% of unemployed workers between the ages of 35-64 are affected by anxiety disorders.
- In 2015 anxiety disorders resulted in over 24 million Years Lived with Disability (YLD).