Anxiety, panic disorder, fear of flying, social phobia, fear of heights, test anxiety, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder
What are anxiety disorders?
In order to define anxiety disorders, I first have to explain the foundation in which it comes from, and that is fear. Fear is an emotional feeling known to every human in all ages. We might not always be aware of this, but fear fulfills an important positive purpose for us. Fear helps us stay cautious in certain situations. Fear helps save lives. We look left and right when crossing a street from the fear of an accident. We strap on the seatbelt when driving from the fear of getting hurt, and so on.
Some people experience fear or anxiety at an exaggerated level as well. These people no longer drive their car; avoid certain situations and people, and in certain cases anxiety causes people to not be able to leave their home anymore. Such cases are known as anxiety disorders, and they are among the most common mental disorders besides depression.
Anxiety disorders have different characteristics. The most important ones are the following:
- Panic disorder with or without agoraphobia
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Specific phobias
When untreated, anxiety disorders tend to progressively gain strength. It becomes then a “fear of anxiety” (fear of anticipation). And as a result, those affected with it exhibit the following side-effects:
- They withdraw more and more from their normal lives.
- Fear and certain accompanying physical symptoms.
- An increasing loss in self-confidence and have the feeling that they are at the mercy of normal everyday occurrences.
- Develop problems in their partnerships, families and in their professional life.
Anxiety is often fought with alcohol, gaming, excessive eating, shopping or any of the other distractions, usually resulting with limited success. For a short time, those distractions succeed in suppressing the unpleasant feeling. However, with continued use, these distractions make the person dependent and create the basis for aggravating the problems. There are also long-term risks associated with the use of sedatives, such as benzodiazepines, which are suitable for short-term use only.
Fear does not cure itself but becomes stronger without the introduction of appropriate countermeasures over time.