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Stress & Anxiety: The Basics

  • All
  • Overview
  • Symptoms & Diagnosis
  • Treatment

What is an anxiety disorder?

Feeling anxious is part of life. It’s an important way your body tells you that something’s not right, that danger is present and you may have to act quickly. But if anxious feelings are overwhelming and persistent to the point of interfering with your daily life, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Who is likely to have an anxiety disorder?

Those who have family members with anxiety disorders are more at risk to develop one themselves. In addition to genetic factors, anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of factors, including brain chemistry, personality traits, and life events.

What kinds of anxiety disorders are there?

Anxiety can be a symptom of many types of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, or social phobias. The symptoms you’re experiencing will help your doctor correctly diagnose what you’re experiencing.

How is an anxiety disorder diagnosed?

The criteria are different for each anxiety disorder, so be sure to tell your doctor, completely honestly, what kinds of symptoms you’re experiencing. For generalized anxiety disorder, these are the criteria:

  • Excessive anxiety and worry most days about many things for at least six months
  • Difficulty controlling worry
  • At least three of these symptoms: Restlessness, fatigue, irritability, muscle tension, sleep disturbance, and/or difficulty concentrating

These symptoms must significantly interfere with your life and must not be caused by medications, other medical conditions, or other mental disorders.

What treatments are available for anxiety disorders?

Usually, people can cope with an anxiety disorder by using cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Treatment may be altered based on other medical conditions a person has or other medications a person is taking. Work with your doctor to determine which treatment is best for you. Be patient—it often takes time and a little bit of experimentation to find the right combination for you.

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