What are Anxiety Disorders?

Feeling anxious can be normal in a stressful situation. It’s a way our body tells us to prepare for danger and to be alert to a threatening event, known as a “fight or flight” reaction.  However, anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of anxiousness, where anxiety may become irrational, overwhelming, and persistent. Consequently, when anxiety becomes too overwhelming, it can interfere with daily functioning such as relationships and performance at work. 

For a formal diagnosis of anxiety disorder, the fear or anxiety experienced must be: 

  • Unproportionate to the situation or the age of the individual
  • Interfering with daily functioning


Common Symptoms in Anxiety Disorders

Some general symptoms of an anxiety disorder may include:

  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Trembling 
  • Trouble concentrating on anything other than present worry
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia 
  • Headache
  • Avoiding interaction with people, or places
  • Excessive worry


Risk Factors

Risk factors of anxiety disorder may be due to an amalgamation of different biological and environmental factors. Traumatic and stressful events can buildup and trigger excessive anxieties about safety, finances, relationships, etc. In addition, anxiety disorders may run in families, suggesting a genetic basis to anxiety disorders. Consumption of sugary foods, alcohol, coffee and tea, amongst many others may exacerbate the effects of anxiety.


Some Different Types of Anxiety Disorders



Treatment may include medications like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). However, the relapse rate with medication alone is found to be higher than if therapy is used or included in conjunction. Some psychotherapy methods for treating anxiety disorders may include Exposure Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

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