Anxiety is a common and normal occurrence. However, a chronic, high level of
anxiety indicates an anxiety disorder.
Common Anxiety Disorders
Some of the more common anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A person with
generalized anxiety disorder experiences persistent and
excessive anxiety or worry that lasts at least six months.
- Specific Phobia: A person who has specific
phobia experiences intense anxiety when exposed to a particular
object or situation. The person often avoids the feared object or situation
because of a desire to escape the anxiety associated with it.
- Social Phobia: A person who has social
phobia experiences intense anxiety when exposed to certain
kinds of social or performance situations. As a result, the person often
avoids these types of situations.
- Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia: A person with panic
disorder experiences recurrent, unexpected panic attacks, which
cause worry or anxiety. During a panic attack, a person has
symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, dizziness, chest
pain, and fear of losing control, going crazy, or dying. Panic disorder can
occur with or without agoraphobia. Agoraphobia involves anxiety
about losing control in public places, being in situations from which escape
would be difficult or embarrassing, or being in places where there might be
no one to help if a panic attack occurred.
- Obsessive-compulsive Disorder: A person with
obsessive-compulsive disorder experiences obsessions,
compulsions, or both. Obsessions are ideas, thoughts, impulses,
or images that are persistent and cause anxiety or distress. A person
usually feels that the obsessions are inappropriate but uncontrollable.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that help to prevent
or relieve anxiety.
- Post–traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A person with this
disorder persistently re-experiences a highly traumatic event and avoids
stimuli associated with the trauma. Symptoms include increased arousal such
as insomnia, irritability, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance, or
exaggerated startle response.
Roots of Anxiety Disorders
Many different interactive factors influence the development of anxiety
Many biological factors can contribute to the onset of anxiety
- Genetic predisposition: Twin studies suggest that
there may be genetic predispositions to anxiety disorders. Researchers
typically use concordance rates to describe the likelihood that a
disorder might be inherited. A concordance rate indicates
the percentage of twin pairs who share a particular disorder. Research
has shown that identical twins have a higher concordance rate for
anxiety disorders than fraternal twins.
- Differing sensitivity: Some research suggests that
people differ in sensitivity to anxiety. People who are highly sensitive
to the physiological symptoms of anxiety react with even more anxiety to
these symptoms, which sets off a worsening spiral of anxiety that can
result in an anxiety disorder.
- Neurotransmitters: Researchers believe there is a
link between anxiety disorders and disturbances in neural circuits that
use the neurotransmitters GABA and serotonin. GABA limits nerve cell
activity in the part of the brain associated with anxiety. People who do
not produce enough GABA or whose brains do not process it normally may
feel increased anxiety. Inefficient processing of serotonin may also
contribute to anxiety.
- Brain damage: Some researchers have suggested that
damage to the hippocampus can contribute to PTSD symptoms.