Everyone experiences Anxiety.  It’s a basic human emotion.  In simple basic terms, anxiety is fear or worries and can be a normal and appropriate response to a particular stimulus or stressor.

In fact, in many situations Anxiety is quite adaptive and is the force that gives someone the drive to compete, win at something, practice or study extra hard or be meticulous about being on time or doing a good job.  However, when anxiety turns to excessive fear and worry or becomes constant and distressing and begins to interfere with an individual’s daily functioning, it may rise to the level of what we classify as one of the various Anxiety Disorders.

To make a diagnosis of an Anxiety disorder requires a careful and comprehensive evaluation paying close attention to both the medical and social aspects of the individual’s history.
According to the DSM V (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) there are several symptoms, which must be present for a specific duration of time in order to meet the criteria for the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.  These may include but are not limited to:

  • Feelings of fear, panic, uneasiness
  • Uncontrollable, intrusive, obsessive thinking
  • Ruminations or repeated thoughts of a traumatic episode (flashbacks)
  • Nightmares
  • Ritualized behaviors
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Physical manifestations of anxiety, e.g. palpitations, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, gastric upset, numbness or tingling in the extremities, light headedness, and others
  • Feelings of loss of control

Interestingly, Anxiety disorders come in a variety of different forms and present in a variety of different ways.  Some of the more common sub types include Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Phobias.
The history and assessment is obviously very important in differentiating the sub type of anxiety disorder since this will have important implications for making treatment decisions.  Correct diagnosis leads to the proper choice of a variety of different treatment options,  including the psychotherapies and psychopharmacologic interventions, both essential to restoring good mental health.