Definition Anxiety is a vague, uncomfortable feeling of fear, dread, or danger. Anxiety disorders are a group of psychiatric conditions that involve anxiety. The problem may be real or imaginary. Symptoms can vary in severity and length. There are several types of anxiety:
What is going on in the body? Everyone feels anxious from time to time. People who are anxious may be worried about things around them. They may have an internal, mental struggle. Sometimes anxiety is so severe it causes a great deal of distress. It can interfere with the ability to function in society. In these cases, an anxiety disorder is said to be present.
What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? There are several different anxiety disorders. Each has its own symptoms. Examples of physical symptoms include:
palpitations, an unusual awareness of the heartbeat
What are the causes and risks of the condition? Anxiety disorders are not caused by other medical conditions. It is not known why some people are more anxious than others. The feeling of anxiety is caused by the body's defence mechanisms. This is called fight or flight. The body makes adrenaline, which causes the symptoms.
What can be done to prevent the condition? To help prevent anxiety a person can:
figure out what is causing the anxiety, and deal directly with it
consider lifestyle changes to reduce stress
learn relaxation techniques
How is the condition diagnosed? An anxiety disorder is diagnosed when the anxiety becomes severe. The person has problems with relationships or work because of anxiety. A history and physical examination should be done to rule out other medical conditions that may cause symptoms of anxiety.
What are the long-term effects of the condition? Anxiety is often linked to depression. It can cause problems in a person's work and social life.
What are the risks to others? Anxiety disorders are not contagious.
What are the treatments for the condition? Treatment generally include medications and psychotherapy.
What are the side effects of the treatments? Some medications can cause sleeping and sexual problems. Others can cause sleepiness. Some medications have the potential for dependency and under these circumstances drug management requires strict supervision.
What happens after treatment for the condition? Many people return to their daily activities after treatment. Medication is often given for a long time.
How is the condition monitored? The person monitors their symptoms and reports them to the doctor. A medication may need to be changed so it works better or to decrease side effects.
Author: Adam Brochert, MD Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel Editor: Dr John Hearne Last Updated: 25/04/2005 Contributors Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request
This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice. All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.