According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders affect about 40 million adults each year. The cause and degree of anxiety can be confusing because everyone will feel anxious from time to time. Unlike nervousness precipitated by a stressful situation like a job interview, illness, or speaking in public, anxiety disorders can be all-consuming. They can last up to six months or longer if left untreated.
The difference between a common case of the nerves and a clinical diagnosis of anxiety is that clinical anxiety can be severe and debilitating. For instance, people diagnosed with anxiety disorders may worry obsessively about their health for no apparent reason. They may seek excessive medical reassurance or have “unreasonable” fears they cannot explain. Friends and loved ones may say that the individual is “a worrywart” or “overreacting” to a situation; however, the individual experiencing anxiety is unable to turn it off.
One of the most frightening symptoms of anxiety disorders is commonly referred to as “panic attacks.” These episodes can occur “out of nowhere,” even while an individual is sleeping. Sometimes the person experiencing the attack may hyperventilate, feel a painful sensation in the chest, and experience a sense of “dying.” Although the physical symptoms of panic attacks will not kill you, they can severely hinder your daily life.
Most people who have an anxiety disorder will often have an accompanying diagnosis like depressive disorder or substance use disorder. Anxiety disorders are rarely the sole diagnosis in a person’s mental health history. That is why it is important to seek help from a psychiatrist who can accurately diagnose all of the accompanying conditions and prescribe the right course of treatment for you.