of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders, like other mental illnesses, reflect dysfunctions within the brain. We are beginning to understand the specific circuits in the brain that underlie post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and perhaps panic disorder. We are on the path to discovering genes that make people vulnerable to anxiety disorders.
"Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in America, yet many people who have them are suffering in silence and secrecy, inappropriately ashamed or unaware of the availability of excellent treatments," according to Steven E. Hyman, M.D., Director of National Institute of Mental Health
(NIMH). "Most people with anxiety disorders, depression or other mental illnesses face great difficulty receiving appropriate treatment due to widespread lack of understanding and stigma."
Anxiety disorders consist of a group of illnesses: obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, panic disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Panic Disorder - Characterized by panic attacks, sudden feelings of terror that strike repeatedly and without warning. Physical symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal discomfort, feelings of unreality, and fear of dying.
Panic disorder afflicts approximately 1 to 2% of the U.S. population with women being twice as likely to develop it. It typically strikes in young adulthood with roughly half of all sufferers developing the condition before age 24.
Agoraphobia is the fear of being in places or situations from which escape may be difficult or embarrassing or in which help may not be available in the event of a panic attack. Agoraphobia is intimately related to panic disorder, and the two frequently occur together.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder -
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) afflicts about 2% of the U.S. population in a given year. People with OCD suffer intensely from recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) or rituals
(compulsions) that seem impossible to control.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder affects about 7.8% of the population. It is often associated with war
veterans. However it can occur in anyone who has experienced a severe and usual physical or mental
trauma such as war, rape, child abuse, natural disasters or crashes. The severity of the disorder increases if the trauma was unanticipated. People who suffer from PTSD re-experience the event that traumatized them through nightmares, psychic numbing, excessive alertness and highly sharpened startle reaction, and in generalized anxiety, depression, and inability to
sleep, nightmares, flashbacks, numbing of emotions, feeling angry, irritable,
Phobias - Extreme, disabling and irrational fear of something that really poses little or no actual danger; the fear leads to avoidance of objects or situations and can cause people to limit their lives.
Phobias afflict approximately 13 to 15% of Americans who may experience one or more phobias in a given year.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder - Chronic, exaggerated worry about everyday routine life events and activities, lasting at least six months. Almost always anticipating the worst even though there is little reason to expect it; accompanied by physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headache, or nausea.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) afflicts about 3 to 4 % of the U.S. population in a given year.