Most people experience feelings of anxiety before an important event such as a big exam, business presentation, speaking in public, or a first date. Anxiety disorders, however, are a group of mental illnesses that cause people to feel excessively frightened, distressed, or uneasy during situations in which most other people would not experience these same feelings. Anxiety disorders can further cause low self-esteem, lead to substance abuse, and isolation from one’s friends and family.
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in America; Anxiety disorders include panic disorders, agoraphobia, social and other specific phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
People are more likely to have an anxiety disorder if their parents have anxiety disorders, but it has not been shown whether biology or environment plays the greater role in the development of these disorders. Some anxiety disorders have a very clear genetic link (e.g., OCD). Some anxiety disorders can also be caused by medical illnesses. Parents and friends should be aware that a traumatic event may be causing their loved one to become more nervous or to have other symptoms of anxiety disorders.
Treatments are extremely effective and often combine medication or specific types of psychotherapy.
More medications are available than ever before to effectively treat anxiety disorders. If one medication is not effective, others can be tried.
The most effective form of psychotherapy used to treat anxiety disorders is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches patients to understand their thinking patterns so they can react differently to the situations that cause them anxiety.
The importance of having a good diet and getting enough sleep are known to decrease symptoms in people with anxiety disorders.
The usual course of anxiety disorder waxes and wanes; some individuals may have repeat episodes of anxiety with years in between, and others may have continuous severe symptoms. Left untreated, these disorders can dramatically reduce productivity and significantly diminish an individual's quality of life.
In general, the outlook is good. With appropriate treatment, about 50% of patients improve within 3 weeks of starting treatment, and 77% improve within 9 months. (Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School)
American Psychiatric Association - Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
The United States National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) mission is to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and alternative medicine interventions and their roles in improving health and healthcare. They do that by advancing the science and practice of symptom management; developing effective, practical, personalized strategies for promoting health and well-being; and enabling better evidence-based decision making regarding CAM use and its integration into health care and health promotion.