What is an anxiety disorder?

Everyone experiences anxiety at some time – anxiety can be quite useful in helping a person to avoid dangerous situations and motivate the solving of everyday problems.  Anxiety can vary in severity from mild uneasiness to a terrifying panic attack.  Anxiety also can vary in how long it lasts, from a few minutes to many years.  An anxiety disorder differs from normal anxiety in the following ways:

  • It is more intense.
  • It is long lasting.
  • It interferes with the person’s work, activities, or relationships.


Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Cardiovascular: pounding heart, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, flushing.
  • Respiratory: hyperventilation, shortness of breath
  • Neurological: dizziness, headache, sweating, tingling, numbness
  • Gastrointestinal: choking, dry mouth, stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Musculoskeletal: muscle aches and pains (especially neck, shoulders, and back), restlessness, tremors


Psychological Symptoms of Anxiety

Unrealistic and/or excessive fear and worry (about past and future events), mind racing or going blank, decreased concentration and memory, indecisiveness, irritability, impatience, anger, confusion, restlessness or feeling “on edge” or nervous, tiredness, sleep disturbance, vivid dreams.


Behavioral Symptoms of Anxiety

Avoidance of situations, obsessive or compulsive behavior, distress in social situations, phobic behavior.