What is Anxiety Disorder - When Does It Become a Problem

By Funmi Salami

Anxiety is a part of normal human life. Everyone experiences some form of anxiety or nervousness when faced with big events such as a job interview or a wedding. Furthermore, small events can also trigger the jitters. Things such as an exam or blind date are just to name a couple.

For the most part, normal levels of anxiety can be quite health and beneficial. These feelings tend to motivate us to study for that exam or be more cautious and less reckless. However, for about 19 million Americans suffering from anxiety disorder, normal anxiety is far from what they experience on a daily basis.

When Does Anxiety Become a Problem?

For those with abnormally high levels of anxiety, thoughts can become serious and irrational for no known reason or as a result of some small event. Feelings of fear, worry and dread become normal to them which then impacts negatively on their work or school life, family life and personal lives.

In order to understand the difference between normal and abnormal anxiety, let's explore this example; two different people are waiting for a friend to arrive at a restaurant. The friend they are waiting on is now a half an hour late. The first person with normal anxiety will shrug off the situation believing the friend is caught in traffic and will be along shortly. However, in a person with chronic anxiety, the worry about their friend quickly turns to irrational thoughts and panic:

Has my friend been in a car accident? Should I call the police? How do I tell her family? Will her family be able to survive?

These examples are just a few of the racing thoughts going through the mind of an anxiety sufferer. Each thought will become more intense and irrational even after the friend has already arrived.

What Causes Anxiety?

An anxiety disorder is a serious mental illness because it can overwhelm the sufferer with persistent worrisome thoughts and thus be crippling. There are several types of anxiety disorder, but generally a person can be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder after having pervasive feelings of panic, fear, or uneasiness for six months or longer.

The cause of anxiety disorder is part of a great debate; however researchers do agree that a genetic predisposition to the disorder is a common link. Symptoms of anxiety usually begin to manifest in childhood and adolescence although adult onset is not uncommon. Furthermore, women are twice as likely to experience anxiety disorders than men and all ethnic groups are affected equally.

Like several other mental disorders, anxiety is likely caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Seratonin and GABA are neurochemicals of interest in the search to better understand anxiety. Researchers also believe that outside factors play a role in anxiety disorders. Naturally, a person living in a stressful environment will worry more. Also, a person with anxiety will likely have more severe symptoms in the case of a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, loss of a job, or a negative health diagnosis.


Because of its physiological nature, anxiety can not yet be cured.

It can, however, be managed through a variety of means. The most effective way to combat anxiety involves both medication and cognitive behavior therapy. Anxiety can also be effectively managed through lifestyle modifications, including changes in diet, physical activity, and other habits. The first step to treating anxiety is recognizing that there is a problem and getting help.

A person who seeks treatment for anxiety has a great chance of living a life that is more normal and fulfilling. - 30540

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