Get exclusive member benefits & effect social change. Join Today
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It is a feeling of fear and apprehension about what’s to come. We all feel it at times; the first day of school, going to a job interview, or giving a speech cause most people to feel fearful and nervous. But if your feelings of anxiety are extreme, last for longer than six months, and are interfering with your life, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders can affect anyone at any age. Anxiety disorders are the most common form of emotional disorder. (APA) Approximately 40 million American adults (18 percent of the population) are affected by an anxiety disorder in any given year. (NIMH)
If you have an anxiety disorder, you may also be depressed. Some people with anxiety disorders abuse alcohol or other drugs in an effort to feel better. This may provide temporary relief, but can ultimately make the condition worse. It may be necessary to treat an alcohol or drug problem before the anxiety can be addressed.
Anxiety is hard to describe. You might feel like you’re standing in the middle of a crumbling building with nothing but an umbrella to protect you. Or you might feel like you’re holding onto a merry-go-round going 65 mph and can’t do anything to slow it down. You might feel butterflies in your stomach, or your heart might be racing. You could experience nightmares, panic, or painful thoughts or memories that you can’t control. You may have a general feeling of fear and worry, or you may fear a specific place or event.
Anxiety is a feeling of fear you have when you must do something stressful. It’s normal to feel anxious about moving to a new place, starting a new job, or taking a test. Normal anxiety is unpleasant, but it may motivate you to work harder and do a better job. Normal anxiety is a feeling that comes and goes, but does not interfere with your everyday life.
In the case of an anxiety disorder, the feeling of fear may be with you all the time. It is intense and sometimes debilitating. This type of anxiety may cause you to stop doing things you enjoy. In extreme cases, it may prevent you from entering an elevator or crossing the street or even leaving your home. If left untreated, the anxiety will keep getting worse.
An anxiety disorder can take many forms, including:
Anxiety disorders can be treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. Some people who have a mild anxiety disorder or a fear of something they can easily avoid decide to live with the condition and to not seek treatment.
It is important to understand that anxiety disorder is an illness and can be treated, even in severe cases. Treatment may not result in a complete cure, but in most cases, the symptoms can be controlled so you can live a normal life.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Published on: Jul 28, 2014
Medically reviewed on: Jul 28, 2014: Brenda B. Spriggs, MD
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.
From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.
Members save 15% on lunch and dinner every day at Outback Steakhouse.
Members save 50% on a monthly selection of Kindle e-books from Amazon.
Go Digital with RealPad. Connect, play and share plus free 24/7 live customer support.
Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.
Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.
Register at a location near you to keep your driving skills sharp.
Find opportunities to volunteer in your neighborhood.
NASCAR champ Jeff Gordon teams up with AARP Foundation.