What Is an Anxiety Disorder?
Individuals with an anxiety disorder experience intense, chronic worry about daily events. This constant state of “fight or flight” (anticipating negative outcomes) may result in mental and physical health issues. The emotions caused by an anxiety disorder can interfere with daily functioning and often seem disproportionate to the perceived threat. The brain’s limbic system regulates our emotions. Overactive neurochemical functioning in the limbic system contributes to anxiety symptoms. Excessive worrying due to anxiety runs in families. Approximately 6% of children and 18% of adults have anxiety disorders. This disorder is more commonly experienced by females.
Subtypes of Anxiety
- Separation Anxiety
- Panic Disorder
- Specific Phobia
- Generalized Anxiety
- Social Phobia
- Selective Mutism
- fear or avoidance of social situations
- increased heart rate/blood pressure
- panting or respiratory distress
- increased startle response
- trembling or shaking
- dry mouth
- excessive sweating
- dizziness or tiredness
Diagnosis and Treatment
Anxiety disorders are usually diagnosed by mental health professionals such as psychiatrists or psychologists. The assessment typically includes a clinical interview and observations, a review of rating scales completed by others who know the client well, and may include the use of standardized rating scales or similar evaluation tools. Effective treatment frequently involves a combination of therapy (to help the individual learn new ways to think about threatening situations or events) and medication (to regulate the brain’s production of neurochemicals that trigger the “fight or flight” reaction).
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Watch Dr. Julie Steck’s webinar, Anxiety Disorders in Individuals with Developmental Disabilities, by clicking here.