Living in Fear: Anxiety Disorders
Many people experience brief moments of fear just before a public speaking engagement or a first date. However, for 40 million adults suffering from anxiety disorders, feelings of fear and dread aren’t one-time events. They disrupt their lives for at least six months out of the year.
The most common anxiety disorders are social anxiety, phobias, PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder.
“Anxiety disorders impair social and occupational functioning,” explains Christine Blue, DO, an osteopathic psychiatrist in Lewisburg, West Virginia. “Since it is common for anxiety disorders to occur in people who have pre-existing mental or physical illnesses, physicians will first rule out any medical causes for anxiety symptoms. Then, the treatment can focus on the underlying cause of the anxiety.”
Common Anxiety Disorders
While many different anxiety disorders exist, Dr. Blue says that the most common are:
- Specific phobias: disorders caused by intense fear over particular situations or things like spiders, heights or thunderstorms.
- Social anxiety disorder: characterized by the fear of being judged negatively in social settings. The severe fear often causes the person to avoid social situations, which can significantly restrict his or her life.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD: results from a life-threatening event. PTSD can result from an armed robbery, sexual assault or war experiences. People with PTSD frequently relive the trauma through flashbacks or nightmares.
- Generalized anxiety disorder: caused by constant, uncontrollable worry about daily events. People with this disorder experience anxiety about a wide variety of situations, from finding a parking spot to a hurricane.
Other disorders such as panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder occur less frequently but can have a significant impact on daily life.
“Treatment options differ for specific phobias, social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD,” says Dr. Blue. “However, most anxiety disorders are treated with medication, psychotherapy or both.”
At your appointment, your physician may ask about your medical and psychiatric history, perform a physical examination and order lab tests to determine the best treatment for controlling the disorder.