Most of us understand the feeling of anxiety in our daily lives. From the time we are young, certain situations create anxiety within us, cause us to feel the need to retreat (called the "flight" response) or to lash out, almost in a panic (called the "fight" response).
The "fight-or-flight" response is typical of the experience of anxiety and, in most people, will occur with some regularity throughout the course of their lives.
Typical situations in which people find themselves feeling anxiety are related to situations in which there is an unknown outcome, a good deal of social expectation, a prolonged period of stress, and a combination of these.
Sometimes a lack of sleep, poor diet, including stimulants such as sugar, caffeine, chocolate and soda can tip you over the edge from feeling a little nervous to feeling extremely anxious. Some of these "typical" anxiety-provoking situations would include: a new place, such as a new school, a new job, a new home, a new town, city, country, etc.
Newness in relationships and people can trigger anxiety as well: new relationships with family and lovers, new parenthood, new marriage, etc. Pressure associated with job performance, evaluations, observations, or school-related performance such as test taking, comprehension and, at every age, public speaking always tops the list of anxiety triggers for people -- whether you're being called on to answer a question in the fourth grade or giving a presentation to your law firm.
The difference between these regular, every-day experiences of anxiety and anxiety disorders is that the latter provoke responses which make it very difficult for people to function with any fluidity or stability in their lives.
Panic disorder can prevent someone from being able to drive, for example. Obsessive-compulsive disorder may make it extremely difficult for someone to feel they are able to use any public restroom or even leave their house. Someone with social anxiety may lose their job or drop out of school.
Anxiety disorders affect about 19 million adult Americans, according to WebMD. Most anxiety disorders begin in childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood.