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“Anxiety disorders,” says the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, “are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18 percent of the U.S. population)."
Like many things in the last few decades, research has expanded and broadened the scope of understanding of anxiety disorders and words like panic attacks and anxiety attacks are pretty common. But what is the difference between just feeling anxious and having an anxiety disorder?
Is there a difference between anxiety attacks and panic attacks? Are there different kinds of anxiety disorders? This article will help answer all those questions.
What is Anxiety
Basically, anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry or fear. Anxiety is a very adaptive and good part of our ability to copy with the world around us (e.g., before a job interview or speech).
When stressed, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline is responsible for increased heart rate, muscle contraction and rate of breathing. Cortisol tells our fat cells, liver and pancreas to increase levels of glucose (sugar) to provide energy for muscles, while temporarily inhibiting digestion, growth, reproduction and immunity.
Combined, these hormones and symptoms are commonly referred to as the “fight or flight” response, usually stimulated by an outside circumstance or situation, whether real or imagined.
Normal anxiety is short-lived and usually subsides as the outside stimulus or stressor does. When feelings of anxiety become unreasonable, excessive or interfere with our daily life, then it becomes an anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Mental and physical symptoms of anxiety are different for everybody. How you cope with anxiety depends on the type and severity of your symptoms. If you’re feeling anxious about something you may:
• Feel worried or uneasy
• Have difficulty sleeping
• Experience an inability to concentrate
• Experience irritability
• Experience hyper-alertness
• Feel on edge or not able to relax
• Need frequent assurance from people
• Feel tearful