Dr. M.J. Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Anxiety Disorders:

What is anxiety?
Anxiety can be a normal "alarm system" alerting you to danger. Imagine coming home and finding a burglar in your living room. Your heart beats fast. Your palms get sweaty. Your mind races. In this situation, anxiety can provide an extra spark to help you get out of danger. In more normal but busy situations, it can give you the energy to get things done. But sometimes anxiety can be out of control, giving you a sense of dread and fear for no apparent reason. This kind of anxiety is a real problem and can disrupt your life. The term "anxiety disorders" refers to a number of conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder, that are explained in this handout.

What is generalized anxiety disorder?
Generalized anxiety disorder is ongoing, excessive worry or fear that isn't related to a particular event or situation. It is usually out of proportion to what you would expect -- for instance, constantly worrying about a child who is perfectly healthy. Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include the following:

What is panic disorder?
Panic disorder is another type of anxiety. It occurs when you have episodes of intense fear that start abruptly. These are called panic attacks. Panic attacks feel like your body's alarm system has been triggered when there is no danger. Panic attacks usually last 5 to 30 minutes and can include the following symptoms:
  1. Chest pressure or chest pain
  2. Pounding heartbeat
  3. Racing pulse
  4. Dizziness or lightheadedness
  5. Shortness of breath or tightness in the throat
  6. Sweating
  7. Trembling or shaking
  8. Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  9. Fear of losing control
  10. Fear of dying

What causes anxiety disorders?
Anxiety disorders can begin during or after a stressful event in your life, such as the death of a loved one or a divorce. Some people say they have been anxious their whole lives. Other people suddenly become anxious without being able to point to a reason. Anxiety may also be related to an illness or to a side effect of a medicine. Anxiety disorders often run in families. They may be due to a chemical imbalance in your body.

Can anxiety disorders be treated?
Yes. Talk to your family doctor if you think you have a problem with anxiety. He or she can help you make a plan to develop skills to cope with your anxiety. Your doctor may also suggest counseling, medicine or both. A specific form of psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be very helpful in treating most anxiety disorders.

Tips on Coping with Anxiety:

Anxiety Disorders Association of America: www.adaa.org
National Institute of Mental Health: www.nimh.nih.gov
National Mental Health Association: www.nmha.org