Most Common Type of Mental Health Problem
By- Dr. David Prescott
More than 40 million Americans have Anxiety Disorders: Nearly 18% of American adults experience some type of clinical anxiety disorder. This makes anxiety disorders one of the most common types of mental health problems. Learning the different types of anxiety disorders is an important step in overcoming them and reducing the negative impact of anxiety on your life.
Normal Anxiety vs. Anxiety Disorders: It is entirely normal for people to experience anxiety. In fact, many of us perform better (for example at work, school, athletics) when we are mildly anxious. The line between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder has to do with the intensity of anxiety, the frequency of periods of extreme anxiety, and how much anxiety interferes with your daily activities. When anxiety becomes intense, frequent, and prevents you from completing your work, family commitments, or daily tasks, it may be time to seek help.
Types of Anxiety Disorders:
Social Phobia: Social phobia (most common type of anxiety disorder) is a strong fear of being judged by others and of being embarrassed. People with social phobia are afraid of doing common things in front of other people. For example, they might be afraid to sign a check in front of a cashier at the grocery store, or they might be afraid to eat or drink in front of other people, or use a public restroom. Most people who have social phobia know that they shouldn’t be as afraid as they are, but they can’t control their fear.
Panic Disorder: Panic disorder involves sudden, intense and unprovoked feelings of terror and dread. People who suffer from this disorder generally develop strong fears about when and where their next panic attack will occur, and they often restrict their activities as a result. The most common age of onset for panic disorder is in the early twenties.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): People with GAD are extremely worried about these and many other things, even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. They are very anxious about just getting through the day. They think things will always go badly. At times, worrying keeps people with GAD from doing everyday tasks. Often, people with GAD will visit their doctor for problems like headaches or difficulty falling asleep.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: True obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) occurs less frequently than other types of anxiety disorders, impacting about 1% of the adult population. People with OCD feel the need to check things repeatedly, or have certain thoughts or perform routines and rituals over and over. Examples of common compulsions include washing hands or cleaning house excessively for fear of germs, or checking work repeatedly for errors.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Someone who suffers severe physical or emotional trauma such as from a natural disaster or serious accident or crime may experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns become seriously affected by reminders of the event, sometimes months or even years after the traumatic experience. Unfortunately, many new cases of post-traumatic stress disorder have occurred in people who served in combat situations. The current prevalence of PTSD is estimated to be around 7.7% of the population.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorders:
Treatments for anxiety disorders include counseling, or psychotherapy, and for some people medications. Counseling techniques for anxiety disorders are highly effective, and typically involve changing anxiety provoking thought patterns, or learning to encounter a feared situation in a state of increased relaxation.
Medications for anxiety disorders may include specific medications to reduce physiological anxiety, or for some people antidepressant medications. Antidepressant medications often take a few weeks before they have their full benefit.
For any type of treatment, people may contact a licensed psychologist or other mental health professional, or talk with their primary care physician.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
American Psychological Association: www.apa.org/helpcenter
National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/
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