By David Baldwin, PhD

Some Anxiety Disorders:

Generalized Anxiety Disorders
This means persistent and overblown worry about two or more things, without good reason.
These are unrealistic fears of certain objects or situations. Examples: Simple phobias, such as fear of snakes; Social phobias, such as fear of meeting new people; and Agoraphobia, such as being afraid to go outside alone.
Panic Disorders
Characterized by a sudden and unexpected sense of terror, and feelings of approaching death. Accompanying physical signs include rapid pulse, nausea, and shallow breathing.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders
Repeated, unwanted thoughts or compulsive behaviors. Obsessions mean persistent, senseless ideas, such as continually wondering what an absent loved one is doing. Examples of compulsions include repetitive cleaning, checking or counting.

This range of common anxiety disorders, and what to do about them, is the focus of this brochure.

Symptoms of Anxiety:

Some anxiety symptoms may occur in anyone experiencing a difficult situation.

The line between such "normal" anxiety and an anxiety disorder occurs if overwhelming tension happens even when there is no real danger. People with an anxiety disorder may often take extreme actions to avoid the source of their anxiety.

If several of the above symptoms seem clearly associated with a specific situation or object, and persist over time, you may need to seek help from a professional therapist.

Treatments for Anxiety:

Treatment of the various forms of anxiety disorders varies according to the specific anxiety.

The first step in treatment is to tailor the treatment plan to the specific disorder and feared situations.

One form of treatment involves exposure to the feared object or situation, in gradually increased ways. For example, the therapist may ask someone afraid of snakes to think of a little snake far away, then a larger or closer one, before eventually approaching a harmless snake. This general strategy is called systematic desensitization.

For some anxiety disorders, medications may be necessary or helpful in conjunction with therapy.

Deciding to Seek Help:

Anxiety disorders, taken together, afflict about eight percent (8%) of all Americans.

When people feel uncomfortable about a certain situation, they begin to avoid it. This avoidance can interfere with a normal and productive life.

Anxiety disorders often interfere with jobs, family, and social responsibilities. For example, people with these disorders may lose their jobs because they are afraid to travel or attend business lunches; they might refuse a job in a high-rise building, fearing elevators.

The goal of therapy for the anxiety disorders is to resolve any emotional conflicts that may have lead to the disorder, to express feelings, and to permit confronting, slowly, the feared situations or objects.

By learning to confront the feared situations in therapy, patients can gradually reduce their anxiety.

The prognosis for therapy of most anxiety disorders is quite good. You should emerge from treatment free from anxiety-based limitations, and able to function fully both with friends and at work.


July 1993