The most prevelant group of psychiatric disorders
Anxiety is a human emotion that is often described as a diffuse, unpleasant, vague sense of apprehension, or a keyed-up, tense feeling often accompanied by symptoms such as shakiness, palpitations, sweating, tightness in the chest, headache, stomach discomfort, restlessness and so on.
Virtually every person can relate to these symptoms because everyone has experienced anxiety at some point in their life. Situations like starting school, taking an exam, going for a job interview, asking someone out for a first date, getting married, starting a new job, family illness and many others are all common experiences that can cause anxiety and are very much part of life. In most cases this anxiety is situational, short lasting and not always a disorder. In fact, anxiety can be positive and motivate people.
Anxiety disorders and Pathological Anxiety
Anxiety disorders are very common and the most prevalent group of psychiatric disorders.
Anxiety can be considered pathological, or a disorder, when it is excessive, persistent or chronic, often irrational and begins to interfere with the individual’s daily life to a significant degree. Avoidance behaviour, incessant worry and concentration and memory problems may all stem from problem anxiety. These symptoms may be so intense that they lead to functional impairments in family, work and social life.
Pathological anxiety is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) into various subcategories such as:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Impact of Anxiety Disorders
Individuals with anxiety disorders suffer distressing symptoms. They may not be able to participate fully in work and leisure activities. They worry about not being able to shoulder their responsibilities to family and friends, and are fearful of being a burden to others.
In addition to personal suffering, a number of international studies have reported an unrecognized and immense societal burden. Factors such as academic under-achievement, failure in school, early drop outs, unemployment or under-employment, absenteeism, increased physical symptoms and excessive use of healthcare facilities all contribute to this huge financial burden. In addition to interpersonal, social and marital problems, undetected and untreated anxiety disorders substantially increase the rates of depressive disorders, and to a lesser degree, alcohol and other substance abuse disorders.