We are all familiar with what anxiety feels like. This uncomfortable gnawing feeling in our body, the fear that we might not be in control, the sense that we are vulnerable, or that something bad or awful could happen is not something that we look forward to.
Occasionally, We may experience an even more powerful emotion that is attached to a situation, event, or stimulus that is a physical danger or threat. Strong anxiety attached to these specific things is called fear. Fear is not always bad. For example, fear related to drowning when around water, being out from cover in a lightening storm, or driving in fast and congested traffic, etc., is normal. If we cope effectively and learn how to swim or put on a life-jacket, seek shelter, or slow down, these normal fears are short-lived and beneficial because they help us survive.
Sometimes a person’s anxiety is not attached to anything identifiable. This form of anxiety is called “free floating” because it is not related to anything in particular and seems to exist "all on its own". Experiencing this kind of anxiety can be very unpleasant and fatiguing.
For some people, anxiety may become a periodic or chronic condition that is not associated with any particular environmental event. But, when it strikes it does so in a rapidly intensifying attack which is relatively short-lived, but is never the less terrifying. The fear of these anxiety attacks can cause individuals to escape and avoid the conditions that have been associated with them. This fear can generalize to other similar conditions. Unfortunately, then, these attempts to escape or avoid the feared circumstances cause these individuals to be increasingly socially isolated and unhappy.
In this way, and in others, fears and anxieties can become attached many situations, events, or stimuli that are not dangerous, possess no real threat, and that are normally enjoyable and beneficial.
Anxiety disorders are the most frequent of all psychological disorders. It is estimated that anxiety disorders afflict around 19% of our adult population each year.
Fortunately, most anxiety disorders can be treated with good effect.
My next several postings will focus upon several of the most common anxiety disorders.