What is the difference between anxiety and anxiety disorders?





Anxiety overview:

Anxiety is a normal part of our daily experience and may be sometimes be useful in improving a person’s performance when experiencing many of life’s challenges. Some people however feel that anxiety can get out of control and cause severe discomfort and difficulty in their lives.

Anxiety disorders are different from anxiety in that they are usually characterized by frequent, persistent and sometimes recurrent physical symptoms that interfere with normal everyday functioning. They may continue even in the absence of the precipitating stressors and may appear as excessive responses to these antecedents. According to research, anxiety disorders can possibly result from hyperactivity in certain areas of the brain or potentially due to a decrease in activity of specific neurotransmitters referred to as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is believed to suppress the action of specific neurons in the brain.

Some types of anxiety began to appear during adolescence or early adulthood, although it may occur at any time including in mature adults. Researchers have found that as many as 20% of individuals 65 and older have symptoms of anxiety that require them to seek treatment.

Medical conditions and drugs may mimic or cause anxiety disorders.




There are some conditions and even drugs that can either mimic the symptoms of anxiety or even cause it at times. These medical conditions include deficiency in folate or vitamin B12, overactive thyroid, heart attack, asthma, and alcohol withdrawal. Also, drugs might cause or mimic specific anxiety symptoms including bronchodilators, such as ephedrine (which is frequently found in weight loss drugs) or epinephrine. Also, there are some psychostimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) and thyroid hormones which may cause or exacerbate underlying anxiety.

Common symptoms of anxiety:

Some of the more common psychological symptoms of anxiety include irritability, worry, intense fear, and frequently difficulty concentrating. These symptoms also may be accompanied by physical symptoms such as restlessness, trembling, muscle tension, palpitations, chills, dizziness, dry mouth or sweating.

Symptoms of anxiety disorders:

As previously stated, anxiety disorders are more than common anxiety. They usually cause a heightened awareness of symptoms and sometimes an increase in disability or functioning in an individual’s normal, everyday life. Anxiety disorders are usually broken down into various anxiety states including panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder and phobic disorders.

By Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist

Some information from The Johns Hopkins Medical Guide to Health After 50





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