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Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are are a common type of mental health disorder experienced by Canadians. Up to fifteen percent of the population suffer from severe anxiety and we know that only about one third of people with an anxiety disorder get effective, evidence-based treatment.

Everyone experiences occasional anxiety as a normal part of life. People with anxiety disorders however, may experience intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. The severity and extent of these negative emotions are disproportionate to the person’s circumstances. The feelings are persistent and difficult, or at times impossible, to control. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated and unexpected episodes of intense anxiety, fear, or terror that reach a peak within minutes. This is called a “panic attack.”

Anxiety disorders are are a common type of mental health disorder experienced by Canadians. Up to fifteen percent of the population suffer from severe anxiety and we know that only about one third of people with an anxiety disorder get effective, evidence-based treatment.

Everyone experiences occasional anxiety as a normal part of life. People with anxiety disorders however, may experience intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. The severity and extent of these negative emotions are disproportionate to the person’s circumstances. The feelings are persistent and difficult, or at times impossible, to control. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated and unexpected episodes of intense anxiety, fear, or terror that reach a peak within minutes. This is called a “panic attack.”

In the case of anxiety disorders, feelings of worry, panic, and dread can interfere with daily functioning, are hard to control, and are out of proportion to the actual situation. Symptoms can start during childhood or teenage years and may continue into adulthood if not assessed and treated properly.

Anxiety disorders are caused by a combination of neurological, genetic, psychological, and social factors. Anxiety disorders frequently run in families and certain disorders may be triggered by traumatic situations. Not everyone who experiences trauma will develop an anxiety disorder; however, exposure to extreme stress, combined with a genetic or neurological predisposition to anxiety, may increase the likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

The following are the most common types of anxiety disorders.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common anxiety disorder and affects over five percent of the population, with females twice as likely to be affected as males. GAD can cause excessive worrying about anything associated with daily life. This can make it difficult just to get through the day and accomplish the normal activities of daily living. Somatic complaints such as headaches or stomach aches often accompany GAD.

Social anxiety disorder 

Social anxiety disorder exceeds the normal definition of shyness. It causes extreme stress and worry about being in social situations and being embarrassed in front of other people. It can cause a person to avoid social situations and often leads to isolation and depression.

Panic disorders

Panic disorders are characterized by panic attacks: episodes of extreme fear and impending doom that are not rational. They can happen with little or no warning and are distressing because they cause physical symptoms similar to a heart attack: chest pains, dizziness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations.

Phobias

Phobias are the intense, debilitating fear of certain objects, animals, or situations, such as enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), spiders (arachnophobia), or public settings (agoraphobia). These fears are exaggerated to the point that they interfere with the individual’s daily functioning. In agoraphobia, the person fears situations that could cause a panic attack, extreme embarrassment, or a feeling of being trapped or helpless with no way to escape. It often leads to isolation, because a person with agoraphobia will often avoid public places and anywhere with crowds.