Anxiety

Article excerpt

anxiety disorders by the numbers - 40 million: U.S. adults affected by anxiety disorders - 1 out of 3: Sufferers who seek treatment. - 1 in 8: Children affected by anxiety disorders. - $42 billion: Estimated amount spent on anxiety disorders annually. Source: Anxiety and Depression Association of America panic disorder An estimated 6 million Americans suffer from panic disorder. Here are some of the criteria used by health care providers to diagnose panic disorders: - Recurrent, unexpected panic attacks. - Persistent concern about having additional attacks. - Worry about the implications of the attack or its consequences. Fear of losing control, "going crazy" or having a heart attack. - A significant change in behavior related to the attacks. generalized anxiety disorder An estimated 6.8 million Americans suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. Here are some of the criteria used by health care providers to diagnose generalized anxiety disorder: - Excessive anxiety and worry occurring more days than not. - Worry is difficult to control. - Restlessness or edginess. - Being easily fatigued. - Muscle tension. - The anxiety, worry or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment -- Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: 4th EditionAt just 6 years old, Judy Perry knew she was going to die.

Her heart pounded as she fought for each gasping breath, and a numbness crept through her extremities. Complex and multifaceted emotions revolving around fear and confusion were simplified by her young mind into one harrowing thought - this is the end.

"I thought my heart was going to beat right out of my chest," said Perry, now an adult. "I thought I was going to go numb. I didn't know what it was. I thought I was going to die."

Perry spent years suffering through intermittent bouts of overwhelming anxiety that would sometimes strike with the severity and symptoms of a heart attack. She never knew when or why the fear would appear, but eventually she began to accept it as inevitable.

Perry began to avoid things that triggered her stress, like crowds and social situations.

"It took me awhile to realize that people don't always have that (anxiety)," she said.

For Teresa Green, a self-described "social butterfly," anxiety manifested itself in a different, but no less intrusive, way. She approaches conversations effortlessly when there is little at stake, but she can crumble when the pressure is on.

"When I get afraid of something that's really important to me, that's when the anxiety sets in," Green said.

Most people feel stress when faced with high-pressure situations like job interviews or academic exams. But for Green, it becomes all- consuming.

Uncontrollable sweat flows as thoughts of failure race through Green's mind. Of course I can't do this, she'll think. What made me ever think that I could?

"I felt like I was going to faint," Green said. "My mind was telling me, 'What are you doing here?'"

OVERVIEW OF ANXIETY

Uncontrollable panic, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, myriad phobias and fears and chronic stress are some hallmarks of an anxiety disorder, a blanket term for the most commonly diagnosed form of mental illness in America.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults, or about 18 percent of the U.S. population, are affected by anxiety disorders. A 1998 study estimated that more than $42 billion is spent each year on the treatment of anxiety disorders.

While very few Americans lead a stress-free life, those afflicted with anxiety disorders rarely escape it.

Some, like Perry, suffer from panic disorders, marked by recurrent, frequently unexpected feelings of intense fear. Physical symptoms akin to a heart attack send many to hospital emergency rooms.

Others live with generalized anxiety disorder and suffer from a pervasive sense of worry. …