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Help With Anxiety Disorders

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention.

Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect more than 25 million Americans. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

  • Dec 07, 2018
Humor in Therapy

Humor and laughter, in addition to being fun and enjoyable, have many health benefits. Laughter can help people cope with stress, reduce anxiety and tension and serve as a coping mechanism. Humor may allow a person to feel in control of a situation and make it seem more manageable. By helping to reduce fear, anger and stress, humor can help minimize the potential harm they can have on the body over time.

  • Nov 28, 2018
Taking Care of the Caregivers

More than 17 million individuals in the United States are family caregivers, providing care and support to an older adult because of physical, mental or cognitive challenges. Many of them care for a parent, a spouse or a friend with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia.

  • Nov 19, 2018
Managing Holiday Anxiety and Depression

You may be feeling a build-up of anxiety this holiday season. Thoughts of all the events and gatherings with family, coworkers and friends may fill you with anticipation along with a little angst.

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Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)

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Anxiety and Depression Association of America

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2018
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2018
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National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

What’s the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder?

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Perhaps the person has watched a scary move, or seen something upsetting on TV. Or, more ominous, perhaps the person has experienced or witnessed a crime. Anyone might get anxious in these situations, but the person with an anxiety disorder has persistent or recurrent anxiety that prevents him or her from full participation in life. Anxiety can range from relatively mild (occasional “butterflies,” jitteriness, accompanied by a sense of unease) to severe (frequent, disabling panic attacks). Severe anxiety disorders can lead the person to alter his lifestyle to accommodate the anxiety, for example not leaving home. More

Can meditation or other relaxation techniques help with my anxiety?

They can. They are the best option for mild anxiety that most of us experience from time to time. There are many instructional books on relaxation exercises (often paired with deep breathing) and meditation, which is a form of relaxation. They are relatively simple to learn. These approaches can provide relief and can be used anywhere once the person understands the method. Mental health professionals can guide the person who needs a more personal approach to learning relaxation or meditation. More

Are there medications that can help with panic attacks?

Yes. There are many medications that have FDA approval to treat anxiety disorders. Several members of the benzodiazepine class are routinely used to provide relief from anxiety. These minor tranquillizers are safe and effective, but should be used for short-term relief. They have many side effects, including drowsiness, and can be habit forming at higher doses. People taking these medications should not use heavy machinery or drive until they understand how the medication might affect them.

Antidepressants are widely used to treat anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder. The most commonly prescribed medications are from the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class. They are generally effective and have few side-effects, although they do not provide immediate relief. More

How are children with anxiety disorders treated?

Children can be treated with the same methods as adults. A therapist may be effective by turning the therapy into a game to make it fun for the child. Medication works in children just as in adults, but the psychiatrist must be mindful of the much lower doses used in children. More

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About the Expert:

Donald Black, M.D.
Director, Psychiatry Residency Training Program
Vice Chairman for Education, Department of Psychiatry
University of Iowa, Carver College of Medicine

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Joey’s Story

Joey was a 12-year-old boy who was referred to mental health care for long-standing anxiety about losing his parents. He had begun to have anxieties as a young child and had great trouble starting kindergarten. He had been scared of being away from home for school. He was also briefly bullied in third grade, which made his anxieties worse.

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Editor's Choice

OCT 4, 2018

Excessive Worry? Anxiety disorders may feel severe, but are treatable

Petoskey News-Review

While it's normal to feel anxious about certain situations, when those feelings lead to physical symptoms it may be the onset of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are classified as a group of mental disorders characterized by significant feelings of anxiety and fear. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work and relationships.

OCT 2, 2018

How Emma Stone learned to deal with her anxiety and panic attacks

ABC News

For Emma Stone, acting is so much more than a job. The Oscar winner credits performing with helping her cope with lifelong anxiety and panic.When Stone began acting at age 11 and discovered improv, she realized for the first time that "my feelings could be productive." Being a part of the "team" at her local children's theater also kept her from isolating herself with her anxiety. "Because the world is hard and scary and there's a lot that goes on and if you’re very attuned to it, it can be crippling. But if you don't let it cripple you and use it for something productive, it's like a superpower," Stone said.

SEPT 19, 2018

8 Signs You Have Anxiety that's Messing with Your Life

Women's Health

Feeling anxious once in a while and having anxiety are two very different things—the former constitutes normal day-to-day worries, while the latter begins with a thought or feeling that you become fixated upon, leading you down a rabbit hole of anxiety, sometimes coupled with legit physical symptoms (like a racing heart and profuse sweating).

Resources

Additional Resources and Organizations

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Mental Health America

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Institute on Mental Health

Physician Reviewed

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
January 2017