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Anxiety is characterized by systematic worry. It can manifest as sensations of nervousness, apprehension and sometimes panic. While such feelings can be normal, a psychiatrist may deem them symptomatic of an anxiety disorder when they persist for a sustained period and impair ordinary activities.
Anxious About What?
Others may have asked you: “What are you anxious about?” But anxiety need not be connected to a specific thing. For example, generalized anxiety disorder may be diagnosed when a patient experiences anxiety that is not connected to a single external cause. Panic disorder may be identified in patients that exhibit repeated attacks of panic, which can often happen suddenly and seemingly arbitrarily.
By contrast, certain anxiety disorders are indeed related to something specific. One common example is social anxiety disorder, which is characterized by feelings of discomfort in certain social situations, often linked to a fear of being criticized by others. Other examples include specific phobias such as agoraphobia (i.e. anxiety in situations where escape is perceived to be difficult).
Persistent anxiety can lead to a form of meta-anxiety: patients get anxious about their anxiety. Often, the first step towards treatment is to recognize anxiety disorders for what they are: medical illnesses that can be treated effectively.
Credit: Matt Manley