September 01, 2018

Anxiety disorders

When worry takes over

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An occasional bout of anxiety is normal. Life's challenges or major decisions are bound to trigger some degree of worry or fear. Those uncomfortable feelings tend to resolve as you work through the situation.

But for people with an anxiety disorder, the worries and distress don't go away as easily. In fact, they may grow severe enough to disrupt daily activities and relationships. It's important not to minimize these feelings when they occur — help is available.

Types of anxiety disorders

In older adults, the most common anxiety disorder is generalized anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder is marked by excessive anxiety or worry across different areas, such as relationships, finances and health. Common symptoms include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, sleep problems, and feeling restless, tense or on edge. Other anxiety disorders include:

  • Panic disorder — People with panic disorder experience recurrent panic attacks — sudden periods of intense fear seemingly out of the blue. Typical signs and symptoms include heart palpitations or an accelerated heart rate, sweating, shaking, sensations of shortness of breath and a feeling of impending doom, or an urgent need to escape.
  • Phobias — This anxiety stems from an intense fear and avoidance of something specific such as an animal, object, situation or environment.
  • Social anxiety disorder — Also known as social phobia, this condition involves a significant fear of social or performance situations due to worries of embarrassment, judgment or...