Understanding Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders Introduction
Anxiety: A Common Human EmotionAsk anyone to define anxiety and you will quickly realize there is no shortage of examples that people can provide. Although anxiety is a very common human experience, the descriptions that people provide are quite varied.
Anxiety is a human emotion. Everyone experiences it. Yet, each person experiences this emotion in unique ways. The following case examples illustrate these various experiences of anxiety.
Examples of Anxiety
So who is right? Are they all describing the same thing? Simply stated, yes they are. The reason behind this paradox is that anxiety is best considered a complex, subjective experience. Anxiety is produced by multiple causes. It is expressed by a diverse set of symptoms. These symptoms include physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive components. This is why we can ask many different people about a very common experience; yet, get totally different definitions of what it means to be anxious.
Different Levels and Degrees of Impairment
People also differ in how often, and how intensely, they experience anxiety. For most people, anxiety is a normal and even adaptive occurrence. A normal degree of anxiety is part of the everyday human experience. Unfortunately, other people may experience anxiety to such a heightened degree that it causes them great distress. Sadly, this level of anxiety can interfere with people's ability to function well. It may affect many important areas of their lives such as work, school, and relationships. When anxiety reaches this level of distress, and results in impaired functioning, we begin to speak of an anxiety disorder. Luckily, experts in the field have come a long way in understanding and treating anxiety problems.
What's to Come in This Section
In the following article, we examine the many facets of anxiety.
- We will begin with a more in-depth understanding of both the beneficial and harmful aspects of anxiety.
- Next, we'll talk about what happens when anxiety becomes "pathological" or disordered.
- We describe and explain the many different types of anxiety disorders.
- We will present relevant research about what experts believe are the reasons behind the development, and maintenance of anxiety disorders.
- This same body of research has developed highly effective treatments for the different types of anxiety disorders.
- With this information, we confidently conclude there is hope and relief for the millions of people who struggle with anxiety.