Anxiety Disorders: More than Worry

By Tim Peterson, MS, LMFT, LPC

Most people experience feelings of anxiety before certain anticipated events. Anxiety disorders, however, are illnesses that cause extreme distress for no apparent reason. Left untreated, these disorders can reduce an individual’s quality of life. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in America – more than 19 million are affected each year.

Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. nearly one-third of the nation’s total mental health bill of $148 billion.

What are the Different Kinds of Anxiety Disorders?

  • Panic Disorder – Repeated episodes of intense fear that strike often and without warning. Physical symptoms can include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal distress, feelings of unreality, and fear of dying.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – Repeated, unwanted thoughts or compulsive behaviors that seem impossible to stop or control.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Persistent symptoms such as flashbacks, numbed emotions, feelings of anger, distraction, and being easily startled occur after experiencing a traumatic event.
  • Phobias – Two major types that can lead to people avoiding potentially meaningful activities. Specific phobia is extreme, disabling, and irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. Social phobia is overwhelming and disabling fear of scrutiny, or humiliation in social situations.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Constant, exaggerated worrisome thoughts and tension about routine life lasting at least six months, accompanied by physical symptoms such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headache, or nausea.

There are extremely effective treatments being developed combining medications and psychotherapy. It is important to have a thorough medical exam. It is common for an anxiety disorder to accompany other anxiety disorders, or in some cases, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, or physical disorders. Help is available!

TIM PETERSON is a Bright Tomorrows Board Trustee. Tim has his master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Northeastern State University and completed a two-year post-graduate program in Marriage & Family Therapy through the Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry and Mental Health Sciences. Tim has provided Christ-centered counseling in Tulsa since 1985 in private practice and as a program director for psychiatric and chemical dependency treatment programs at three local hospitals.