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Anxiety Illnesses
Effects of Traumatic Experiences
Signs of Stress Reaction
Panic Disorder

Anxiety Illnesses

Anxiety can be a good thing in a certain situation. It can be a good thing by motivating you and make you more creative. This can help you turn a paper, painting or important work piece from good to excellent. But when you have an anxiety illness, you are worried all the time. This can change a person’s everyday life. There are many reasons why a person can have an anxiety illness. Many times it runs in families. This illness can be treated in several ways.

This kind of illness can make your feelings range from uneasy to being so scared that you can’t do anything. There are many types of anxiety illnesses. This illness includes common anxiety or a fear of an object or situation. Stress after a terrible experience can also bring on an anxiety illness. The information below will help you begin to learn about anxiety illnesses, but it doesn’t include all the signs and ways to help. Keep in mind that new studies can give us new answers and change the way we treat these types of illnesses.

If you think you or someone you are close to has an anxiety illness, get help from a doctor.

Common anxiety illness

When a person has anxiety, they can have a sick feeling in their stomach. This can happen when they have a lot of bills to pay or just before a job interview. Or it can happen at some other point in their lives when they feel uncomfortable. This uneasy feeling is common and everyone has it at some point. A person is likely to have an anxiety illness when they cannot get over these worries, and they are so upset that it affects their everyday life.


A person with an anxiety illness has these symptoms a lot more than a normal person would have in a similar situation.

Doctor’s findings: When a person is experiencing the above symptoms with everyday problems for at least six months, he or she may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can affect their everyday life.

Treatment: Anxiety is the most common type of mental illness, but it can be helped. A type of help is working with a doctor or professional. They can help a person learn how about his or her illness and ways it can be treated. Medication may also be needed in some cases and can be very helpful. Some common anti-anxiety medications are diazepam, alprazolam, lorazepam and buspirone.

Panic disorder

People with panic disorder experience fear that makes their heart pound and can take their breath away. This type of attack happens all of a sudden and without warning. Since people don’t know when the next time an attack may happen, they worry about it all the time.

Most panic attacks last only a few minutes, but they can go on for ten minutes. A few have been known to last for as long as an hour. They can happen at any time, even during sleep. The good news is that the right treatment can help most people with panic disorder within six to eight weeks.


Common physical symptoms include:

People with panic disorder have feelings of extreme fear and dread that strike for no reason. Their heart races. They have rapid breathing, sweating and shakiness. Some go to the hospital because they think they are having a heart attack. Panic attacks can happen in everyday situations.

People with this condition often avoid places where they’ve had a panic attack. They may become housebound.

Doctor’s findings: It’s common to have four attacks within four weeks or one or more attacks?in a month caused by fears of having another attack. A person with panic disorder will have at least four of the above symptoms during at least one of the attacks.

Treatment: There are many kinds of medications to help a person with panic disorder. Many times getting help from therapy and getting medication is the best way to help people.

Fear of an object or action

Many of us stay away from some things like stinging bugs or dangerous situations, but sometimes people are so scared that it makes them unnecessarily stay away from certain things or situations. This can cause a person to feel a lot of anxiety.


There are many types of anxiety. One type is a fear of a certain object or situation like:

This type of anxiety can be caused by an infinite number of other objects or situations.

Another type of fear is being anywhere where one of these objects or situations might be. The person feels they cannot get away from it. Many people who have this type of anxiety won’t leave their house. Others avoid open spaces, standing in line or being in a crowd. Many of the physical symptoms that come with this type of panic attack include but are not limited to:

Another type is a fear of being embarrassed in front of other people. The most common symptom in this type of fear is public speaking.

Doctor’s findings: The person is very nervous when he or she is around the object or situation they fear. His or her fear is a lot more than a normal person would have. The fear keeps the person from doing everyday things and causes him or her to stay away from people. It can also affect how the person lives with their family and friendships.

Treatment: Therapy can help a person deal with the situation or object they fear. It can teach a person to know the signs and how to relax. The person will learn how to work with their thoughts and feelings of anxiety. Medications can also help. Many times both therapy and medication are the best way to help a person.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

In the past, PTSD was thought to affect only people who were in a war. Now we know that adults and children alike can get this disorder without having been in a war. PTSD occurs when a person has seen or was part of a situation where he or she felt in danger. This includes but is not limited to rape, kidnapping, natural disasters, war or a bad accident like an airplane crash. PTSD can affect a person so much that it makes it hard for him or her to get a job. PTSD also can affect a person’s relationship with his or her family and friends.


People stay away from things that remind them of the event. Reminders can cause strong feelings of pain or panic attacks. For example, a woman who has been raped might stay away from all men and won’t go out alone at night. Many people also get symptoms of depression. Some people may misuse alcohol or drugs to cope with their pain and to forget about the event.

PTSD is a reaction to a terrifying event. The event could be something that happened to you. Or something you saw. The event keeps returning in bad memories.

PTSD causes intense fear and a feeling of helplessness. People with PTSD can become numb. They may feel guilt for surviving or can have problems sleeping.

PTSD is fairly common. At some point, most people have seen a very serious, traumatic event.

Doctor’s findings: Fear is expected after going through a terrible event, but becomes a disorder when it continues for more than three months.

Treatment: Therapy can help people get control over their lives. Many who have PTSD need to face what has happened to them. By facing what has happened, they learn to accept that it is a part of their past. They also need help to get over the constant painful behaviors and thoughts, and learn how to relax. Support from family and friends can help a person get better more quickly. Medications can help the symptoms of depression and sleep problems. The best treatment for this fear includes both therapy and medication.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD)

SAD is the most common. People with SAD have a fear of social or work situations.

People who have SAD are nervous when out in public. They think people are looking at them, they’re not saying the right things or they don’t look right. These people begin to avoid going out. As a result, they don’t have as many friends as they could.

SAD also affects them at work. Many jobs involve speaking in front of other people. So, SAD can have a very broad effect on your life.

This is not shyness. Some people are just shy. SAD is a disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

These people worry over every day events and decisions. They feel the world is not safe and that bad things happen to good people. They feel anxious or become restless, tired, irritable, and tense.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

People who suffer from OCD repeat patterns of senseless thoughts and behaviors. It is difficult to stop. If left untreated, OCD can destroy a person’s capacity to function at work, school or even at home.

Why me?

First, you are not alone. 40 million Americans have an anxiety disorder. Scientists aren’t sure why some people get anxiety disorders. Different people in the same situation react in very different ways. These disorders run in families. If a parent has a disorder, chances are that the children may have one. Infants who tend to be shy or timid in social situations have higher rates of anxiety disorders when they get older.

Getting help

The teenage years are an important period for finding and treating anxiety disorders. If aggressively treated as adolescents many of these disorders may not become chronic.

But help at any age can be effective. If you think you have an anxiety disorder, talk to your health care provider. There are many different types of treatments available.

Effects of Traumatic Experiences

Sometimes, people can be affected by feelings of fear, helplessness or horror. This can happen when someone is suddenly in danger. These are called traumatic experiences. They can include being:

These traumatic experiences can cause trouble in the survivor’s family. Problems are more likely if the trauma?is severe and the survivor does not get help.

How do these experiences affect people?

People who go through this can have symptoms later. How serious the symptoms and problems are can depend on:

Most survivors don’t know how trauma will affect them. They might not understand what is happening to them, they might think it is their fault that the trauma happened, or they might think that they are going crazy. They might also think that there is something wrong with them because other people who were there don’t have the same problems.

Some might turn to drugs or alcohol to make them feel better or might turn away from friends and family who don’t seem to understand. They may not know how to get better.

What do survivors need to know?

What are common symptoms?

Symptoms can begin soon after a trauma. This is because survivors get overwhelmed with fear when the trauma happens. The main symptoms are:

These symptoms create PTSD. PTSD is a specific set of problems resulting from a traumatic experience. It is recognized by medical and mental health professionals.

Signs of a Stress Reaction

You or someone you know may have had a horrible or traumatic experience. Even though it may be over, you may have some strong stress or physical symptoms that remain. This could happen right after the experience or even after a longer period of time. It is very common and normal for people to be in a state of shock after the experience.

Sometimes stress signs show up right after the shocking experience. Sometimes they may show up a few hours or a few days later. In some cases, weeks or months may go by before the stress reactions show up. The signs and symptoms of a stress reaction may last days, weeks, months and sometimes longer. This depends on how bad the experience was.

Stress signs can go away faster when you have help and support from family, friends and people at work. Sometime the event is so painful that you may need to get help from a counselor or other professional. This does not mean that you are weak. This event was just too powerful to handle alone.

Common Symptoms
Physical Mental Emotional Behavioral
Fatigue Blame others Anxiety Changes in normal activities
Can’t sleep Confusion Panic (rare) Change in speech
Muscle shakes Poor attention Grief Withdrawal from others
Twitches Can’t make decisions Denial Emotional all the time
Difficulty breathing Higher or lowered alertness Guilt/self-blame for surviving Change in communication
Higher blood pressure Poor concentration Emotional numbness Not trusting
Fast heartbeat Forgetfulness Uncertainty Can’t rest
Chest pain Trouble knowing objects or people Loss of emotional control Substance abuse
Headaches Increased or decreased awareness of surrounding Fear of loss/going crazy Jumpy
Hard time seeing Poor problem solving Depression Don’t want to be around people
Feeling sick Loss of a sense of time, place or person Can’t enjoy things Pacing
Thirst Troubled thinking Uneasy Random movements
Hunger Nightmares Strong anger Not taking care of personal needs
Dizziness Can’t get away from the images Bad temper Lack of sexual wants
A lot of sweating Keep seeing the event over and over Feel a lot of tension Increased or decreased eating
Chills Thoughts of killing oneself Helplessness Quiet for a long time
Weakness Not trusting Mistrust Have lots of accidents
Fainting Change in ideas of what you believe in Feelings of worthlessness
Search for meaning Apathy/boredom

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a common problem. A person has moments of fear or anxiety that happen without warning. These moments are called panic attacks. They can last from minutes to hours. They may occur only once in a while or often. The cause for these attacks may not be obvious. Panic attacks usually appear with physical symptoms such as:

You may think you are having a heart attack, and these feelings may add to your fear and anxiety. For some, just thinking of an attack may cause one. Treatments have been developed to help people with panic disorder.


Common causes

Many things are believed to play a role in the onset of panic disorder, such as:

Some research says panic attacks may occur when an alarm in the brain goes off by accident. It tells you that death is near. The exact cause or causes of panic disorder are not known. There is a lot of work being done to find out the causes.


You can take medicine to help. There is also a special type of therapy. It teaches people how to view panic attacks differently and gives you ways to reduce anxiety. The right treatment can reduce or prevent attacks for most people. Most patients show good progress after a few weeks of therapy. Attacks can come back, but they can often be treated just like the initial episode.

Physical and emotional illnesses

Panic disorder can show up with other disorders. Depression and substance abuse are the most common. It is important to treat and diagnose it correctly. About 20 percent of those with panic disorder attempt suicide.

People with panic disorders can develop phobias. They may be afraid to go to places where panic attacks have happened or they may avoid something out of fear that they think they will have an attack. Some think help may not be available. This avoidance may lead to something worse. You may have the inability to go beyond known and safe surroundings out of fear.

People with panic disorder may have very bad stomach problems, or they may have minor heart problems. People with panic disorder also have other medical problems such as chest pain or are always tired. They may not know why they have these other problems.

Adapted with permission from material published by the National Mental Health Association.