We all feel anxious from time to time. You may feel nervous about an upcoming job interview or a big test. Your heart may race when another driver cuts you off in traffic. You may lie awake wondering if a big move you are about to make is the right choice for your family. Or you may feel panicked about an upcoming deadline.
These feelings are normal reactions to stress—but for some people, they can become overwhelming and interfere with daily life.
People who suffer from anxiety disorders may feel paralyzed by fear, worry, panic or a sense of dread. The good news is that there are effective treatments including anti-anxiety medications available that can help get anxiety under control.
Types of anxiety disorders
People experience anxiety in different ways, and there are many types of anxiety disorders. Common ones include:
Generalized anxiety disorder: You may feel as if you're in a constant state of worry of fearfulness. People with generalized anxiety disorder may experience strong and persistent feelings that something bad is going to happen.
Panic disorder: You may have panic attacks, in which your "fight or flight" response seems to occur out of the blue. The experience can be so intense that you constantly worry about when the next attack will occur or avoid certain situations due to a fear that they may provoke panic.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): People with OCD engage in certain repetitive patterns and rituals in response to anxiety. Examples include repeatedly washing your hands, obsessively checking locks or light switches and cleaning compulsively due to a fear of germs.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Sometimes anxiety can linger for months or even years after a traumatic event. More than just a bad memory of the incident, PTSD affects thoughts, memory and behavior. Natural disasters, car accidents and combat experiences are examples of events that can trigger PTSD.
Phobias and social anxiety: Some fears are useful. A fear of falling from high places, for example, can help keep you from engaging in risky behaviors. Phobias are more extreme, when anxiety about a particular thing or situation causes compulsive behavior or gets in the way of basic activities. For example, people with social anxiety may be fearful of leaving their homes, if basic social interactions and social settings trigger a strong anxiety response.
If any of these descriptions seem familiar, it may be time to seek help from a doctor or mental health professional. There are effective treatments and anxiety medications that can help the vast majority of people suffering from anxiety.
Living with an anxiety disorder
When you are in the grip of anxiety symptoms, it is easy to feel like the situation is hopeless. Anxiety can spiral into other issues, such as alcoholism or addiction if you turn to substances to self-medicate.
Many people with anxiety disorders also suffer from depression, strained interpersonal relationships and difficulty working.
Fortunately, there is help. You do not have to learn to live with anxiety. For many, relief can be found through therapy, anti-anxiety medication (one example is Alprazolam brand name Xanax) or a combination of the two.
Cognitive and behavioral therapy can teach you how to recognize and address factors that contribute to anxiety. You can learn coping tips for working through symptoms when they do occur.
In addition, anxiety medications are available that can help treat and manage anxiety disorders. It may take some trial and error to determine the medicine that is most effective for you.
It's very important to work closely with your health care provider if you take medication for anxiety, including:
Make sure you understand any risks or potential side effects before taking any medicine.
Ask about potential interactions with other drugs, including over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements.
Take your anxiety pills exactly as directed. Do not skip doses or stop taking the medicine without your doctor's guidance.
Report any unusual symptoms, especially if they are sudden or severe.