Most people are familiar with the flight-or-fight response, the body's mechanism for warning about potentially dangerous people and situations.  This internal warning system helped protect our ancestors from real-world threats like dinosaurs and unfriendly tribes.  Today’s dangers are rarely as life threatening, yet for those with anxiety disorder, even everyday events like speaking in front of an audience or taking the subway can spark the same primitive sense of fear.

The Diagnostic Manual for Mental Health (DSM-IV) describes seven major anxiety-related conditions:

Agoraphobia:  Fear of places or situations in which escape may be difficult often leading to a person becoming home-bound or severely restricting life activities.

Generalized anxiety:  Excessive worry over concerns ranging from work to social situations lasting at least six months.

Obsessive compulsive disorder: Persistent, repetitive, or disruptive thoughts and/or behaviors that cause distress or interfere with life.  Obsessions heighten anxiety; acting on compulsions lessens it.

Panic attack:  An intense, physical sensation of anxiety that occurs suddenly and unexpectedly.  People with this condition may believe they're having a heart attack or are more seriously ill than they truly are.

Post-traumatic stress:  Disturbing memories, nightmares, flashbacks, and related symptoms caused by an event in which a person witnessed or directly experienced something life-threatening.

Social phobia: Anxiety related to interpersonal or performance situations.

Specific phobias: Anxious responses triggered by objects (snakes) or situations (heights, closed spaces).

Anxiety disorders often run in families, suggesting a strong genetic predisposition.  In addition to talk therapy, treatment for anxiety may include meditation, acupuncture, and stress-reduction techniques that disengage the body's stress-response pathway.  Anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications may also be used to help those whose symptoms severely interfere with their daily lives.


Complementary Treatment

Conquering Depression and Anxiety Through Exercise

Natural Relief for Anxiety


The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook

The Anxiety Book

Obsessions and Compulsions

Brain Lock

Stop Obsessing!

Post Traumatic Stress

Life After Trauma

The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook

Social Anxiety

Painfully Shy:  How to Overcome Social Anxiety

The Monster in the Cave

The Shy Single: A Bold Guide to Dating

The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook


Anxiety Disorders Association of America

Freedom From Fear

International Association of Anxiety Management

National Anxiety Foundation


Anxiety Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Mental Health

The Anxiety/Panic Internet Resource

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