All of us experience anxiety from time to time, but anxiety disorders represent a more severe category of mental distress — one that can have long-term effects on our physical and mental health.
If your anxiety has persistent and severe cognitive, physical, and behavioural symptoms, and if it affects your everyday life negatively, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
There are six main types of anxiety disorders, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH): phobias, panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, acute stress disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder. The symptoms for each vary, but according to CAMH they all share three hallmark features: irrational and excessive fear, apprehensive and tense feelings, and difficulty in managing daily tasks and/or distress relating to those tasks.
One in every five Canadians will experience a type of mental illness including anxiety disorders at some point in their lifetime, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
But even considering the prevalence and high costs of mental illness, there are still many barriers to treatment in this country. Those barriers include factors like stigma, poverty, a shortage of mental-health professionals, regional disparities, and lack of integration between mental-health and other health services, the CMHA notes.
Fortunately, help is still available. Anxiety disorders can be treated in a variety of ways including cognitive-behaviour therapy, counselling, support groups, relaxation therapy, meditation, medication, or some combination of everything mentioned above. The CMHA offers advice on finding the best help for you. And if you are in crisis or have thoughts of suicide or self harm, call 911 or go to an emergency room.
Here are 10 things you should know about anxiety disorders, gleaned from recent research into the illness and covering everyone from children to adults.