Anxiety disorders are quite common, affecting about 5% of the population at any one time but many people do not seek help. Anxiety and fear are normal human emotions and are often found as reactions to stress.  However, normal anxiety becomes abnormal when the symptoms are so intense that people are stopped from coping well with day-to-day activities because they are so painful and distressing.

General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a long-term condition which causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event. People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. GAD can cause both psychological (mental) and physical symptoms. These vary from person to person, but can include feeling irritable or worried and having trouble concentrating or sleeping.

Abnormal fears, sometimes called phobias, are intense fears of things which would not make the average person frightened (e.g. such as fear of flying).

People who suffer from abnormal anxiety find it difficult to concentrate, tend to sleep badly and get tired easily. The body shows the effects of anxiety by increased heart rate, tension and pain in muscles, inability to relax, sweating, over breathing, dizziness, faintness and bowel disturbances. Sudden unexpected surges of anxiety are called panic attacks. Someone who has a phobia has symptoms of intense anxiety or panic but only in particular situations. Phobias lead to avoidance of the things which are feared.


Talking about the problem to trusted friends and relatives often helps and may give a sense of perspective. Most of us tend to avoid stressful situations, but in the case of anxiety disorders that tends to make the situation worse, due to the fear avoidance induces. However, more intensive talking treatments may be required such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). This helps people to recognise, understand and manage anxiety. Learning to relax with advice from professionals or by using CD’s or books can help to bring tensions and anxieties under control. Medication such as tranquilizers or anti-depressants may be used to help ease anxiety during the day or help sleep at night. 

Most phobias are curable, but no single treatment is guaranteed to work for all phobias. In some cases, a combination of different treatments may be recommended.

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