What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal response to perceived threat. For this reason, anxiety serves an important evolutionary purpose. In the face of danger, anxiety initiates a cascade of events that ultimately increase survival. When we see a poisonous snake, it behooves us to avoid it. Normally, the anxiety response turns off once the threat is removed. But in some individuals, the anxiety response does not turn off and remains consistently elevated or “out of proportion” to the threat.
Experiencing anxiety on the battlefield or in an active war zone serves a very important survival role. But when this anxiety persists after returning home, it can be disruptive, tortuous, and debilitating.
The term “Anxiety” is sometimes used to describe temporary feelings of nervousness or fear in response to specific situations, thoughts, or events (e.g., starting a new job, moving, giving a presentation, disturbing thoughts, etc.). Other times, “Anxiety” is used to describe more persistent feelings of worry, nervousness, or fear that occurs without an identifiable trigger.
Anxiety Comes in Many Different Flavors
Here, we categorize anxiety symptoms into four general categories:
- Physical Symptoms
Below we provide the diagnostic criteria (from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) and other relevant information about common anxiety disorders. Please note that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are considered anxiety related disorders and are reviewed elsewhere.