We all
know the feeling of anxiety – a fear that something is about to go
wrong or something unpleasant or painful is going to happen.
Anxiety is completely normal. If it is caused by a continuing
problem, say with money, we call it “worry”. If it is a sudden
response to an immediate threat, say being attacked, we call it
“fear”. Sudden unexpected urges of anxiety are called “panic”. For
some people, anxiety is so extreme it is disabling. Anxiety
disorders, which psychiatrists call “neuroses”, are mental
illnesses in which severe anxiety can take over your life. And
because it is usually accompanied by depression, some psychiatrists
think they are two sides of the same illness. These disorders have
a self-perpetuating quality because the physical symptoms of
anxiety (such as dizziness or palpitations) can themselves be so
alarming that they make you even more anxious. Anxiety disorders
differ from psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia in that you
rarely lose touch with reality. Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
is an intense and long-lasting severe form of anxiety with no
obvious cause. People with GAD may have a slightly abnormal brain
chemistry, which suggests the disorder is biochemical (biochemistry
is the study of chemical processes in living things), but this is
far from certain. Physical factors may also have an influence – for
example, over-activity of the thyroid gland (in the neck), which
controls many bodily functions. GAD, if treated early, lasts only a
month or so. However, it can be very persistent and continue for
several years.

For more information
try or Royal
College of Psychiatrists at


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