Brain Facts

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Anxiety disorders - Beyond normal fear and worry

Fear and worry are normal emotions. And when appropriate for the situation, these emotions create the drive, energy, and motivation needed to respond to the demands of the moment. For example, fear, with its associated adrenaline rush, is helpful if one is in danger. An anxiety disorder is diagnosed when the worry and fear are excessive in terms of intensity, frequency, and duration and when the fear and/or worry are disproportionate precipitating factors.

Thus, abnormal fear could be characterized by the tendency to be overly fearful of a specific object, as seen in phobias, or fear related to a situation, as seen in social anxiety. In the case of GAD, the individual is overly fearful a large percentage of the time, and the fear or excessive worry tends to be about anything and everything.

There are several anxiety disorders, and it is very common for a patient to present with more than one. Anxiety disorders also occur concomitantly with other mental illnesses, such as bipolar and personality disorders, major depression, and substance abuse.

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