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Essential Facts about Anxiety Disorders

written by: Shel1488 • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 2/3/2011

How many Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder? How much do anxiety-related services cost the nation annually? These facts about anxiety disorders will clue you in on one of America’s most widespread mental disorders.

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    Prevalence in America

    There’s a good chance that someone you know has an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders affect 18% of the U.S. population, which is roughly equal to 40 million individuals. These disorders are the most common forms of mental illness in the country. There's one reason to learn the facts about anxiety disorders.

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    Types of Anxiety Disorders

    The American Psychological Association recognizes several forms of anxiety disorders, including panic attacks, panic disorder, specific phobias, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

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    Interference with Daily Life

    One of the key differences between anxiety disorders and normal anxiety is that anxiety disorders interfere with an individual’s daily functioning. During their commute to work, many people may worry they left their oven on or their house door unlocked. However, an individual who is persistently late to work because he or she drives back home everyday to check the oven and relock the door may have an anxiety disorder—especially if they rarely use the oven and live in a low crime area.

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    Physical Consequences

    Anxiety disorders take a toll on the body as well as the mind. These disorders may co-occur with physical problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches and sleeping disorders. In addition, anxiety disorders have ties with high blood pressure and poor cardiac health.

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    Gender Risk Factors

    An intriguing fact about anxiety disorders is that women are more likely to develop generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and phobias than men are. However, social anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder are equally common among men and women.

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    Anxiety in Children

    Anxiety disorders affect approximately one in eight children. If at least one parent has depression, the chances of their child having an anxiety disorder drastically increases. In children, these disorders often develop alongside depression or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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    Annual Cost

    The Anxiety Disorders Association of America reports that the U.S. spends an annual $42 billion on items related to anxiety disorders, such as health care services. These costs add up to roughly one-third of the nation's overall mental health bill.

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    Range of Specific Phobias

    Specific phobias account for a vast range of anxiety disorders. For example, a person can develop anything from heliophobia, an irrational fear of sun exposure, to alliumphobia, a persistent fear of garlic. Most of these unusual fears stem from painful past experiences with the given stimuli. Even just thinking about the feared event or item may trigger symptoms similar to a panic attack.

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    Difference Between Obsessions and Compulsions

    Individuals suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder perform ritualistic activities (compulsions) to ease their intense anxiety and intrusive thoughts (obsessions). For example, a person may repeatedly wash their hands or rearrange furniture to find mental relief. However, it is possible to have obsessive thoughts without compulsive behavior and compulsive behavior without obsessive thoughts.

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    Alternate Terms for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

    Posttraumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder commonly associated with war veterans. In the past, post traumatic stress disorder went by many alternative names, including: “soldier’s heart,” “combat fatigue,” “gross stress reaction” and “shell shock.”