Anxiety Disorders

Fear is an emotion that probably everyone has experienced in his lifetime. Fear is vital, because it is an important signal with which our body is trying to warn us against an acute or imminent danger. People who feel little or no fear are in great danger to put themselves or others in dangerous situations.

On the other hand, an excess of anxiety may lead to psychiatric disorders. If people suffer from severe anxiety symptoms while no real “threat” exists, or if an actually existing “real danger” is not explaining the extent of anxiety, psychiatrist speak of an anxiety disorder.

Among the anxiety disorders a distinction is made between phobias and so-called free-floating anxiety. A phobia is a disease in which the fear is addressed to certain situations or triggers. Examples are the specific phobias such as the fear of heights or fear of flying, the agoraphobia or the social phobia.

The free-floating anxiety includes the generalized anxiety disorder, in which patients suffer from persistent or recurrent anxiety that is not caused by specific situations and panic disorder, in which the patients suffer from recurrent, unpredictable, severe anxiety attacks.

In the treatment of anxiety disorders there is also a distinction between primary anxiety disorders, e.g. the anxiety disorders described in this chapter, and secondary anxiety that arises from other mental or physical illnesses.