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anxiety_disorders

Facts for Policymakers: Treatable Causes of Disability

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias (social phobia, agoraphobia, and specific phobia).

 
  • Approximately 19.1 million American adults ages 18 to 54, or about 13.3 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety Disorders Affect Millions

Approximately 19.1 million American adults ages 18 to 54, or about 13.3 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have an anxiety disorder.

  • Many people have more than one anxiety disorder and these disorders commonly co-occur with substance abuse and depression.
  • Women are more likely than men to have an anxiety disorder. Approximately twice as many women as men suffer from panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and specific phobia.

Panic Disorder

  • Approximately 2.4 million American adults ages 18 to 54, or about 1.7 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have a panic disorder. Panic disorders typically develop in late adolescence or early adulthood.
 
  • A person who experiences recurrent panic attacks, at least one of which leads to at least a month of increased anxiety or avoidant behavior, is said to have a panic disorder.
  • Doctors often try to rule out every other possible alternative before diagnosing a panic disorder. To be diagnosed as having a panic disorder, a person must experience at least four of the following symptoms during a panic attack: sweating; hot or cold flashes; choking or smothering sensations; racing heart; labored breathing; trembling; chest pains; faintness; numbness; nausea; disorientation; or feelings of dying, losing control, or losing one's mind.
 
  • People who have phobias can experience panic attacks when confronted with the situation or object about which they feel phobic.

Recovery is Possible

Recovery from a panic disorder can be best achieved by both medications and cognitive behavioral therapy.

 
  • Phobias are the leading psychiatric disorders among women of all ages. One survey showed that 4.9 percent of women and 1.8 percent of men have a panic disorder, agoraphobia, or any other phobias.
  • Recovery from a panic disorder can be best achieved by both medications and cognitive behavioral therapy.

 Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD)

  • Approximately 3.3 million American adults ages 18 to 54, or about 2.3 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have OCD.
  • The first symptoms of OCD often begin during childhood or adolescence.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that more than 2 percent of the U.S. population, or nearly one out of every 40 people, will suffer from OCD at some point in their lives. The disorder is two to three times more common than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
  • Obsessions are intrusive, irrational thoughts -- unwanted ideas or impulses that repeatedly occur in a person's mind.
  • A large body of scientific evidence suggests that OCD results from a chemical imbalance in the brain.
  • OCD will not go away by itself, so it is important to seek treatment. OCD is a chronic disease that needs intervention to achieve the best outcomes, which includes working full time. Fortunately, effective treatments and medications are available that make life with OCD much easier to manage, but it is not being treated often enough.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after someone experiences a traumatic event that caused intense fear, helplessness, or horror. PTSD can result from personally experienced traumas (e.g., rape, war) or from the witnessing of or learning of a violent or tragic event.

Veterans are at a High Risk for PTSD

About 30 percent of Vietnam veterans experienced PTSD at some point after the war.

  • Approximately 5.2 million American adults ages 18 to 54, or about 3.6 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have PTSD.
  • PTSD can develop at any age, including childhood.
  • People with PTSD often use alcohol or other drugs in an attempt to self-medicate.
  • About 30 percent of Vietnam veterans experienced PTSD at some point after the war.

 Agrophobia and Specific Phobia

  • Agoraphobia involves intense fear and avoidance of any place or situation where escape might be difficult or help unavailable in the event of developing sudden panic-like symptoms. Approximately 3.2 million American adults ages 18 to 54, or about 2.2 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have agoraphobia.
  • Specific phobia involves marked and persistent fear and avoidance of a specific object or situation. Approximately 6.3 million American adults ages 18 to 54, or about 4.4 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have some type of specific phobia.

Next Page: Conclusions

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