Millions of Americans suffer from anxiety disorders at some point in their lives. Anxiety is, to some extent, a normal reaction to stressful situations, such as having to speak in public. However, for many people, their reactions to these situations go beyond normal day-to-day nervousness. Anxiety panic disorders may affect more than six million Americans at some point in their lives. These disorders are very real illnesses that can be crippling for some people.

The main characteristic of an anxiety panic disorder is the panic attack. These attacks can happen in response to specific stress factors, or they can occur spontaneously. The sufferer may experience shortness of breath, heart palpitations, sweating and nausea, and may feel as if they are about to lose their mind. Often, the person suffering an anxiety/panic attack will end up in the emergency room because they think they are having a heart attack.

The medical tests the person undergoes can often make their anxiety worse, as they fear that something is seriously wrong with them. If a person suffers panic attacks frequently, then they may develop some sort of phobia, particularly if the attacks occur in a specific location, such as elevators.

Fear of having panic attacks will often lead the sufferer to avoid specific situations or locations. Some people will develop agoraphobia and can become housebound, as they fear leaving their homes.

There are several options doctors may choose from when treating anxiety panic disorders. They can often be controlled through the use of medication. Antidepressants, such as SSRIs, have been found to be helpful for anxiety symptoms and there are also specific anti-anxiety medications that may be used in stressful situations.

Psychotherapy, especially cognitive and behavioral therapy, is also highly beneficial. Your doctor may also advise you to quit smoking or drinking coffee, since caffeine and nicotine have been found to increase anxiety symptoms.

Many doctors also recommend stress-reducing techniques, such as meditation, tai chi, and yoga. Cardiovascular exercise, such as brisk walking can also help to reduce stress. Alternative practitioners may recommend the use of herbal remedies; St. John’s Wort and valerian root are among the natural remedies that may be helpful.

Anxiety panic disorders are serious illnesses which can be disabling. Many sufferers are virtually crippled as they try to organize their lives in such a way as to avoid anxiety/panic attacks. However, these disorders are treatable. With the use of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, stress management techniques and psychotherapy, many people with anxiety can live productive and fulfilling lives.

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