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Anxiety, Fears & Phobias • Statistics and General Information

The anxiety disorders are the largest mental health care problems in the world today

Social anxiety/social phobia affects 7-8% of the population at any given time...
Panic disorder/agoraphobia affects 4-5% of the population at any given time...
Generalized anxiety disorder is estimated to affect 3-4% of the population at any given time...

 Despite these facts, the anxiety disorders have not been taken seriously in the past and it is only within the last decade that substantive research has been published about these major debilitating problems.

 Unfortunately, the anxiety disorders still are not understood by most professionals or the general public. [1]

Anxiety Disorders? Panic Attacks? Social Anxieties? What do we mean when we talk about problems with "anxiety"? Technically, we’re referring to the "anxiety disorders" that are spelled out in the DSM-IV, a psychological reference book. Many millions of people suffer from anxiety problems, and until recently, little research has been done about how to treat these conditions successfully.

Today, however, research on anxiety disorders is blossoming, and we are able to significantly help the vast majority of people who come in for therapy.

So, what are these anxiety disorders? We will list them and give a brief description of the problem.

1. Panic Disorder
Unexpected panic attacks and the fear of having additional attacks characterize this problem. Many times the person does not know why they are having an attack. Sometimes, it seems to come "out of the blue". A panic attack is usually accompanied by shortness of breath, dizziness or faintness, increased heart rate, trembling and shaking, hot or cold flushes, and a sense of detachment. Other common symptoms include fear of dying or "going crazy", and the fear of losing control.

2. Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia is the fear of having panic attacks in public places (usually because they have happened there before) and then the avoidance of these places that are associated with panic attacks. It is anxiety-causing not to know when your next panic attack might occur. As the panic attacks occur more frequently and in different locations, the person who is untreated begins to fear going anywhere "unsafe" or outside of their security zone; that is anywhere they might have a panic attack. Thus, it is common for the person with agoraphobia to avoid travel and stay close to home.

3. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Excessive worries about more than one circumstance characterize this anxiety problem. People with GAD are "bothered" or "worried" most of the time. Many times the worries are unrealistic, such as "What if my son goes to the baseball game today and gets in an accident?" or "What if I lose my job and I become homeless?" All of us think about things like this, but people with GAD fixate on them and can’t get them out of their mind. Generalized anxiety has been termed free-floating because it can come and go at will, without apparent reason. Physical symptoms of GAD include (but are not limited to) bodily tenseness, lump in the throat, trouble falling asleep, dry throat, and difficulty in concentrating. It is very hard for the person with generalized anxiety to just be still and relax.

It is also possible that people with current generalized anxiety symptoms have experienced panic attacks in the past, become agoraphobic, and begin to exhibit symptoms typical of generalized anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, without treatment, they continue to remain restricted in their lives and fear or dislike going too far away from home.

4. Social Anxiety Disorder/Social Phobia
Social anxiety disorder or social phobia is the constant fear of being criticized or evaluated by other people. People with social phobia are nervous, anxious, and afraid about many social situations. Simply attending a business meeting or going to a company party can be highly nerve-wracking and intimidating. Although people with social anxiety want very much to be social and fit in with everyone else, their anxiety about not performing well in public is strong and tends to cripple their best efforts. They freeze up when they meet new people, especially those who are authority figures. They are particularly afraid that other people will notice that they are anxious -- and this fear permits the anxiety to grow and turn into a vicious cycle. People with social anxiety tend to avoid social situations as a result of the painfulness involved. Most socially-anxious people can remember being called "shy" as a child and can elicit experiences from their past that correlate with the social anxiety they now feel. Social anxiety tends to develop early and, without adequate treatment, is a chronic, unremitting, torturous condition. Today, however, the prognosis is good for overcoming social anxiety disorder altogether.

5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Someone who has been through a traumatic life experience may suffer future anxiety and panic over it. Severe wartime experiences, for example, not only elicit anxiety and stress, they may induce flashbacks and panic attacks. Other post-traumatic conditions include rape or other sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and living through negative natural events, such as a devastating earthquake or hurricane.

Why Doctors seem not to really understand Anxiety?

Have you beat your head against the wall trying to get "professionals" to understand your anxiety?
Some professionals do not have real training in anxiety. They do not understand you, and they never will. Finally, you know more about your pain and symptoms than they do.
This is a very serious problem. We have people come to see us who have developed  depression over their anxiety in the past, under the care of 'professionals" who didn't understand anxiety. In some cases, anxiety sufferers have been prescribed medication that virtually "sent them over the edge".
As of this writing, a young man with an anxiety disorder sits in a psychiatric ward back East because his "caregivers" over a twenty-year period (a) provided him “talk” therapy, (b) took him off an effective medication for anxiety, and (c) placed him on a newer, untested "antidepressant" that has a strong potential to cause very negative and powerful side effects for anxiety people.[2]
As his symptoms worsened, he fell into a deep depression, began scratching himself incessantly, developed horrible headaches, became nauseous, and began talking about killing himself. His "caregivers" response?: "The medication must be working. Look at all the side effects!"

A little over 50% of the people who came to clinic have had horror stories of being put on antidepressants for anxiety that caused all kinds of brutal and nasty effects. Several had to be hospitalized because of an SSRI or an SSRI augmentation with another "newer" antidepressant.

More accurate information seems to exist on panic/agoraphobia than for the other anxiety problems, but those of our people with social anxiety and generalized anxiety experience much more trouble in getting the appropriate people to understand their particular anxiety problem and how to treat it effectively.

For all three anxiety problems, cognitive--behavioral therapy has been shown to work best in helping overcome the anxiety disorders. No other therapy comes close. Breathing exercises, hypnosis, relaxing, imagery, and other more esoteric exercises may be nice and fine.......but they do not overcome anxiety problems by themselves. Don't settle for someone who is going to teach you to "relax". This is not enough.

We had in the past, anxiety people who are so down and out that they can't hold down a regular job. The professional is likely to misunderstand the diagnosis, and prescribe something the drug companies are pushing, instead of what we know from research and clinical practice works.

You must check with your doctor/psychiatrist, however, concerning complications and interaction effects of usefull drugs. These medications are generally well tolerated and non-addictive to those who have clinical anxiety disorders.  None of our people have ever become addicted to these medications.

Anxiety can get cured, don’t forget it.


[1]See Final Article Why ...don’t understand?

[2] E.g. Sexual


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