The Nature, Experience and Impact of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Disorders

Characterized by emotional, cognitive, and physical symptoms of anxiety that are overwhelming, disproportionate and disabling.

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical responses related to the ‘fight or flight’ response. While unpleasant, anxiety is both a normal and adaptive response that creates a level of arousal and alertness to prepare and protect us from threat. When the emotional, cognitive, and physical symptoms of anxiety become overwhelming, disproportionate, and/or disabling relative to social, emotional, and academic functioning, criteria for an Anxiety Disorder is often met. While the common thread across all the Anxiety Disorders is excessive anxiety, fear, and avoidance, each differ from one another based on the type of objects or situations that induce the physiological, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms.

Disorders Include:

Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Behaviors

Characterized by excessive or persistent preoccupations, rituals, and repetitive behaviors that interfere with quality of life.

Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders (OCRDs) are marked by excessive or persistent preoccupations, rituals, and/or repetitive behaviors. Common to these disorders is the presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both. Obsessions are recurrent and distressing thoughts, fears, or images that the sufferer finds hard to control. The compulsive behaviors, whether it be rituals, routines, or habits are deliberately or habitually performed to drive away obsessive thoughts and decrease the anxiety that that comes with it.

Disorders Include:

Trauma and Stress-Related Disorders

Characterized by intrusive thoughts, hyperarousal avoidance of triggering stimuli, and negative impact on cognition and mood that adversely impact quality of life.

Many of us will experience a traumatic event which is broadly defined as an experience that is overwhelming, threatening, or uncontrollable. The degree of impact and the duration of symptoms is what separates an event that was traumatic with a diagnosis of a Trauma and Stress Related Disorders. While these disorders have differentiating diagnostic criteria (i.e. source/event, duration, impact, experience), all trauma and stress related disorders come with intrusive thoughts/memories, hyperarousal avoidance of trauma associated stimuli and negative alterations in cognition and mood. The effect and experience of the event may adversely impact social or family relationships, quality of sleep, eating or mood, and thinking, concentrating and/or expressing emotions.

Disorders Include:

*About our descriptions
The anxiety disorder descriptions use language and interpretation from both the DSM IV and the DSM V, national and international mental health and anxiety-focused associations and clinical research done in out-patient and residential treatment settings and educational counseling centers working exclusively with individuals between the ages of 13 and 25 years old.

The nature, experience, and impact of anxiety disorders among teenagers and young adults can have some unique features, from the way the individual experiences symptoms to the influence anxiety has on the individual’s family to the everchanging cultural experience of the individual. For this reason, these descriptions and definitions value and incorporate the findings from multiple sources. We continually refine these descriptions to ensure they accurately reflect the experience of young people struggling with anxiety.