When does anxiety become a disorder, is a question many people have asked throughout the years. Anxiety Disorders affect approximately 40 million American adults, and women are more then twice as likely to suffer from all types of Anxiety-Related conditions, in comparison to men (with the exception of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). In fact, 83% of cases seen by General Practitioners in the field of medicine, are anxiety-related in nature. The good news is, anxiety is something that everyone needs, to some extent. Think about it. The majority of important tasks that need to be accomplished are driven by motivation to succeed. In most cases, this motivation is triggered by a certain level of anxiety..."productive anxiety". Think of anxiety as being composed of three levels; Mild, Moderate, and Severe Anxiety. Research studies over the years have consistently shown that when a person needs to be successful at performing an important task, a Mild degree of anticipatory anxiety is typically not nearly enough to help accomplish that task. In other words, Mild anxiety is not enough to motivate the person to succeed. The same is true regarding a Severe level of anxiety. In fact being in a state of Severe anxiety typically causes one to "freeze" when needing to perform an important task. An example would be a University student who does not even begin to study for an important exam due to his or her extreme anxiety concerning the significance of performing extremely well on that exam. Two former researchers (Yerkes and Dodson) consistently demonstrated that a Moderate degree of anxiety was necessary for motivating an individual to perform the skills necessary for producing a successful outcome related to an important task at hand (academic, athletic, social, etc.). Our Clinic believes that if it were possible, we would turn anxiety into a vitamin (e.g., "A1"), and recommend that it be taken on a daily basis, at a "moderate" dosage level. Not too little, and not too much. The last thing a person needs is an "overdose" of anxiety!
So, realizing that a moderate level of anxious arousal is often productive in nature, when does "productive" anxiety turn into an Anxiety Disorder? The answer to this question concerns itself with factors such as frequency, duration, intensity, pervasiveness, and interference. In other words, if a person is experiencing a severe level of anxiety (intensity) on a near daily basis (frequency), for an extended period of time (duration), across several different areas of one's life (pervasiveness) such as family, work, school, social relationships, etc. resulting in significant disruption of their daily functioning (interference), then we have a situation in which "productive" anxiety has now resulted in a specific"Anxiety Disorder". The type of Anxiety Disorder is a function of what is triggering these feelings of anxiety. For example, anxiety related to social evaluation (Social Anxiety), anxiety resulting from horrific intrusive thoughts or images (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), anxious feelings following severe and sudden changes in physical sensations (Panic Disorder), and so on.
Cognitive-Behavior Therapy is the primary treatment approach utilized by our Clinic in Incline Village, NV. Lake Tahoe, 89451. We provide a short-term Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT) program designed to help a person suffering from any form of an Anxiety Disorder to learn specific "evidence-based" skills directed at (1) changing their thought patterns from fear-based interpretations of situations which they view as threatening in nature, to more realistic appraisals concerning the predicted outcome resulting from these life events, followed by (2) learning through Exposure & Response Prevention strategies a step-by-step manner for effectively handeling situations which were previously dealt with by using avoidance strategies.
For more information on Anxiety Disorders, please visit the Anxiety & Depression Association of America and the Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation web sites.