According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is a natural, healthy reaction in situations such as trying to land a new job, being in a dangerous situation, experiencing a romantic break up or experiencing sadness or difficulty sleeping immediately after a traumatic event. If anxiety interferes with daily activities by being persistent, seemingly uncontrollable or overwhelming, you may have an anxiety disorder.
The difference between normal, everyday anxiety and an anxiety disorder is not a simple distinction. There are several kinds of anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety and specific phobias. Obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are closely related to anxiety disorders. Depression, although it is different from anxiety, can have similar symptoms, such as nervousness, irritability, and problems sleeping and concentrating.
Recognizing the difference between everyday anxiety and a possible anxiety disorder is important. Everyday anxiety, for example, would include becoming anxious or fearful of a dangerous object, place or situation. An anxiety disorder may cause irrational fear or avoidance of an object, place or situation that poses little or no threat of danger. Getting caught in an embarrassing situation can cause normal anxiety, but avoiding social situations in fear of being judged or embarrassed may be a sign on an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are common psychiatric illnesses effecting an estimated 40 million American adults. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, and you should visit a doctor if your anxiety interferes with your daily life.