Americans with anxiety disorders experience overwhelming fear that does not always get better without help.

These disorders are illnesses that are chronic, tormenting and grow progressively worse when left untreated. Symptoms can be extremely disruptive to leading a normal life.

Types of Anxiety-Stress Disorders

The four major types of anxiety disorders include:

1.) Phobia disorder – Phobia disorders afflict as many as 11.5 million people each year. These disorders are characterized by an irrational avoidance of a dreaded event, object or situation that causes severe anxiety.

The two main types of phobias are:

  • Social phobia: also called social anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobias: such as fear of heights or confined spaces

2.) Panic disorder – Each year, approximately 2.4 million people are diagnosed with panic disorder. Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.

Symptoms of panic disorders include brief episodes or “panic attacks” involving intense terror or fear that may strike often and without warning and involve symptoms like breathing trouble, sweating and chest pains.

These can occur at any time, even when sleeping and can last from a few minutes to several hours.

3.) Generalized anxiety disorder – Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects up to 4 million people every year. GAD often goes undiagnosed because people do not realize that their anxiety is part of a treatable illness.

The main symptom of GAD is excessive anxiety, worry or apprehension more days than not for an extended period of time (at least six months). Other symptoms are similar to those experienced in panic disorder.

4.) Post traumatic stress disorder – Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects slightly over 5 million people every year and is caused by symptoms that develop after experiencing or witnessing a very serious or life threatening event.

PTSD is characterized by persistent thoughts of memories, re-experiencing the traumatic event, feeling emotionally numb and going out of the way to avoid things that may trigger memories of the event.

Alcohol and Drugs Don’t Ease the Symptoms

It is very common for those suffering from an anxiety disorder to rely on alcohol or drugs to medicate themselves in an effort to cope with these often overwhelming fears.

It is also known that the effects of chronic alcohol and drug abuse are highly destructive to a person’s health and life, worsening the symptoms of anxiety, fear and hopelessness. Active use of some substances can also cause symptoms of anxiety or panic as can prolonged use of alcohol or drugs.

Many people develop substance use disorders and mental health conditions independently of each other, with each driven by different genetic, social and biochemical factors. In fact, the medications for anxiety disorders can be highly addictive. Therefore, many anxiety treatments, if not used and monitored carefully, can actually cause a co-occurring addiction.