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You may be restless at night, tossing and turning in your bed because of excessive worry. You may find yourself cracking under pressure, whether when preparing for a test or when you get ready to report to the boss. But does your uneasiness qualify as actual anxiety?

We seem to be an angst-ridden society. Television news programs offer us a long list of worries: from what's in your toddler's milk to whether your high schooler will graduate with a 4.0 average. It seems at times as if we are a nation of worry warts. We obsess about crime, the stock market, civil rights, hunger, AIDs, the SATs, and global warming. You might even nickname your local newspaper "The Worry Pages."

In order to effectively deal with anxiety, we must first be able to define it. There are certain recognizable symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder which you should pay attention to. For instance, anxiety can be characterized by restlessness, an inability to relax, shakiness, and tics. You may feel your heart racing or feel light-headed. Your stomach might seem queasy and you may experience shortness of breath.

You might seem overwhelmed by a feeling of fear. You might dread tomorrow because you wonder what disasters will befall your family. You may experience insomnia, irritability, impatience, and an inability to concentrate. You may also feel impatient or on edge.

If any of these symptoms persist for more than a month, you have probably succumbed to generalized anxiety disorder. Your anxiety might be so severe that you also experience a phobia. This is an irrational worry about a situation—a worry so debilitating that you go out of your way to avoid a certain object or situation. While you yourself may sense that something is wrong, you may feel as if you lack the power to do anything about it. If the fear is severe, it is considered a full-fledged disorder. While phobias may not always plague those with anxiety disorders, they may accompany anxiety.

You should know that there are three major types of phobias. Agoraphobia is a fear of a public place such as a shopping mall or town square. You may have a fear that you will not be able to escape the area if you need to. Meanwhile, a social phobia is a fear of talking with or otherwise interacting with people. You may fear that you will embarrass yourself in front of a person or group. A simple phobia is a fear of a particular object or activity such as dogs, flying, or germs.

Anxiety can also lead to a panic disorder. A panic attack generally involves racing heart beat, chest pain, dizziness, perspiration, or a fear of dying. It can be highly debilitating, preventing an individual from being able to perform work or another important function. It can seriously curtail one's social life, causing an individual to become isolated.

There are numerous causes of anxiety. These include stress, nutritional problems, and chemical imbalances. Treatment most often comes in the form of prescription drugs such as Clonidine or Clonazepam. You should be careful, however, to review the side-effects of such drugs. In some cases, patients might find themselves to be dependent on the medication.

You might also find that it helps to become part of a support group. There is a special bond which grows between individuals who are forced to combat the same demons. You may discover that you can draw strength from talking with other people who share the same struggles you do. With such support, you won't feel so alone. It's comforting to know that there is someone you can turn to in the midst of your pain.

Anxiety can be a painful and debilitating condition, harming one's self-image, one's relationship with family members, and one's ability to perform one's job. It can also lead to panic attacks, which lead to another set of serious problems. Fortunately, there has been a great deal of research in recent years regarding anxiety disorders. With appropriate treatment, people who suffer from anxiety disorders can learn to function effectively. However, treatment often involves a great deal of work and determination. In time, you should be able to ascertain the most effective methods of treating your condition

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