This purpose of this article is to provide general information on anxiety disorders, but is not meant to replace consultation with a mental health professional. If you are concerned about anxiety in your own life, or that of another, please feel free to contact the to set up an appointment.

Everybody knows what it’s like to feel anxious—the butterflies in your stomach before a first date, the tension you feel when your boss is angry, the way your heart pounds if you’re in danger. Anxiety rouses you to action. It gears you up to face a threatening situation.

It makes you work harder to meet that deadline, and keeps you on your toes when you’re making a speech. In general, it helps you cope. But if you have an anxiety disorder, this normally helpful emotion can do just the opposite—it can keep you from coping and can disrupt your daily life. Anxiety disorders aren’t just a case of “nerves”. They are illnesses, often related to the biological makeup and life experiences of the individual, and they frequently run in families. There are several types of anxiety disorders, each with its own distinct features.

An anxiety disorder may make you feel anxious most of the time, without any apparent reason. Or the anxious feelings may be so uncomfortable that to avoid them you may stop some everyday activities. Or you may have occasional bouts of anxiety so intense they terrify and immobilize you.

Having an anxiety disorder means always anticipating disaster, often worrying excessively about health, money, family, or work. Worries are often accompanied by physical symptoms like trembling, muscle tension, and nausea.

Many people misunderstand these disorders and think individuals should be able to overcome the symptoms by sheer willpower. Wishing the symptoms away does not work—but there are treatments that can help.


The above information was adapted from the University of Massachusetts Faculty and Staff Assistance Program. We wish to thank them for permission to use this material.