Anxiety Disorders

What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. These disorders affect how we feel and behave, and they can manifest real physical symptoms. Mild anxiety is troublesome, while severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating, having a major impact on daily life and occupations.
People commonly experience worrying or fear before something stressful like a test or job interview. These feelings are considered very normal. Anxiety is a problem when symptoms impair day to day functioning. Anxiety usually occurs when a reaction is out of proportion with what is normal given the situation.
Anxiety disorders are classified into more specific types. Three of the most common are described here along with some informative videos. Other common that are not mentioned here include social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phobias.


Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a chronic disorder marked by excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worrying about life events, objects, and situations. The worries they have may be nonspecific. Those with GASD often worry about health, money, family, work, or school, but they have trouble identifying a specific fear. They also find it difficult or even impossible to control the worries they have. Their fear is usually not realistic or it is out of proportion with what may be expected in a given situation. They believe they will fail and disaster will strike to the point that it interferes with daily activities like work, school, social activities, and other occupations. GAD is often comorbid with depression.

Panic Disorder is a type of anxiety marked by short-lived and sudden attacks of intense terror that causes confusion, shaking, dizziness, nausea, and breathing difficulty. Panic attacks usually have a sudden onset and peak after 10 minutes, but they then may last a few hours. Panic disorders often occur after frightening experiences or as a result of feeling prolonged stress. Sometimes they are spontaneous as well. A panic attack may lead an individual to be aware of any change in normal body function, interpreting it as a life threatening illness. They become hypervigiliance followed by hypochondriasis. panic attacks lead the person to expect future attacks, which may cause drastic behavioral changes like refusing to leave their home in order to avoid those panic attacks.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)is an anxiety disorder characterized by impulsive thoughts or compulsive actions that are repetitive, distressing, and intrusive to the person. OCD suffers usually know that their compulsions are unreasonable or irrational, but they serve to alleviate their anxiety. By doing the compulsive act it tends to positively reinforce the behavior thereby increasing the compulsion even more. Often, the logic of someone with OCD will appear superstitious, such as an insistence of avoiding stepping on cracks in the concrete or avoiding hand shaking. OCD sufferers may obsessively clean personal items or hands or repeatedly check locks, coffee pots, or light switches.

What can OT do to help?

Today in OT Anxiety Disorders and Treatment
Advance article on OT intervention
Panic disorders and OT
Social Anxiety Institute