We all know what it’s like to experience anxiety when we take final exams, give oral presentations, go on job interviews, or go on a first date. For most of us these situations produce reactions such as sweaty palms, muscle tightness, a pounding heart, and feelings of apprehension and uneasiness. “Normal” anxiety arouses us to action; it keeps us motivated to study for that exam or keeps us on our toes to make a speech. However, severe anxiety can interfere with decision making, impair performance, and disrupt our daily lives.

In Panic Disorder, anxiety strikes suddenly and without warning, causing paralyzing fear. Physical symptoms may range from shortness of breath with dizziness and sweating, to a sense of impending danger such as losing control, or having a fatal heart attack. Soon it is the person’s fear of experiencing another attack that triggers the next attack. Left untreated, panic disorder can develop into a complex mix of anxieties, disabling fears, and social avoidance. Many people may turn to alcohol or other drugs in an attempt to control their anxiety.

Other anxiety disorders such as Social Phobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can also result in avoidance of everyday activities, and may be so intense that they terrify and immobilize people. Anxiety disorders are quite common, but are often misunderstood. Anxiety disorders generally cannot be overcome by sheer will-power, but there are treatments that can help. If you think that you have a problem with anxiety or panic attacks, contact the Counseling Center at 348-3863 to set up an appointment to find out about available treatment options.