Is anxiety disorder a mental illness?

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    You’re anxious, you’re stressed , you’re tensed up , you’re not in control.

    You’re heart starts racing , you over think.

    You panic all the time.

    You feel helpless

    We all have experienced mild levels of anxiety here and there , but some people get mentally affected and can’t live their life normally because of anxiety.

    Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness or uneasiness about something with an uncertain outcome. “An anxiety disorder is an illness and recent years have seen a steady increase in anxiety levels amongst youngsters. The life of an average youngster is like a roller coaster ride because of increasing demands from parents, peer pressure, a highly competitive world, fast-paced lifestyle and, at times, even substance abuse,”

    Anxiety is basically an emotion.

    Anxiety becomes a mental illness when it interferes with ones activities of daily living.

    People with this symptom worry intensely about small issues, often expecting the worst outcome even when there is no apparent reason for concern. Sometimes, just the thought of getting through the day stresses them out. Such people don’t know how to control their thoughts and feel helpless, even though they usually realise that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants.

    People facing anxiety may withdraw from situations which have provoked anxiety in the past.

    Occasionally getting stressed out before an examination or getting anxious before getting a crucial blood report could be considered normal however feeling anxious all the time is not good.

    Hi Monet. You’ve haven’t worded this question quite right. Anxiety, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing and in some cases can be a normal, healthy response. And, anxiety, in and of itself is not a “mental disorder.” If I feel some mild anxiety the first day on a new position in a hospital unit, does this mean I have a mental disorder?? Of course not!

    Wording really does matter, Monet! Anxiety disorder is a real diagnosis and a real mental illness.

    There are five major types of anxiety disorder — Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD. This is chronic tension and worry about nothing specific for no identifiable reason. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. This may happen after a terrifying life event that caused great physical and/or emotional harm or the threat of great harm. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD. The obsessions are unwanted,recurring & intrusive thoughts. The compulsions are repetitive behaviors or rituals. The rituals provide only temporary relief from the anxiety. Social Anxiety Disorder (also called Social Phobia). This is an overwhelming anxiety and self-consciousness in social situations or when contemplating them. Panic Disorder. Sometimes referred to as Panic Attacks. Intense anxiety and fear accompanied by physical symptoms.

    And, too, anxiety can be a component of depression, another form of mental illness. So, yes, Monet, the anxiety disorders I’ve listed are very real mental disorders.

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    Anxiety can be a normal warning signal that says you need to pay more careful attention to something that could be dangerous, or it can be something more that interferes with having a normal daily life.

    Some anxiety is like having a button stuck in the alarm system of your mind and it keeps going off even when you are perfectly safe. You know you are safe, but you are still very anxious.

    If you think you get anxious too often, or your anxieties interfere with you leading a normal life, you might want to see a psychotherapist who specializes in anxiety disorders to get some professional help.

    By the way, the good news is that many anxiety disorders are very curable, with the right methods people often start to get relief fairly quickly, and many excellent treatments are available.

    I had Generalized Anxiety Disorder in college and was successfully treated. Twenty or so years later I “got” a phobia and started researching phobia cures. I studied Ericksonian hypnotherapy and cured my phobia with a combination of trance, progressive desensitization, and insight-oriented self reflection to find the deeper meaning behind my fear and panic. Sometimes you have to use a combination of approaches simultaneously to get a good result!

    Elinor Greenberg, PhD, CGP

    In private practice in NYC and the author of the book: Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration, and Safety.

    The current worldview of anxiety disorders is driven by the medical model and the belief that it is mental illness caused by something going wrong in the brain and that the answer lies in ‘fixing’ the thing that has gone wrong (usually with medication).


    Take the middle-aged woman, (emotionally fragile from early life stress and conflict), who suffers emotional abuse at the hands of her partner – abuse that not only scares her but also makes her feel that she cannot do anything right, and that everything she does fails miserably or is totally worthless. Is her constantly anxious thinking and worrying (or severe depression for that matter) simply the result of something going wrong in her brain that can be fixed by medication?

    What about the man in his early twenties, riddled with anxiety, whose father constantly put him down and criticized him with such venom as a child that he’s now petrified others will do the same. Is his dreadful fear of being hurt/rejected by other people really dis-ordered? Has something simply gone wrong in his brain that needs fixing?

    Or the teenage girl, brought up by overly strict religious parents that have so drummed the fear of God into her that all she can do to obtain relief (from destruction by the Lord) is turn to rituals… are her obsessive, fearful thoughts and compulsive behaviours really due to mental illness?

    Generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, social phobia, PTSD, panic disorder, severe depression… are any of these problems truly irrational, dis-ordered and due to mental illness?

    … or is there a better explanation?

    Adapted from – ‘Anxiety Disorders: Mental Illness or Normal?’

    Read the First Chapter (pdf)

    It could be both. I have this funny story I tell to illustrate how much my dad used to worry. When I was a teen, I was driving back from the movies when the car overheated. It wasn’t a big deal because we (my friend and I) happened to be near another friend’s house. We walked over, told my friend’s dad what was going on, and he said he would fill the radiator with water. Awesome. I called home to let them know what was going on.

    My friend, the dad of my other friend, and I all walked back to the car. The guy had just lifted the hood of the car when a deputy sheriff’s car came flying down the road, lights flashing, siren blaring. It was my dad (who was a deputy at that time). He had been worried about me, so he came to see if I was ok. This was how my dad was. If you were five minutes late, he was pacing the floor. I believe this was a symptom of his PTSD, but until he retired, he was able to keep his anxiety in check. It never kept him from doing things that needed doing.

    I worry too. When I was younger, I worried about school, grades, and boys. When I became an adult, I worried about bills and work. But at some point, it changed from simple anxiety to a crippling panic disorder. I never know what triggers a panic attack, but I’m not able to breath well, and I feel like I’m going to die. That is not just a symptom; it’s a disorder.

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    Anxiety is fairly natural. A person will be anxious before an exam or a public speech, it would be the reason that they would have studies and prepared harder before the exam and speech. So being anxious about something is okay.

    Anxiety Disorder means that someone has put a label on the person. This implies that the anxiety has a frequency that is high i.e. are anxious most of of the time and over small things or have severe anxiety bouts that are unsettling to the individual and those around. If this is the anxiety disorder that you are referring to then it may be classified as a mental illness.

    However, even if it is classified as a mental illness, it could be phase or something that has been triggered by some events in life. In that case it has to be waited out or worked out by yourself to ensure that it is not going to stay.

    If it is a long term diagnosed then yes it has moved forward to a point where it would be a good idea to see help and resolve it so that life can get back to normal.

    Yes, anxiety can be shoo-ed away.

    Feeling anxious sometimes is normal. Everyone has something they get anxious about. This is not an Anxiety Disorder. However, feeling anxious constantly, with little to no cause, and having physical reactions as a result (including nausea and panic attacks) is an Anxiety Disorder!

    The things that separate basic anxiety from an Anxiety Disorder are simple. An Anxiety Disorder must be Chronic and Intense. It wears down on you. You can’t breathe through it. You can’t think through it. It’s overwhelming. You can’t just relax, even though you know you don’t need to be anxious. There’s no reason to be anxious. You know you don’t need to be anxious, but the nausea is still there and the panic attack is building. And you might not be like this all the time, but it happens so often that you feel like you might as well be. You can try to will your heart to slow down, to stop beating so damn hard it hurts, but it won’t listen. You try to breathe but you can’t.

    And going through this all the time, even as infrequently as once a week, is exhausting. Because you start waiting for the next one to happen. You become anxious about your anxiety.

    Anxiety, in and of itself, is not a mental illness.

    Anxiety Disorders are. And it’s because it can be annoying (like a sprained ankle) to debilitating (like your kneecaps being shattered).

    yes,i guess so.

    when i began as a psychologist it was labeled as a ‘neurosis’ rather than a mental illness.

    Slowly over the decades, everything is now labeled a mental illness which now means that 96% of people are mentally ill.

    in ye olden times of the 70s,80s etc. all mental conditions were divided into neuroses,(everyday common problems, perhaps gone to an extreme)and psychosis(a break with reality)which were the mental illnesses(major depression, O.C.D., extreme phobias, manic depression, schizophrenia).

    However, now everything is listed as a mental illness.

    (rather like if you look in the doctors’ medical book of illness you will find cancer, heart attacks, and strokes but you will also find spots, itchy foot, and dandruff.)


    All of us experience stress and anxiety at different stages in our lives. One might feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam, or having a medical test or an interview. Sometimes we worry about a future event.

    Mental stress or anxiety is not always bad. For example, if someone has no fear of being put to the test (exam), he or she will not study properly.

    Not all people have the same level of anxiety or tension.

    Sometimes anxiety can become unhealthy and harmful when it exceeds any level that a person can handle. When it exceeds a certain level, it can cause psychological and physiological traumas leading to strained relations, performance related problems etc.

    Doctors these days are encountering frequent stress and anxiety related cases for treatment. But before going for a doctor, we are able to relieve some or even all of our own stress. All we need to do is to have a practical assessment of the situation. Everyday we need to spend some time relaxed, do meditation, enjoy your inner self and then start your days activities. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing techniques are helpful for your mind and body and brings about balance which will assist in mitigating related factors. Also we can relieve stress immediately by diverting our attention by listening to music, going for a stroll etc. This will gradually create a change in the mindset. Still, if we are not able to overcome stress, then we may want to contact doctor for psychotherapy and counselling.

    So, anxiety, up to a certain level, is very normal; and never, necessarily, a sign of mental disorder.

    Hope the answer helped you.

    While anxiety is a common feeling,the answer is yes, it can be classified as a mental illness.

    1. It is usually classified as generalized anxiety disorder or GAD in the DSM-V.
    2. It is caused by both genetic and environmental factors. (Stress, Genetic Makeup, Past Trauma)
    3. Treatment usually consists of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness Training, and if necessary pharmaceutical treatment/intervention may be necessary. Spirituality is also a useful tool in dealing with generalized anxiety disorder.
    4. It is common for GAD to be linked with depression or depressive symptoms.

    Thank you for letting me answer your question, I hope you find the answer useful.

    • David Blass
    • Boynton Beach, Fl
    • Atlanta, Ga

    Jeannette: Thank you for inviting me to answer your question.

    You are correct anxiety is an emotional symptom that has a root cause of emotional hurt or trauma that you endured more than one time—unable to trust the flow of life as a result. The emotional root cause of anxiety can be healed.

    A Deep Healing process is a clear, concise and direct method of transforming the mental, emotional and physical symptoms that transcends traditional protocols while retaining a professional focus. Deep Healing avoids prescription and OTC drugs, body parts removed, artificial hypnotic inductions and psychic interventions. The process ties in directly with the experiences and needs of the person. The process is down-to-earth, to-the-point, practical, fearless and with 30+ years experience Dr. Dorothy has proven Deep Healing is 100% effective.

    I am here only to be truly helpful. If you have questions contact me.

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