Dennis B. Kottler, MD

Westlake Village, CA

Appointments:   818-991-8376 


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See also:  Anxiety-Relieving Techniques (Text Version)

Please also see:  Anxiety-Relieving Techniques (Interactive Version)



Occasional anxiety is a "normal" part of life.  But anxiety can also be a symptom of a psychiatric disorder.   In addition, anxiety can occur with several different medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism.  We commonly describe anxiety as feeling "nervous," "on edge," or "wired."  However, anxiety can take many different forms:


The Many Different Faces of Anxiety

Anxiety can involve physical, emotional, or thought components, or a combination of all three:

1- Anxiety symptoms experienced as physical include:    Abdominal discomfort, nausea, headache, muscle tightness and tenderness, palpitations, rapid heartbeat, chest tightness, shortness of breath, numbness and tingling in various parts of the body, sweating, trembling, dizziness, weakness, light-headedness, vertigo, chills, hot flashes, and sensations of distance from the environment or from one's own body.

CAUTION:  Never assume a physical symptom(s) is anxiety without professional consultation to rule out a specific medical cause, first.

2- Anxiety symptoms experienced as emotional include:  non-specific fear, fear of dying, fear of going crazy, and fear of losing control.

3- Finally, anxiety symptoms can mainly involve thoughts, such as constant worry and rumination, the sensation of speeded up thoughts, and thoughts of looking ill or ridiculous to someone else. 


Psychiatric Disorders Involving Anxiety

1- Generalized Anxiety Disorder:  A disorder characterized by persistent symptoms of anxiety, which may wax and wane over time, but which are generally less intense than in Panic Disorder (See Next).

2- Panic Disorder:  A disorder characterized by episodic and intense but brief periods of anxiety (anxiety attacks) which escalate rapidly and usually involve physical symptoms, especially palpitations, shortness of breath or the sensation of not getting enough air, weakness and dizziness, and abdominal discomfort.   One or more of these symptoms may dominate in a given anxiety attack.  Frequently there is also a fear of dying or having a heart attack. 

In some cases a condition of agoraphobia can develop.   In agoraphobia the individual becomes afraid of situations where there is no easy exit, public places, or in some cases, just being away from home.  Frequently the agoraphobia develops secondary to the individual having experienced anxiety attacks in these settings.

3- Simple Phobic Disorder:  A disorder characterized by an intense anxiety response when in the presence of a given stimulus (E.g., a dog, elevator, high place, etc.).  There is also anxiety in anticipation of encountering such a situation.

4- Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia):  A disorder characterized by an anxiety response, often intense, when the person is in a situation involving other people.  This can range from a small group to a large audience, as when someone is engaged in public speaking.  The anxiety is usually accompanied by the feeling that the person will appear foolish or stupid in the eyes of others.

5- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD):  A complicated disorder involving repetitive behaviors (compulsions) and/or repetitive thoughts (obsessions) or images, which are often of an extremely frightening and morbid nature.  There is a feeling of not being able to control these intrusive behaviors and thoughts/images.  Common compulsive behaviors include ritualistic counting, repeated checking, hand-washing, repeated touching of certain objects, including oneself, and retracing one's path.  Constant doubting is also usually part of the disorder.  For more information please see:   Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

6- Other:  Various other psychiatric conditions, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dementia, and schizophrenia, frequently involve anxiety in addition to other symptoms.

Suggested Readings

Article by Author:   "Why We Have Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder and What We Can Do About It"

Article by Author:   "Why We Have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and What We Can Do About It"

Additional  Suggested Readings

Please see:  Anxiety-Relieving Techniques (Text Version)

Please also see:  Anxiety-Relieving Techniques (Interactive Version)

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Appointments:   818-991-8376