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Fear and stress reactions are essential for human survival. They enable people to pursue important goals and to respond appropriately to danger. In a healthy individual, the stress response (fight or flight) is provoked by a genuine threat or challenge and is used as a spur for appropriate action.

An anxiety disorder, however, involves an excessive or inappropriate state of arousal characterized by feelings of apprehension, uncertainty, or fear. The word is derived from the Latin, angere, which means to choke or strangle. The anxiety response is often not triggered by an external threat or danger. Nevertheless it can still paralyze the individual into inaction or withdrawal. An anxiety disorder persists, while an appropriate response to a threat resolves, once the threat is removed.

Anxiety disorders are classified according to the severity and duration of their symptoms and specific behavioral characteristics. Types of anxiety disorders include:

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Panic disorder
Phobias
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Separation anxiety disorder (which is almost always seen in children)

GAD and panic disorder are the most common. Anxiety disorders are usually caused by a combination of psychological, physical, and genetic factors, and treatment is, in general, very effective.

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