Neurosis or General Anxiety is a categorical term used to describe a group of disorders. It is applied to mental or emotional disturbances that includes depression, obsession, anorexia, hysteria, hypochondria, panic and phobias as well as personality disorders. Psychiatric diagnostic criteria recognizes about 200 disorders within this framework. A state of persistent worry, fear and of course anxiety are often prevalent. Keep in mind that fear and anxiety only came under the aegis of psychiatry at the very end of the 19th century. These disorders can be classified into 2 groups, Continuous Symptoms and Episodic Symptoms. While it is normal & healthy for people to feel anxious or fearful in certain situations that response is meant to be temporary and end with that particular event. It is when the state is consistent that it becomes a larger issue impacting the entirety of one’s life. As many as 18% of Americans and 14% of Europeans suffer from one or more of these disorders.

“Anxiety” alone covers 4 aspects of experience, Mental Apprehension, Physical Tension, Physical Symptoms (fatigue, shakiness, heart racing) and Dissociative Symptoms (hyperventilation). Each condition has its own set of characteristics and symptoms so they require different approaches to treatment. It is widely accepted that mental illness arises from a combination of inherited risk and psychological stress, sometimes with additional environmental exposure (drugs, viruses). The usual modalities include therapy and medications. Healthy lifestyle choices are encouraged to manage the potentially extreme emotions that can range from nervousness to terror. Women are twice as likely as men to experience these disorders and they often begin in childhood. Sometimes these same behaviors present as a result of excessive alcohol or caffeine use or withdrawals. Sometimes they are actually indicative of another condition such as hyperthyroidism. Whatever is wrong with the brain is too subtle or poorly understood to show up on lab tests or scans.  These are symptom based definitions of mental illness because there is still so much to learn about the brain.

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