Sometimes it is difficult for people to describe the experience of anxiety. Often the experience is one of unease, nervousness, or fear about something or sometimes seemingly about nothing specific. I like to think of anxiety as the feeling one has when about to speak infront of a crowd of people, when the neighborhood dog gets loose and seems to be on the way to attack you, or the feeling one gets when a bill arrives but there is nothing in the bank to pay it.
There are many kinds of anxiety problems that fall under the official heading of "Anxiety Disorders." For example, there is Generalized Anxiety Disorder that represents a condition that causes a person to feel anxious almost all the time -- even if the can't identify one or two clear problems causing anxiety. There is Panic Disorder that involves sudden onset of intense almost fully debilitating panic symptoms without a clear reason at all. They seem to come out of nowhere but often start with a physical symptom such as shortness of breathe or chest pain. Very quickly, the anxiety snowballs into full blown panic, and the individual will become short of breath, very very anxious, worried that something is happening that might kill him or her, concerned that somehow the experience is detached from reality, sweaty, and chest pain or a sense that the heart is racing uncontrollably. These episodes are so frightening that the first attack often leads one to the emergency department to rule out a heart attack or a breathing restriction that miught suffocate the individual. Fortunately, there is generally nothing dangerously wrong but the anxiety itself is horrible. Unfortunately, panic episodes can return and become so disruptive that people will be reluctant to leave home out of fear of another panic attack when out.
Another anxiety disorder is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Generally, this disease causes an intense need in the individual to repeat behaviors or thoughts because of a fear that something bad will happen if the actions or thoughts aren't done. These may include the need to check on things repeaterdly, to wash or sterilize things almost constantly, or to do things or think things in a special sequence or for a specific number of times. There may be a need to collect or hoard things in the event there may be a need for them in the future -- a person may collect thousands of pens, papers, stickers -- anything. The disorder involves also the intrusion of frightening forbidden thoughts or urges to do something forbidden. This may include uncontrollable urges to do violence to an innocent person or animal -- even one's own children, pets, strangers, or other vulnerable people or animals. They may be urges to touch someone inappropriately, too harm oneself in some way, to yell out or scream something extremely inappropiate in very important or solemn events, or to blaspheme in church, These are just a few examples. The person experiencing these urges will believe they are a monster, a terrible person, or a freak. There is at minimum embarrassment and often profound shame or guilt. However, on further examination one discovers the obsessions are urges to do things that the person desperately does not want to. o. They horrify the individual and tend to arise at times when an opportunity to act on them is present. In fact this is at times the only time they are prominent -- if one removes the object, situation, or person that involves the urge, the urges calm down considerably. What is important to remember is that the person is tortured by these urges because they are exactly what they shouldn't ever do and they actually represent behaviors the person in no way wants to do. It is uncommon that a person will act on these urges, however, it is the profound fear of shame that creates profound distress. . Sadly, people rarely seek help for these problems because they are so ashamed and certain they will get into trouble or lose the respect of people who learn of the forbidden thoughts. They fear intensely that the person in whom the individual confides will report them to the authorities or simply confirm and reinforce the individual's existing fear that he or she is a broken, evil, dangerous, perverse, or degenerate human.
It is important to know that these are just a few of the "Anxiety Disorders" that affect people. Others examples include phobias, PTSD, etc.