Anxiety and anxiety disorders: characteristics, symptoms and treatment


I am anxious! Laconic phrase that is easy to hear people say in the most disparate environments as well as the most frequent in the psychotherapist’s office. Anxiety is the most searched word on the web after depression. It has been described abundantly in the literature by psychological and medical disciplines as an alarm reaction and also in common sense it means tension, often constant, due to worry; this becomes pathological when it takes on a pervasive and uncontrollable character.

The anxious symptoms then become an anxiety disorder.

This way of perceiving reality and reacting with concern and alarm is now a full-blown psychopathological picture if it has persisted for at least six months (DSMV) and can cause considerable stress and significant discomfort such as to affect the quality of life. Worry can cause significant impairment in interpersonal, social, and professional relationships. Often, relationships are complicated by the disorder.

Thoughts are negative, catastrophic, and can also trigger somatic reactions. If anxiety is excessive, symptoms such as:
restlessness and a feeling of strong tension; fatigue; difficulty concentrating; irritability; muscle tension; sleep problems, difficulty breathing, heart rhythm and gastrointestinal tract.

Anxious people tend to constantly monitor the environment in search of potential dangers for themselves or for the closest people. As there is no immediate real danger, their concern shifts to the future.

Constant worrying to avoid danger results in:

a) the attempted dysfunctional solution to avoid:

to be taken by surprise or at least to prepare for the worst;
an increase in negative emotions related to the possibility of something feared happening;

b) the attempted dysfunctional solution to ask for help:

to avoid the possibility of feeling bad from an anxiety crisis;

c) the attempted dysfunctional solution to repress one’s reactions.

These people do not live life in the present, because they are constantly preoccupied with thinking threatening imaginaries projected into the future and continually striving to avoid situations that they consider dangerous.

Numerous studies have highlighted the correlation with physical condition:

in particular with physical pain (fibromyalgia for example and chronic rheumatic diseases), asthma, irritable bowel syndrome. It represents a risk factor in the onset of heart disease. Anxiety symptoms are transversal to various psychological disorders and in particular to:

Panic disorder: where fear is perceived as an extreme threat, in an escalation in which the person is terrified of his own feelings. Fighting one’s reactions ineffectively increases the reactions themselves instead of reducing them, activating a dysfunctional device that maintains the problem (Nardone G. Panic attack therapy 2016)

Specific phobias:

that is, the uncontrollable fear of coming into contact with the feared object that the person must avoid. There are as many as there are things in the world but the most common are related to the person’s environment (phobias of animals, height, flying, agoraphobia, etc.) but not only (Nardone G. Paura panico phobias 1993)

Hypochondria and pathophobia: anxiety is the result of trying to keep one’s body under control, generating a dysfunctional process that generates new alarm (Nardone G ,. Beyond the limits of fear 2000).


Obsessive-compulsive disorder: where anxiety is sedated with pathological rituals (Nardone G., Portelli C. Obsessions, compulsions and manias 2013).

Relational dynamics: in which anxiety is the product of the feared judgment of others: the fear of not being up to par; to be rejected; not knowing how to control oneself, etc. (Muriana E., Verbitz T. Psychopathology of love life 2010).


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here