What Is The Connection Between Stress And Anxiety Disorders?

Dr. Williams answers the question: 'Link Between Stress, Anxiety Disorder?'

ByRedford Williams, M.d., Professor Of Medicine & Director, Behavioral Medicine Research Center, Duke University
April 17, 2008, 10:06 AM

— -- Question: What is the connection between stress and anxiety disorders?

Answer: Yes. Stress can precipitate the development of anxiety disorders. The most extreme example is posttraumatic stress disorder. You know, a major stressor has hit -- 9/11 and you're in the building, but you get out; an automobile accident; a major medical event; a heart attack; an earthquake. Major events that happen to you that are very life threatening and would be traumatic for anyone can lead to an anxiety disorder called posttraumatic stress disorder.

And if you find yourself continuing to have flashbacks and memories of the event, if you find yourself becoming afraid to go out and in public, if you find yourself not able to sleep so well, if you find yourself feeling nervous every time you think about the event that happened, and that lasts for a long time -- more than two or three weeks, and continues -- then you have a very specific disorder known as posttraumatic stress disorder.

On the other hand, there are other anxiety disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, that affects many people which can be made worse by stress. But these are people who are just more sensitive to the daily stresses that we all experience.

And so, there are many anxiety disorders ranging from the very specific particular posttraumatic to the generalized anxiety disorder. And all of these are made worse by stress. In the case of the posttraumatic stress disorder, a major stressor actually causes it. In the case of other kinds of anxiety disorders, they are made worse by stress.

Next: What Is The Connection Between Stress And Depression?

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