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Anxiety can be best described in terms of worry, a general troubled or uneasy feeling of apprehension. Almost every person will experience feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. It could be the birth of child, change in employment, or medical or relational issues. There may be times where the level of stress becomes overwhelming. The worry associated with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is chronic and persistent usually accompanied by unrealistic thoughts. This worry may be difficult to control, affecting concentration and emotional well-being.

For DSM IV, classification of GAD is described as excessive, uncontrollable worry and anxiety present for more than half of a six-month period. Individuals suffering from anxiety often experience physical symptoms including: nervousness, agitation, diarrhea, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, headaches, irritability, fatigue, sweating, and muscle tension . Generalized Anxiety Disorder may be present with other ailments including panic disorder, depression, and alcoholism.

There is a difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack but both have their origins in the physiological response associated with the 'fight or flight'. The 'fight or flight' response is the body's natural defense system designed to ensure our survival. When we feel we are in imminent danger, the area of the brain known as the hypothalamus releases biochemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol. These biochemicals significantly increase the pain threshold, provide energy, and heighten awareness while also increasing blood and oxygen supply to vital organs and muscles. This physiological response provides the body with the physical and mental resources necessary for ‘fight or flight’.

This stress response was of great benefit to predecessors dealing with attacks from enemies and other dangers in their environment. Generally, in North America such extremes are not commonplace and we do not have to be able to react to real and imminent physical threats. Today, it is more likely to experience stressors while driving or with employment and family situations. As a result, these stress hormones are left to disperse within the body. This may be extremely taxing on a person’s overall mental and physical health.

To differentiate between an anxiety attack and a panic attack, they should be compared in terms of severity. An anxiety attack includes all the body symptoms associated with high anxiety. However, this anxiety is long lasting and doesn't appear suddenly. A panic attack on the other hand strikes abruptly, with feelings of intense fear and discomfort and out of context for the reality of the situation. This attack may last 20 minutes and the person might feel that they are having a heart attack or are about to die. Once over, there is a continued feeling of anxiety but without the panic.

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