It's hard to tell from the outside looking in just who is suffering. Given that each individual's thought life is so private, it may only become evident that a loved one is suffering from anxiety once they start verbalising their obsessions or acting out their compulsions.
Adding to this, is the fact that we do live in a world where bad things happen. There's enough to really worry about without even trying - weather pattern changes, Al Qaeda, interest rates, drug-resistant TB, cancer... So when does one transform from a responsible, concerned citizen into a person who finds their worrying disturbing and distressing?
The line between being in control of your life and out of control of your thought life is a thin one. Some of the early symptoms can appear to be positive. Hand washing for example is a good practice. It saves lives. Managing your finances well, trying to eat healthy preservative-free foods or having a beautiful, organised home... these are things that society values and rewards.
The tipping point is when these apparently helpful, positive habits begin to become detrimental to other areas of the person's life: A talented cook stops handling raw meat for fear of 'contamination'. A young boy refuses to play with his blocks for fear of making his room messy. Your father can't get to work on time because he is checking and re-checking that the windows are closed. Your friend refuses to use public toilets and so has to leave work to go home to use the bathroom at least once a day.
These are examples of untreated anxiety disorder. Anxiety is fear. Fear that becomes debilitating and requires medical treatment. If you are worried that you are doing too much worrying, your heart is racing, you feel uneasy and you are having trouble concentrating then see your GP to start getting some help. Anxiety disorder comes in many shapes and sizes but it is easily treated.