Anxiety disorders are the most common of emotional disorders and affect more than 25 million Americans. Many forms and symptoms may include:
Overwhelming feelings of panic and fear, Uncontrollable obsessive thoughts, Painful, intrusive memories, Recurring nightmares
Physical symptoms such as feeling sick to your stomach, “butterflies” in your stomach, heart pounding, startling easily, and muscle tension.
Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness. Untreated anxiety disorders can push people into avoiding situations that trigger or worsen their symptoms. People with anxiety disorders are likely to suffer from depression, and they also may abuse alcohol and other drugs in an effort to gain relief from their symptoms. Job performance, school work, and personal relationships can also suffer.
TYPES OF ANXIETY DISORDERS
The core symptom of panic disorder is the panic attack, an overwhelming combination of physical and psychological distress. During an attack several of these symptoms occur in combination:
- Pounding heart or chest pain
- Sweating, trembling, shaking
- Shortness of breath, sensation of choking
- Nausea or abdominal pain
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Feeling unreal or disconnected
- Fear of losing control, “going crazy,” or dying
- Chills or hot flashes
A phobia is excessive and persistent fear of a specific object, situation, or activity. These fears cause such distress that some people go to extreme lengths to avoid what they fear. There are three types of phobias:
Specific phobia — An extreme or excessive fear of an object or situation that is generally not harmful. Patients know their fear is excessive, but they can’t overcome it. Examples are fear of flying or fear of spiders.
Social phobia (also called social anxiety disorder) — Significant anxiety and discomfort about being embarrassed or looked down on in social or performance situations. Common examples are public speaking, meeting people, or using public restrooms.
Agoraphobia — This is the fear of being in situations where escape may be difficult or embarrassing or help might not be available in the event of panic symptoms. Untreated agoraphobia can become so serious that a person may refuse to leave the house. A person can only receive a diagnosis of phobia when their fear is intensely upsetting, or if it significantly interferes with their normal daily activities.
Obsessions are upsetting and irrational thoughts which keep reoccurring. They cause great anxiety, which cannot be controlled through reasoning. Common obsessions include preoccupations with dirt or germs, nagging doubts, and a need to have things in a very particular order. To minimize these obsessions, many people with obsessive-compulsive disorder engage in repeated behavior, or compulsions. Examples include repeated hand washing, constant rechecking to satisfy doubts, and following rigid rules of order. Compulsive behavior can be very disruptive to normal daily routines and social relationships.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have ongoing, severe tension that interferes with daily functioning. They worry constantly and feel helpless to control these worries. Often their worries focus on job responsibilities, family health, or minor matters such as chores, car repairs, or appointments. They may have problems sleeping, muscle aches/tension, and feel shaky, weak and headachy. People with GAD can be irritable and often have problems concentrating and working effectively.
Although each anxiety disorder has its own unique characteristics, most respond well to two types of treatment: psychotherapy and medications. These treatments can be given alone or in combination. Treatment can give significant relief from symptoms, but not always a complete cure.
Unfortunately, many people with anxiety disorders don’t seek help. They don’t realize that they have an illness that has known causes and effective treatments. Other people fear their family, friends or coworkers might criticize them if they get help. How you can gain confidence to get professional help >>