Anxiety DisorderAnxiety disorders are one of the most common types of psychiatric disorders in the United States. More than 19 million men and women are currently affected by an anxiety disorder that impairs their ability to enjoy life and function normally in society. There are a variety of types of anxiety disorders, all with different symptoms, but they each share the underlying symptom of irrational fear.
What is an Anxiety Disorder?
We all need a certain amount of anxiety to get through our day. Anxiety helps us meet those office deadlines, do a good job on that report, or study hard for an upcoming exam. Without a little bit of anxiety, we might all just sit around and do nothing. But sometimes you can have too much anxiety. When anxiety starts to cause you intense fear or chronic worries, your anxiety levels may be getting out of control.
There are actually a number of different types of anxiety or panic disorders, but they are all linked by the underlying symptom of an irrational fear or anxiety. People with anxiety disorders worry about things that shouldn't cause excessive worry. Sometimes, this worry gets so great that it cause intense and debilitating fear. Many anxiety disorder sufferers can't go to work, attend social events, or even be seen in public because of their anxiety.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are five main types of anxiety disorders, all with specific symptoms. Each type of disorder can be effectively treated. It is important to visit with your health care provider if you think that you may have one of these anxiety disorders. It is also important to describe your symptoms in detail, in order to receive the correct diagnosis.
Panic disorder is one of the most severe forms of anxiety disorder and is often classified as its own illness. It affects more than 2 million adults in America every year, but it seems to hit twice as many women as men. Panic disorder also accounts for about 70% of all anxiety disorder cases.
Panic disorder causes sudden and sometimes unpredictable feelings of extreme fear and terror. This sudden onset of terror is referred to as a panic attack or an anxiety attack. If you are experiencing panic attacks you may feel weak, dizzy, and sweaty or become overwhelmed with unexplainable fear. You may feel as if you are being choked or suffocated and will experience an intense desire to escape. Nausea, chills, and tingling of the extremities also tend to occur during a panic attack. Panic attack symptoms usually last no longer than 10 minutes, but on occasion, they can last longer. Many sufferers describe themselves as feeling out of control and doomed, and sometimes even as if they are dying.
There are three types of panic attacks. Unexpected attacks occur out of the blue and without warning, and can be very scary. Situational attacks occur every time you visit a specific place. Situationally predisposed attacks also occur in a specific place, but not every time you visit that place.
Anxiety and panic disorder can become so severe that people become afraid to go to work or visit public places in case they have another panic attack. A third of all panic disorder sufferers become agoraphobic and are unable to leave their homes or deviate from specified travel routes for fear of an attack and being unable to escape.
Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder)
Social phobia causes extreme anxiety symptoms when you are in any social situation. Suffers of social phobia are afraid of being watched, stared at, or judged by others. They worry constantly and irrationally that they will embarrass themselves or be ostracized by others. If you have social anxiety, you have an extreme fear of being around your peers and will attempt to avoid any social situation. You will probably also recognize that your fears are irrational, but will be unable to overcome them nonetheless.
Social phobia can cause extreme physical symptoms of anxiety. When you are in a social situation you may begin to sweat, blush, or tremble. You may feel nauseated or dizzy, and these feelings may continue even after you have removed yourself from the situation. More than 5 million men and women are affected by social phobia. This disorder usually occurs in childhood or early adolescence and continues through adulthood. There is some evidence that the disorder may be genetic.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety disorder causes chronic worrying and anxiety. If you have GAD you may worry about your job, your health, or even something as minor as what you are going to eat for dinner. You may not even known exactly what you are worrying about. These worries become so pervasive that you may be unable to go to work, to sleep at night, or have the energy to run your household.
A variety of physical symptoms often accompany GAD. You may feel sweaty, nauseated, irritable, and tired. You may have difficulty concentrating or thinking because you are so busy worrying. More than 4 million American adults currently suffer from GAD. Twice as many women as men are affected. GAD rarely occurs alone. Instead, it is often accompanied by another anxiety disorder or drug abuse.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder manifests after a particularly horrifying experience. Also known as "shell shock," PTSD is common in war veterans who have witnessed terrifying events or been subject to torture. However, PTSD also affects everyday civilians who may have been through particularly violent events such as rape, kidnapping, natural disasters, or terrorist attacks.
PTSD usually begins in the months following the extreme event. It typically causes flashbacks and nightmares and can become so severe that a person begins to avoid anything that may be a reminder of the event. PTSD is often accompanied by depression, alcohol or drug abuse, and even suicide.
Specific Phobias (Simple Phobias)
Specific phobias are a type of anxiety disorder during which you are anxious about one specific thing that you have no reason to fear. For example, you may be afraid of tunnels, water, flying, spiders, or heights. You realize that this fear is irrational but still, the very thought of it gives you the shakes.
Common physical symptoms associated with specific phobias are headaches, trembling, twitching, lightheadedness and dizziness at the mere mention of the phobia. You may go to extreme lengths to avoid having to face your phobia, including turning down job promotions or giving up that much needed vacation.
Specific phobias are usually developed during childhood, after a particularly traumatic event associated with the phobia. They tend to persist into adulthood, especially if the phobia is not about an animal. More than 6 million Americans suffer from specific phobias and, though not yet fully understood, it is thought that they may run in families.
If you think that you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, it is important to speak with your doctor, especially if it is interfering with your career or relationships. There are effective anxiety treatments available for all types of anxiety disorders.