Normal anxiety is a part of everyday life. Challenges and problems in everyday situations such as test taking or making big decisions can cause normal symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are unlike every day, temporary anxiety. A person who has an anxiety disorder has continuous ongoing symptoms of anxiety that interfere with their ability to form relationships, attend school and/or work effectively.
In this article, we describe some of the most common anxiety disorders. Read on to learn more.
Generalized anxiety order is also known as GAD. This disorder consists of chronic tension, exaggerated worry and anxiety. It is present even when there is little or no reason for the sufferer to feel anxious.
GAD sufferers may worry about a wide variety of things including everyday activities, social interactions, work problems, health and more. These feelings of anxiety may cause significant problems with activities of daily living.
A person suffering from GAD may experience:
In order for a patient to be diagnosed with GAD, signs and symptoms must be present most of the time for a minimum of six months.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that manifests as sudden, unexpected, repeated feelings of very strong fear. People who experience panic disorder may suffer panic attacks on a regular and ongoing basis.
Panic attacks can occur suddenly and unexpectedly and may come and go quickly. A person experiencing a panic attack may feel:
For people who experience panic attacks, worry about the unpredictability of these attacks can be a cause of anxiety in itself.
Many people who have panic disorders try to avoid situations that may trigger attacks. This can have the effect of interfering severely with daily life and may manifest as disorders such as Agoraphobia (the fear of open spaces).
Agoraphobia is the fear of open places. People who experience this fear people who are diagnosed with this fear will display intense fear of two or more of these specific social situations:
People who have Agoura phobia usually avoid these types of situations. The often stated reason for this is that these people fear that it may become impossible or difficult to leave an event which causes embarrassment or panic. People who experience extreme Agoraphobia may become housebound.
Anxiety disorders may be phobia related. People who experience phobias have severe aversion or fear of specific situations or objects. While it may be reasonable to be afraid of some situations and objects, people who experience phobias have intense fears that interfere with their activities of daily living and may not actually have any danger involved.
There are many different types of phobias and disorders related to them. Some phobias are simple or specific and involve intense anxiety and/or fear of very specific situations and/or objects. Some of the most common are fear of:
People suffering from phobias may feel sudden and intense anxiety any time the feared situation or object is encountered and may engage in elaborate attempts to avoid encountering the feared situation or object. Even when the feared object or situation is not at hand, the person may experience excessive, irrational worry about encountering it.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is commonly referred to as OCD. This disorder manifests as unwanted, recurrent thoughts (obsessions). The person may act these thoughts out in the form of repetitive behaviors known as compulsions.
Examples of repetitive behaviors include:
These actions are often referred to as rituals. They are performed as a means of controlling, preventing or eliminating obsessive thoughts. Performing these rituals may provide the sufferer with some relief temporarily. Not performing them can cause a strong increase in feelings of anxiety.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is also called PTSD. This anxiety disorder develops following a traumatic experience. Examples of such experiences can include:
These are just a few examples of the events that can cause PTSD. Any event in which a person feels overwhelmingly threatened or is badly injured or harmed can mark the beginning of post-traumatic stress disorder. Witnessing a violent or frightening event can also cause this disorder.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is also known as social phobia. This disorder manifests as feelings of extreme self-consciousness and overwhelming anxiety in every day life. It can take the form of a fear of specific social interactions, such as public speaking or eating in public. It may also be generalized in such a way that the sufferer experiences symptoms of extreme anxiety in any social setting.
People who have social anxiety disorder often worry excessively that they will be negatively judged or evaluated by others. This causes crippling feelings of embarrassment and fear. For this reason, people who experience social anxiety disorder often avoid being in social situations. Naturally, this can cause a great deal of interference in work and school settings.
Separation anxiety disorder can occur in people of any age. It is most often seen in children who fear being separated from the adults upon whom they depend, but anyone can develop a fear of being separated from those to whom they are attached.
This fear is often based in a worry that something may happen to the person they value if they become separated.
Separation anxiety disorder naturally causes logistical problems in everyday life. It can also cause sleep disruption in the form of nightmares centering around separation from the attachment figure. Furthermore, when separation is necessary, the person with separation anxiety disorder may experience a wide variety of physical symptoms.
An unusual anxiety disorder is selective mutism. In this disorder, a person (usually one younger than the age of five) may choose not to speak in certain social situations. Selective mutism may be caused by or coupled with a number of different factors including:
Very often, selective mutism occurs in conjunction with other types of anxiety disorders.
This clever video provides a good overview of the five most common anxiety disorders.