Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, but for some people it can develop into a disorder that disrupts their life. Here are the five main types of anxiety disorders, their symptoms and co-occurring disorders.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder experience chronic and exaggerated worry and tension, even when nothing is wrong. Individuals with GAD may realize they are exaggerating the seriousness of a situation, but are helpless to stop the worry and are often unable to relax. GAD typically develops over time, usually beginning in adolescence.
Symptoms of GAD include:
* Excessive anxiety and worry, nearly every day, over a period of six months or more
* Inability to control worry
* Restlessness or feeling on edge
* Feeling easily fatigued
* Difficulty concentrating
* Muscle tension
* Difficulty falling or staying asleep
Panic Disorder (Panic Attacks and Agoraphobia)
Panic Disorder is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden rushes of intense fear and anxiety that seem to occur for no apparent reason and are accompanied by physical symptoms that mimic a heart attack (such as chest pain, racing or pounding heart, shortness of breath or dizziness). Other symptoms of a panic attack are: sweating, shaking, nausea, fear of dying, fear of losing control, and feelings of unreality.
Individuals with Panic Disorder will also suffer from agoraphobia, or the fear of having a panic attack between attacks. Agoraphobia causes a lot of anxiety and leads the sufferer to avoid situations and places they fear will trigger an attack. Not everyone who has panic attacks has or will develop Panic Disorder.
Symptoms of Panic Disorder include:
* Persistent concern about having panic attacks
* Worrying that the attack will cause them to have a heart attack, lose control or go “crazy”
* A significant change in behavior related to the attacks
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Individuals with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are obsessed with unwanted thoughts and impulses to perform repetitive and ritualistic behaviors that relieve the discomfort or anxiety caused by the obsession. These obsessive thoughts are difficult to ignore and often revolve around themes of losing control, becoming contaminated, sex, violence or religion.
Common obsessive thoughts for OCD sufferers include:
* Fear of dirt or germs
* Worry that a task has been done poorly or incorrectly, even when the person knows it’s not true
* Fear of causing harm to yourself or others
* Constantly thinking about certain sounds, images, words or numbers
* Intrusive sexually explicit or violent thoughts and images
* Excessive focus on religious or moral ideas/fear of thinking evil or sinful thoughts
* Concern with order, symmetry and balance
Common compulsive behaviors for OCD sufferers include:
* Repeatedly double-checking locks, appliances, doors, etc.
* Repeatedly checking on loved ones to make sure they’re safe
* Counting, tapping, repeating certain words, or doing other senseless things to reduce anxiety
* Repeatedly cleaning or grooming body parts
* Arranging objects in a specific order
* Praying excessively or engaging in rituals triggered by religious fear
* Accumulating “junk” you have no use for
* Repeating actions such as sitting down, entering or leaving a room, or touching certain objects over and over
* Counting to a certain number over and over
Social Anxiety Disorder (or Social Phobia)
Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as social phobia, is an intense fear of being embarrassed, humiliated or negatively evaluated in a social situation. It’s more than just feeling shy or nervous; the anxiety of these situations is so intense and uncontrollable that a person suffering from social phobia will go to any lengths to avoid situations that may trigger it. Social phobia can be limited to particular situations, such as public speaking, or it can be encompass all sorts of activities, including speaking to strangers, using a public restroom, talking on the phone, or even writing in front of other people.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder, or social phobia, can be psychological or physical and include:
* Avoidance of social situations to a degree that it disrupts your life
* Intense worry for days, weeks or even months before an upcoming social situation
* Extreme fear of being watched or judged by others
* Fear that you’ll always embarrass yourself
* Pounding heart and rapid breathing
* Nausea, dizziness, sweating or shaking
Specific Phobias or Fears
When someone has developed a phobia, they have developed an intense fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. Most people with phobias realize their fear is unreasonable but are powerless to stop. Exposure to a phobia will cause overwhelming and automatic terror, so many people suffering from a phobia will go to great lengths to avoid situations in which they might be confronted with their fear, possibly leading to an inconvenient change in lifestyle.
Common phobias and fears are animal phobias (e.g.; spiders, snakes, insects), natural environment phobias (e.g.; fear of heights, storms, water), situational phobias (e.g.; fear of enclosed spaces, flying, dentists), and blood-injection-injury phobias (e.g.; fear of blood, injury, shots or other medical procedures).
Common symptoms of phobias are:
* Shortness of breath
* A smothering sensation or feeling of choking
* Rapid heart rate and chest pain
* Trembling or shaking
* Nausea, dizziness, sweating
* Feeling detached from oneself
* Fear of dying
* Fear of losing control or going crazy