Anxiety Disorders Explained
Anxiety is one of the most common psychological problems facing individuals today. Some anxiety based on fear or worry is justified and healthy; such as, the anxiety one feels before a test, or worry one feels about the health of a loved one. However, sometimes, anxiety can become debilitating or highly uncomfortable. Anxiety can cause significant interruptions in daily functioning reflected by physical, emotional, occupational and social problems. The good news is that anxiety can be treated very effectively through counseling and therapy.
Different Types Of Anxiety Disorders
GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER (GAD)
Often characterized by feelings of anxiety and excessive worry about many different things and issues, even if those worries are unprovoked. People with GAD often suffer from physical symptoms of anxiety (e.g., gastrointestinal problems, headaches, fatigue) and often seem to be chronically anxious and worried.
OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER (OCD)
Characterized by intrusive and unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Examples of obsessive thoughts may include worrying that if you don’t engage in a certain behavior a certain amount of times, something bad will happen. Another example of an obsessive thinking pattern is being excessively focused and fearful of germs. An example of a repetitive behavior may be washing hands or turning a light switch on and off. Individuals with OCD will do the repetitive behaviors (also called rituals) to try and rid of the obsessive thoughts. Although temporary relief may be found from engaging in the repetitive behaviors, the obsessive thoughts and ultimately the repetitive behaviors often re-emerge. The symptoms of OCD can dramatically interfere with everyday functioning and often require intervention.
Characterized by unanticipated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms (e.g., chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, heart palpitations). Panic disorder can be incredibly frightening and can lead to extreme avoidance of certain situations that can ultimately impede functioning.
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)
This anxiety disorder can develop after an individual has been exposed to a frightening situation in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. This harm is experienced or witnessed. Often, individuals who suffer from PTSD experience a sense of detachment, nightmares or flashbacks during waking hours and are often easily startled. These symptoms often cause sleep problems and other mood related problems. Individuals with PTSD can benefit from intervention aimed at reducing their symptoms and helping them process the trauma that they were exposed to.
SOCIAL PHOBIA (SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER)
Exemplified by self-consciousness and overwhelming anxiety in everyday social situations. Social phobia may be specific to public speaking or may extend to any social circumstance. Phobia: A phobia is an unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little to no real danger. This fear is overwhelming and can cause intense physical and psychological distress often impacting a person’s ability to function in certain types of situations.
Brief anxiety is often mild in nature and often associated with a stressful (positive and/or challenging) life event like transitioning to a new career or having a child. This type of stress or anxiety tends to last less than 6 months and often remits once the person adjusts to the change.