An anxiety disorder has the potential to seriously derail and interrupt your daily life. An anxiety disorder is best described as a disorder in which feelings of ongoing fear or worry overwhelm an individual in a way that’s beyond what most people experience.
In this article, we’re taking a look at the 5 types of anxiety disorders so you know how to cope.
5 Types of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety: We all know the feeling. It might start with tightness in the stomach or a racing heartbeat. You might notice your palms sweating or feel like you need to take some deep breaths. When you are getting ready to make a speech or to have a confrontation that you would rather avoid or if you have just been in a fender-bender or some other frightening situation, it’s perfectly normal to have these anxious physical responses.
Some people, however, have anxiety disorders. They might feel these types of physical sensations at random times when nothing scary or threatening is happening. Or they might find that they’re constantly ruminating over what could go wrong or experiencing other mental signs of anxiety. There are many different anxiety disorders, and most of them tend to fall into five categories.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is a mental health condition that causes anxiety or worries nearly every day for months on end. The worries can be about a wide variety of things, from relationship problems to parenting issues, work issues, everyday problems, or things that have not occurred (and likely will not occur).
Some symptoms of GAD include worrying nearly every day for at least six months or more about all different possibilities or events, feeling on edge most of the time, feeling irritated most of the time, having sore muscles, not sleeping well, appetite changes, and difficulty concentrating. You might also experience trembling, a fast heartbeat, and other physical signs of anxiety.
GAD is often treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and sometimes medication. There are other types of therapies that can help, too.
A panic attack, while physically harmless, can be terrifying. It can crop up for any reason or even for no reason at all, and it generally includes hyperventilating, a pounding or rapid heartbeat, sweating, and a sense of impending doom. Every year, up to 11 percent of people can experience a panic attack. When someone has them regularly, that is called panic disorder.
While the panic attacks themselves aren’t dangerous, the effects can be detrimental. Some people feel as though they can’t return to the place where they previously had a panic attack out of fear that it will prompt another. Some will even refuse to leave the house at all because they are afraid that they’ll have another attack in a public area or where they can’t escape quickly. Treatments like psychotherapy and medications can help.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a disorder that many associates with war veterans. While people who have been exposed to the horrors of war are, in fact, prone to PTSD, they are not the only ones who are affected. Anyone who has been through a traumatic or violent experience can find that they are suffering from PTSD.
Some of the symptoms can include flashbacks to the traumatic period, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, jumpiness, and inappropriate anger. People with PTSD will often try to avoid re-experiencing their trauma and might find that they don’t consciously remember it. If not addressed, this disorder can cause reckless behavior, misplaced aggression, sleep disorders, and other problems.
Medications and therapy can help those with PTSD.
Obsessive compulsive disorder, often called OCD, has two main components: obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. While many people imagine someone with OCD washing their hands constantly, that is only one example of the types of behaviors that the disorder can cause, but it does not address the compulsion part. Also, someone who is naturally neat and tidy does not necessarily fit the criteria for an OCD diagnosis.
The compulsive thoughts that someone has when they have OCD might be along the lines of, “my family is at risk of severe disease,” or “someone will break into my house if I don’t secure the doors just right.” Then the obsessive behavior might, for example, be washing one’s hands over and over again to remove the germs that might get the family ill. In the case of fearing a break-in, the person might need to unlock and lock each door a certain number of times or in a certain order. It isn’t the handwashing or door-checking that’s the issue; it’s the compulsive thought that leads to an obsessive routine. Over time, these behaviors become more and more evolved to the point that they interfere with the person’s life.
Medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, and exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy can all help those with OCD.
Social Anxiety Disorder
While many people consider themselves introverts or don’t like spending time in crowds, others have a serious affliction called social anxiety disorder. While it’s normal to be nervous in some situations, like when you are meeting your romantic interest’s parents for the first time or before a job interview, those with social anxiety disorder are overwhelmed by the fear of being judged or the fear that they will somehow make themselves look foolish.
It can become exacerbated to the point that people with social anxiety disorder avoid going in public at all. Some will not eat in front of others, while others will not be able to attend work meetings or even make phone calls due to debilitating anxiety. They might have physical sensations such as an upset stomach, shaking and trembling, or excessive sweating that causes additional concern. Children and teens with social anxiety might not do well in school and adults might have trouble at work as well as on dates.
Counseling and medications can help people who are dealing with this disorder.
It’s important to see a mental health practitioner if you believe that you are suffering from an anxiety disorder. The relief of having your anxiety addressed and treated will be well worth any discomfort you feel when you first reach out to get help. Your family doctor is a good person to reach out to if you feel that you need help with your anxiety. They will be able to refer you to the appropriate specialist, who can provide both therapy and medication if warranted. You can also learn some lifestyle changes that might help. Anxiety is treatable, so don’t suffer with it; reach out for help.