Those who experience anxiety experience it differently. Some have general anxiety. Although they may find it manageable, it never seems to go away. Other people suffer from severe anxiety attacks. Some experience anxiety when they find themselves in social situations, and yet still others require order and/or cleanliness in order to relax.
Anxiety is more than just nervousness. There are both mental and physical symptoms to anxiety. A few of the most common symptoms experienced are:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Chest Pain
- Muscle tension
Different categories have been assigned to different types of anxiety by psychologists. Understanding what type of anxiety one is experiencing is the first step in finding some relief from it. The most common types of anxiety include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Panic Disorder
- Social Phobia
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
This is the most common anxiety disorder, affecting millions of people across the world. It is characterized by an ongoing state of mental and/or physical tension and nervousness, either without an identifiable specific cause or without the ability to separate oneself from the anxiety.
Those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder feel like they are in a constant state of being on edge, worried, stressed, and/or anxious.
It is important to not forget that some degree of anxiety is a normal part of life, and feeling a bit anxious from time to time is not abnormal. However, when the anxiety seems to occur for no reason or for a reason that does not match the intensity of the anxious feelings, Generalized Anxiety Disorder may be the culprit.
The most common problems related to GAD are:
- Nearly constant restlessness, feeling on edge, irritation, or feeling out of control
- Feelings of fatigue
- Difficulty focusing on tasks
- Unavoidable occupation with negative and anxiety causing thoughts
- Tense muscles, most common in the neck, shoulders, and back
The key difference between anxiety and Generalized Anxiety Disorder is GAD’s persistence.
Most who suffer from Panic Disorder find it to be debilitating. It is much different from Generalized Panic Disorder. It about more than just “panicking”.
Panic Disorder is characterized by experiencing severe feelings of doom that lead to both mental and physical symptoms. The feelings can be so intense that suffers often find themselves hospitalized thinking that there is something severely wrong with their health.
Panic Disorders generally involve two things: panic attacks and fear of getting panic attacks.
Panic attacks can be triggered by stress, anxiety, or sometimes by nothing at all. When triggered, the sufferer experiences severe and intense physical and mental sensations including:
- Excessive sweating
- Hot and cold flashes
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Stomach pain
- Tingling sensations or weakness in the body
- Digestive problems
A panic attack may involve some of the symptoms above or all of them at once. They can also include things like ringing in the ears or severe headaches. Along with the physical symptoms, panic attacks are also well-known for their mental symptoms, which usually follow the physical symptoms and include:
- Feelings of impending doom
- Excessive worry that one is going to die
- Feelings of helplessness
- Feeling as though you are no longer yourself
Someone can be diagnosed with Panic Disorder without experiencing regular panic attacks. Having a constant fear of experiencing a panic attack can also be a result of a Panic Disorder.
Some anxiety sufferers suffer from an irrational fear of social situations known as Social Phobia. A small degree of shyness or feeling uncomfortable in a social situation is pretty normal. As is feeling anxious about speaking in public. These things are not the same as someone who suffers from social phobia.
When the fear of social situations begins to disrupt your life, that could be a sign of suffering from social phobia. When that little bit of shyness goes to a much more intense feeling and the idea of socializing with friends or strangers causes brings on significant anxiety and fear, that is a sign of social phobia.
Social phobia sufferers often have an irrational fear of doing something silly, stupid, or embarrassing in public. They live in constant fear of being judged, talked about, or avoided, and find social situations to be distressful and almost painful.
Many people with social phobia avoid any and all social situations as much as they can.
Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by an onset of anxiety symptoms in situations where the person perceives the current environment to be unsafe and often they feel there is no easy way to get away. These situations can vary from simple open spaces to things like being on a bus, at a grocery store, or in more severe cases just being outside the home.
Finding themselves in this situation may result in a panic attack. This can result in those with agoraphobia also developing a panic disorder because sufferers experience a panic attacks in public. They then try to avoid those places in order to avoid the onset of another panic attack. Not everyone with agoraphobia also has panic disorder.
Agoraphobia is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It often runs in families, and traumatic events such as being attacked or the death of a loved one may be a trigger.
Without treatment it is rare for agoraphobia to go away on its own. Treatment usually involves a type of counseling called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT for short.
Roughly 1.7% of adults are affected with some degree of agoraphobia. Women are affected about twice as often as men, and it is very rare in children.
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by a persistent and sometimes irrational fear of an object or situation. There is usually a rapid onset of the phobia and it persists for months or years. The sufferer will take extreme measures to avoid the object or situation, often to a degree much greater than the actual danger posed. Inability to avoid the object or situation will bring about significant distress for the person.
A common example of a phobia is ophidiophobia which is a fear of snakes. Very few snakes are likely to attack, and much fewer still pose any real threat, but someone suffering from ophidiophobia will experience a feeling of severe dread at just the thought of a snake.
Some people can live their entire life with a phobia without requiring treatment. Taking the example of ophidiophobia, if snakes are not common in the area and almost never seen, the phobia is not a serious concern and will not disrupt one’s life.
However, if the phobia persists with just the thought of the possibility of a snake being nearby and causing the individual to go to extreme lengths to avoid the possible encounter, then treatment might be necessary.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Better known as PTSD, posttraumatic stress disorder is a mental disorder that can manifest after exposure to a traumatic event. It is most commonly associated today with soldiers returning from warfare, but it can also be triggered by sexual assaults, physical attacks, or traffic accidents. Although it is most commonly experienced by those involved in the traumatic event, it can also be triggered by witnessing such an event.
Those suffering from PTSD should seek professional help immediately. PTSD can persist for years or even the rest of one’s life. PTSD will affect someone both mentally and physically.
PTSD sufferers will often relive the trauma they experienced in their mind. Sometimes the experience manifests itself physically too and they will feel the same or similar sensations that they felt during the experience.
They will sometimes develop triggers that cause intense stress or fear. The triggers will usually be things that remind them of the event. For example, if their PTSD was caused by a car accident, the sound of screeching tires might be a trigger. Another example would be if someone was attacked by a man in a ski mask. The sight of another ski mask could be a trigger.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder where people feel the overwhelming need to check things repeatedly, perform certain routines repeatedly (rituals), or have certain thoughts repeatedly. They are unable to control the thoughts or activities for more than a short period of time.
Common OCD activities include hand washing, counting of things, and checking to see if a door is locked. These activities occur to the degree that the individual’s daily life is impacted negatively. Most adults realize that their activities do not make sense, yet they feel compelled to do them anyhow.
Obsessions and compulsions are similar, but are characterized in different ways.
Obsessions are thought based and are a preoccupation with a specific thought. That thought is usually negative or fear based. The thought is cannot be shaken, no matter how much someone tries.
Compulsions are behavior based, and are an overwhelming need to perform a physical action or activity, usually in a very specific way. As much as the person tries, they cannot prevent the behavior.
An obsession would be a worrying that a friend’s airplane is going to crash. A compulsion would be a need to check that your car door is locked three times before leaving your car in a parking lot. An individual with OCD might feel that their friend’s airplane is going to crash if they do not check that their car door is locked three times.
These are the seven types of anxiety disorders. It is important to understand that someone might experience symptoms of one of these disorders without having a disorder. There is a difference between just having some anxiety and having an anxiety disorder.