1. GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER (GAD)
What is generalized anxiety disorder?
We all worry. Relationships, deadlines, being on time to an appointment – you name it, there’s plenty in life to worry about. But people with generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, experience persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry that goes on every day, possibly all day. They feel it’s beyond their control. People with GAD often expect the worst, even when there is no reason for any concern. Their worrying occurs on more days than not for at least six months and often concerns health, family, money, or work. The exaggerated, unrelenting worrying interferes with every day living. Physical symptoms often accompany it and include restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping or concentrating
Anxiety is normal. It helps us get out of harm’s way and prepare for important events. It warns us when we need to take action. But if you have anxiety that is persistent, irrational, and overwhelming and interferes with daily activities, you may have an anxiety disorder.
The term “anxiety disorders” refers to generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias.
2. OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER (OCD)
What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) features a pattern of unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress.
You may try to ignore or stop your obsessions, but that only increases your distress and anxiety. Ultimately, you feel driven to perform compulsive acts to try to ease your stress. Despite efforts to ignore or get rid of bothersome thoughts or urges, they keep coming back. This leads to more ritualistic behavior — the vicious cycle of OCD.
OCD often centers around certain themes — for example, a fear of getting contaminated by germs. To ease your contamination fears, you may compulsively wash your hands until they’re sore and chapped.
If you have OCD, you may be ashamed and embarrassed about the condition, but treatment can be effective.
3. Panic Dissorder
Panic disorder is diagnosed in people who experience spontaneous seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and are very preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack. Panic attacks occur unexpectedly, sometimes even when waking up from sleep. Panic disorder usually begins in adulthood (after age 20), but children can also have panic disorder and many children experience panic-like symptoms (“fearful spells”).
Learn the symptoms of a panic attack, also known as an anxiety attack.
About 2-3% of Americans experience panic disorder in a given year and it is twice as common in women than in men. Panic disorder can interfere a lot with daily life, causing people to miss work, go to many doctor visits, and avoid situations where they fear they might experience a panic attack. The interference is greatest when people also have agoraphobia, as well as panic disorder.
Many people don’t know that their disorder is real and highly responsive to treatment. Some are afraid or embarrassed to tell anyone, including their doctors and loved ones, about what they experience for fear of being considered a hypochondriac. Instead they suffer in silence, distancing themselves from friends, family, and others who could be helpful or supportive.
A panic attack is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms:
- Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- Feelings of choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
- Chills or heat sensations
- Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
- Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself) Listen to this podcast.
- Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
- Fear of dying
4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
As a human being, there are always risks that put your life in danger. Most people are lucky enough to avoid these dangers and live a nice and safe life. But in some cases, you may experience a life trauma – either physically or emotionally – and this can cause an anxiety problem known as post-traumatic stress disorder.
As the name implies, PTSD is an anxiety disorder that comes after the traumatic event has occurred. Those living with PTSD often must get outside help, because PTSD can affect people for years after the event occurs – possibly even the rest of their life.
PTSD affects people both psychologically and physically. In most cases, the person with PTSD is the one that experienced the traumatic event, but it’s possible to get PTSD by simply witnessing an event or injury, or even simply discovering that someone close to you dealt with a traumatic event.
5. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Many people suffer from what’s known as “social phobia,” or an irrational fear of social situations. Some degree of social phobia is normal. Small degrees of shyness in public places, or discomfort while public speaking, are natural in most people, and do not imply an anxiety problem.
But when that fear disrupts your life, you may be suffering from social phobia. Social phobia is when the shyness is intense and the idea of socializing or speaking with the public, strangers, authority figures, or possibly even your friends causes you noticeable anxiety and fear.
People with social phobia view public situations as being potentially painful and distressing, living with a constant fear of being judged, observed, remarked upon, or avoided. Those with social phobia also often have an irrational fear of doing something stupid or embarrassing.
What makes this more than just shyness is when those fears cause you to avoid healthy socializing situations altogether. Those with social phobia often live with two or more of the following issues:
- Feeling hopeless or fearful within unfamiliar people or in unfamiliar situations.
- Obsession over being watched, observed, or judged by strangers.
- Experiencing overwhelming anxiety in any social situation with difficulty coping.
- Severe fear of public speaking – beyond what one would consider “normal”
- Anxiousness about the idea of social situations, even when not in one.
- Intense issues meeting new people or voicing up when you need to speak.
Many people with social phobia display avoidance behaviors. They avoid any and all social situations as best they can so as to avoid further fear.