Types of Anxiety Disorders

Although it is most common in western societies, anxiety is a serious health issue that affects people around the world. Futurity Health and Medicine estimates that anxiety affects about 10 percent of people in North America, Australia, New Zealand and Western Europe, dropping to around eight percent in the Middle East and sic percent in Asia.

A certain amount of anxiety and worry is normal, but chronic, ongoing anxiety that interferes with day-to-day living should be addressed. Understanding the various types of anxiety may help, but keep in mind that many people experience more than one type.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a common form of anxiety characterized by chronic, exaggerated worry, even when it’s apparent there is no real cause. People with generalized anxiety disorder are plagued with intense, persistent worry that interferes with daily life, often on a daily basis. Worry may be over a minor thing such as being late for a meeting, but it soon becomes unmanageable. This type of anxiety typically causes irritability, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, muscle tension, fatigue and insomnia or other sleep problems. It is common in all age groups, although it affects women more often than men. It isn’t unusual for people to turn to drugs or alcohol to relieve the negative feelings cause by constant worry.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involves unwanted, obsessive thoughts and compulsive or repetitive behavior or rituals. A person with OCD may engage in counting, hand-washing, cleaning or praying in an attempt to keep the symptoms in check. It’s common for a person with the disorder to repeatedly check to ensure a door is locked or that an oven has been turned off. OCD often triggers intense shame, which leads to secrecy and makes the problem much worse. OCD can occur anytime in life, even in early childhood, although it frequently shows up first in adolescence. Symptoms can be relatively mild, but if they interfere with daily life or take up more than an hour per day, the disorder should be treated.

Panic Disorder is characterized by episodes of intense, crippling fear, typically accompanied by frightening symptoms such as dizziness, chest pain, heart palpitations, numbness or tingling, nausea, shortness of breath, or a feeling of detachment or unreality. A person with panic disorder may be convinced he’s dying or going insane. Panic attacks tend to occur out of the blue with no warning. They usually peak in about 10 minutes and last about half an hour, leaving the victim feeling completely exhausted. Some people have panic attacks very seldom, but others may have them frequently – even daily or several times in a day. This disorder can occur at any age, but it’s less common in children and the elderly.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develops after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event that threatened a person’s life or the lives of others. Although PTSD is often associated with combat, it can be caused by other forms of trauma, including sexual or physical assault, accident, torture, or natural or manmade disasters. A person with the disorder often feels extreme horror or helplessness, reliving the event through frightening images or nightmares. He may startle easily and may experience insomnia or difficulty concentrating or a feeling of numbness and detachment from friends and family. Even reminders of the event on TV or in movies may trigger panic, sweating or heart palpitations. It’s common for PTSD sufferers to experience depression and other forms of anxiety, and alcoholism is a serious problem for people with the disorder. PTSD therapies and inpatient drug and alcohol treatment are helpful for many.

Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia) is characterized by overwhelming anxiety in social situations. It may involve a specific situation such as public speaking or eating in front of other people, or it may be more general, occurring whenever people are around. People with social phobia have a tremendous fear of being embarrassed, laughed at or criticized, even in very ordinary situations, or they may fear being judged or mistreated in public. They may experience a variety of distressing symptoms such as blushing, sweating, trembling, nausea or diarrhea. Social phobia often starts in childhood and may be triggered by severe bullying, but it can occur at any stage in life with no clear reason. This type of anxiety can take a tremendous toll on work and personal relationships.

Specific Phobias involve an irrational fear of a certain situation, object or event such as vomiting, flying on a plane, driving, choking, thunder, dogs, birds, spiders or snakes. The feelings are so unpleasant that a person with the disorder may go to great lengths to avoid the triggering event and may be afraid to leave the safety of home. Although the sufferer is aware the fear isn’t rational, she is unable to make the feelings go away. This type of anxiety is often connected with panic disorder, and a person may develop a phobia of having a panic attack in a public place.

Seeking Treatment

If you suffer from anxiety, your symptoms may be greatly relieved by counseling, medications, or alternative treatments such as yoga or mindfulness meditation for stress and anxiety. Don’t wait, as anxiety may get worse, and it rarely goes away on its own.

If you turn to drugs and alcohol to calm the symptoms of anxiety, or if you’re struggling with substance abuse or addiction, seek drug and alcohol treatment or rehab as soon as possible.

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