Anxiety Disorders

Approximately 44 million adults in the U.S. experience an anxiety disorder, making it the most prevalent psychiatric illness in America.

Only an estimated one-third of them seek treatment, which is particularly unfortunate given anxiety disorders are extremely treatable. When you have an anxiety disorder, you react to various situations or other stimuli with dread and fear. You experience physical responses like sweating and an elevated heartbeat. You may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder if you have inappropriate and uncontrollable reactions to certain situations or other stimuli to the extent that it has changed your way of life.

There are many different types of anxiety disorders. Among the most common are generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, separation anxiety disorder and panic disorders. If you believe you or someone you love may have an anxiety disorder, then seek an assessment by a mental health professional. If an anxiety disorder is found, then start treatment as soon as possible. The earlier you begin treatment for anxiety, the quicker and more effective it can be at helping you get back to living life. In addition to standard anxiety disorders, there are a number of other conditions related to anxiety disorders, including varieties of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and trauma and stress-related disorders.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

When you have generalized anxiety disorder, you experience an excessive, persistent sense of worry or concern that impedes on your ability to perform everyday activities and conduct your daily life. Frequently, the focus of worry is a common, everyday task like appointments, chores, car repairs, minor health issues or work duties. In addition to a constant, pervasive feeling of tension and stress, other physical GAD symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, tense muscles, problems concentrating, exhaustion and fatigue as well as restlessness and irritability, may present as well. It is important for those experiencing anxiety that disrupts their daily activities to seek mental health help.

Phobias

If you have a phobia, then you have a powerful yet irrational fear of something. Whatever it is prompting your phobia, it is something that actually poses little to no real threat. Some examples include animals, flying, blood, water, driving on highways, tunnels or bridges. Common symptoms of mental health phobias include a powerful urge to flee, trembling, fast heartbeat, shortness of breath and general fear and panic. A wide variety of phobias exist including the following:

  • Acrophobia – Fear of heights
  • Agoraphobia – Fear of public places
  • Arachnophobia – Fear of spiders
  • Claustrophobia – Fear of enclosed spaces

Another common phobia is social phobia, also commonly called social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder is anxiety and self-consciousness in common social settings. If you have social anxiety disorder, then you may worry excessively about being rejected, humiliated, looked down upon or embarrassed in a social situation. You may avoid social situations altogether in order to avoid these feelings. Common settings triggering social anxieties include meeting new people, drinking or eating in public and speaking in front of crowds.

Most people who have a particular phobia are aware their fear is irrational, yet nevertheless, have no control to prevent it. Diagnosable social anxiety disorder interferes with your daily ability to function and persists for six months or longer. Both medication and talk therapy treatment, often in combination, have been found effective in treating all sorts of phobias.

Panic Disorder

When you have panic disorder, your anxiety can lead to periodic panic attacks or feelings of sudden, unprompted terror. Such attacks can occur anywhere and at any time with no identifiable cause or warning. If you have panic disorder, then you may be living with a constant sense of dread about the next impending panic attack. You may avoid people, places and situations associated with previous panic attacks, even though you may rationally know there is no correlation between stimuli and panic attacks. Some people with panic disorder are so afraid of further attacks they never even leave the house.

Panic disorder occurs in women more frequently than in men and typically begins in the early adult years. A period of significant stress can trigger the onset of panic disorder. Common symptoms of panic disorder include the following:

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
  • Sweating, hot flashes or chills
  • Shortness of breath or feeling of being smothered
  • Feelings of being choked or choking
  • Chest pain, abdominal pain or nausea
  • Tingling, numbness, shaking or trembling
  • Rapid heartbeat, pounding heart or palpitation
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Fears of losing control or dying

Most people with panic disorder improve with treatment. Through talk therapy, you can learn to recognize your thought patterns associated with your panic attacks and learn to adjust them so they will not cause you to have one. Some panic disorder sufferers also find relief through medication.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

If you have separation anxiety disorder, then you feel excessive fear or anxiety regarding being separated from a certain person or certain people. These feelings may come whether or not the separation is actual, impending or neither. It is also beyond any level considered normal or appropriate for a person’s age group. If these feelings interfere with your ability to function normally in life and persist for at least six months for adults or four months for children, then you may be diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder. Common concerns and experiences among people with separation anxiety disorder include the following:

  • Refusal or reluctance to go out or sleep elsewhere without the person
  • Separation nightmares
  • Constant worry over losing those closest to you

There may also be physical symptoms caused by the distress of separation anxiety disorder. Such symptoms are common in children with the condition but can persist into your adult years as well.

Other Anxiety Disorders

There are many other anxiety disorders besides the ones already covered. Among standard anxiety disorders are selective mutism and substance-medication-induced anxiety disorder. There are also a variety of obsessive-compulsive disorders, which are related to anxiety disorders, including excoriation (or chronic skin picking), hoarding disorder, body dysmorphia (BDD) and trichotillomania (pulling your hair out). Also related to anxiety disorders are trauma and stress-related disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress disorder and adjustment disorder.

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