An anxiety disorder lasts longer than normal anxiety, is more intense, and can lead to fears that interfere with the ability to function in daily life.
Here are some of the more common types of anxiety disorders :
– Generalized Anxiety Disorder occurs when a person has endured, for at least six months, a state of excessive worry, feeling on edge continually, sleep difficulty, and finding it hard to experience pleasure and relaxation. The symptoms include restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and muscle tension. This condition is not accompanied by phobias, obsessions, or panic attacks.
– Agoraphobia is the most prevalent of the anxiety disorders. People who suffer from agoraphobia are afraid of finding themselves in situations where escape would be difficult or help unavailable. They may suffer from panic disorders in certain situations and then, over time, develop a fear of finding themselves in these situations. Common situations include using public transportation (subways, airplanes, trains), being at home alone, crowded public places (such as restaurants, grocery stores, etc.), and enclosed or confined places such as tunnels, bridges, or classrooms.
– Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can happen if a person has been through a serious, life-threatening event – such as a natural disaster, war conditions, a terrorist act, a car or plane crash, rape, assault, or other violent crime. Those with PTSD may, for months or years afterward, experience repetitive thoughts about the event (with an attempt to avoid thinking about it), nightmares, emotional numbness, feelings of detachment, flashbacks, an attempt to avoid activities associated with the event, a loss of interest in pleasurable activities, and other symptoms of increased anxiety. Effective techniques are available for dealing with PTSD.
– Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder happens when stress or chaos in one’s world causes a person to think and worry repetitively about something (these are called obsessions) or else to engage in repetitive behaviors, like hand-washing or checking on things excessively (these are called compulsions). Obsessions are recognized by the sufferer as irrational, but they continue to intrude in the person’s thoughts for extended periods of time. Examples of obsessions include images of violence or doing violence to somebody else, as well as thoughts about leaving the lights on or leaving the door unlocked. Compulsions are behaviors that are performed to reduce the anxiety of the obsessions. Examples include excessive hand washing, checking the lights or the stove time and time again, or ritualistic behavior such as counting steps while walking.
– Social Phobia involves fear of embarrassment in situations where others scrutinize or evaluate someone’s behavior. This usually causes the sufferer to want to avoid these situations, although many simply endure the anxiety associated with these experiences. The most common social phobia is speaking in public – in fact, surveys indicate that some people have a greater fear of public speaking than of death! Other forms of this phobia include fear of writing in front of others, fear of crowds, test-taking phobia, fear of spilling food or choking in restaurants, fear of blushing in public, or fear of using public restrooms.
– Phobias are intense fears and avoidances that occur when a person is exposed to a certain type of situation. These fears are specific to the sufferer, usually irrational, and are sometimes unexplainable. Common examples include airplane phobia (fear of flying), elevator phobia, fear of thunder and lightning, animal phobia, acrophobia (fear of heights), doctor or dentist phobia, blood injury phobia, and illness phobia.
– Panic Attacks (one of the most debilitating manifestations of anxiety) will be described on a following post.
Psychotherapists use and teach many effective strategies and tools for the treatment of anxiety –
talking, helping reframe the way you see things, teaching you to prioritize, teaching you relaxation skills, and soothing skills, helping you find peace within yourself – and the list goes on.
Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT