It is normal for people to experience periodic incidents of anxiety, such as being anxious about school or a situation at work. However, for those who live with anxiety disorders, ordinary circumstances can cause fear or dread, and the extreme and intense sense of worry about everyday situations can cause panic attacks. Anxiety disorders are mental disorders that can be found at any age and should be treated by a professional.
Treatment may include medication, therapy or both. However, you may first show symptoms of an anxiety disorder as a child or a teenager, and they can carry into adulthood. There are many different types of anxiety disorders and they can range from social anxiety disorders or social phobias to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It is hard for people with anxiety disorders to live regular lives because they continuously feel worried, nervous and fearful. The constant worrying that accompanies living with an anxiety disorder can impair your daily life. Fear of anxiety may keep you from attending work, school, or avoid social interactions, and can stop you from enjoying life altogether.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Also known as GAD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder is defined as chronic anxiety. Even if there is nothing to provoke the disorder, you may find yourself responding to a situation with excessive tension and worry, which you or a loved one might not believe is a standard response. GAD can last for up for months at a time, and during that time, you may be faced with excessive worry or anxiety, during which you display anxiety-related symptoms. These GAD symptoms include:
- Feeling wound-up, restless, or on edge
- Getting fatigued easily
- Having your mind go blank when thinking hard or having trouble concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Having a hard time controlling how much you worry
- Feeling Irritable
- Experience sleep issues, such as trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or unsatisfied, restless sleep
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder, which is defined by a person having reoccurring thoughts (obsessions), and repetitive behavior (compulsions) that they feel they need to repeat repeatedly until they feel satisfied. Examples of repetitive behaviors include counting, cleaning, and washing, often with the hope that performing these rituals will help to prevent the obsessive thoughts altogether or make them go away. OCD is a common anxiety disorder, and the disorder may be long lasting. While conducting these rituals may provide short-term relief, not conducting them could cause severe anxiety to the person suffering from OCD. People who suffer from OCD may only show symptoms of obsession or compulsions, or they may show symptoms of both. OCD symptoms can hinder all aspects of a person’s life, such as work or school and social relationships. Depending on the person who suffers from OCD, symptoms may come and go, lighten up over a longer period, or get worse. Many adults who suffer from OCD realize that the rituals that they are doing do not make sense to the people around them. While some children and adults may not recognize that their behaviors and rituals are preventing them from living healthy lives and therefore do not seek treatment.
A type of anxiety disorder, a panic disorder can be defined by unexpected and repeated episodes of severe fear. However, a person who has a panic disorder does not solely suffer internally. Sufferers often suffer from physical symptoms like panic attacks. During times of high anxiety, such as during a panic attack, they can suffer from rapid heartbeat, trouble breathing, chest pains and dizziness. Panic attacks come about when a person suddenly feels terror for no reason and are often hard for people to control.
Panic disorders are typically more common in women than in men, and symptoms tend to start to show up in young adults. Panic attacks can be triggered anytime, anywhere, and often without warning. Often they are a result of a person who is under a lot of stress. If you suffer from anxiety disorders, it may make every day activities difficult to navigate and you may start to avoid situations or places to prevent these feelings. For some people who suffer from a panic disorder, they may feel that they can no longer leave their house. However, if you do not understand your disorder, you will not be able to seek help.
Phobias are another type of anxiety disorder that causes strong, irrational fear of an object, place or situation that poses little or no real danger to the person. There are many types of phobias, including:
- Acrophobia, the fear of heights
- Agoraphobia, the fear of public places
- Claustrophobia, the fear of confined and closed-in places
Other types of phobias involve fear of water, highway driving, tunnels, animals and blood. For a person who suffers from a phobia avoiding the thing or place that makes them afraid. However, if they are unable to, they may experience panic and fear, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, trembling and a strong desire to remove themselves from the situation at all costs. Though phobias are mental, and not physical, they are still an illness. If left untreated, your phobias can prevent you from enjoying your life.
Social Anxiety Disorder
People who suffer from a social anxiety disorder, sometimes referred to as a “social phobia” are fearful of social or performance situations because they believe that they will feel judged, embarrassed, rejected or offend others. Overall, they suffer from severe self-consciousness in every social situation that they encounter. Social phobia can occur in one type of situation, such as the fear of speaking in both informal and formal settings or eating or drinking in front of other people. Social phobia in the extreme form may result in a person showing symptoms almost on every occasion that people surround them. There are many symptoms of social phobia, and they include:
- Feeling anxious about being around other people and having a hard time talking
- Worrying for days or weeks before an event takes place where other people will be around
- Avoiding situations where there will be other people
- Sweating, trembling or blushing when people are around
- Feeling sick to the stomach or nauseous when encountered by other people
- Having trouble making and keeping friends
Having a social phobia can be frustrating as it often limits the experiences you can have. Although you may feel overwhelmed, you can manage your social phobia with support from a mental health professional. You can seek help online or in person. You can also access individual therapy or support groups that connect you with others who can relate to the things you experience. No matter what option you choose, the more you know about anxiety, the more comfortable you will feel seeking help to gain more control and improve your wellbeing.