Anxiety is a normal feeling everyone has. It helps us cope with the stresses of everyday life, and even provides motivation. But when anxiety produces feelings of dread, begins to affect you physically, and makes everyday activities seem impossible, you could be dealing with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are very common mental disorders. In fact, about 40 million people in America suffer from anxiety disorders. Unlike mild anxiety, the kind that is experienced when one has a pressing exam or a speech, anxiety disorders can become disabling. They cause fearfulness and uncertainty.They can last up to six months, or longer, if not treated, and have a tendency to get worse instead of better.
There are five major types of anxiety disorders. These types are generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Each one bears different, but equally terrifying symptoms, and can get worse if not treated properly.
Panic disorder affects approximately six million adults in America. It is far more common in women as it is in men. During an attack, a person might feel sudden bouts of terror, accompanied by trembling, tightness in the chest, rapid, pounding heartbeat, and dizziness. They usually bring a feeling of losing control, nausea, and numbing or tingling in the hands, feet, and\or face.
Panic attacks can occur at any time, anywhere. People who suffer from panic attacks often avoid busy or more populated areas because they fear having a panic attack in public. Some avoid normal activities, such as driving, because they fear having a car accident. When a person become housebound because of their panic disorder, they should seek professional help immediately. Panic disorder is believed to be hereditary.
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder often have upsetting thoughts that end up controlling the way they live their everyday lives. They develop rituals, or compulsions, to help control these thoughts. These “rituals” are not at all enjoyable, and can interfere with ones everyday life. They do, however, seem to bring temporary comfort to those suffering from this disorder. These rituals are often repetitive. For example, a person with OCD that has a fear of having their house broken into, they may lock and re-lock the doors over and over again. A person with a fear of germs may wash their hands and face repeatedly.
People who don’t have OCD also sometimes do things in rituals. Have you ever checked to make sure the stove was off more than once before leaving the house? Or checked to make sure you locked the door, after you’ve gotten out to the car? People with OCD use the same type of rituals, but these rituals become overbearing and interfere with their ability to do simple, everyday tasks.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is more common in women than in men. It is usually a result of a severe physical trauma. People with PTSD have not necessarily experienced a physical trauma first-hand. Often, PTSD is present in people who have witnessed a traumatic experience happen to a loved one, or someone they were close to. Situations such as rape, kidnapping, mugging, or abuse can lead to PTSD.
PTSD can be present in children, as well as adults. People with this disorder my have trouble establishing relationships, become distant from friends and relatives, experience increased irritability, and avoidance. People with PTSD may experience severe depression or panic symptoms around the anniversary of the traumatic event. They often have nightmares about the trauma, and certain things that remind them of the incident can trigger fear.
Social anxiety disorder affects people’s ability to be around others. In mild cases, they find it difficult to speak or eat in front of others, write on a blackboard in front of a class. In other cases, individuals find it difficult to associate, or even be in the same room as anyone other than their family. People suffering from social anxiety disorders have a fear of being constantly watched or judged by everyone they encounter. In some cases, social anxiety disorder can have such a profuse affect on ones life that it interferes with daily activities, and the ability to make and keep friends. Some physical symptoms experienced by people with social anxiety disorder include blushing, sweating, nausea and trembling.
People suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, worry excessively about little things that occur in everyday life. Situations often seem more severe than they actually are. A person with GAD may have difficulty doing simple tasks or everyday activities. Symptoms include excessive worry, irritability, trouble concentrating, headaches, muscle tension, trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Generalized anxiety disorder is diagnosed when a person worries excessively for six months or more.
Anxiety disorders can be treated a variety of ways. A doctor must first analyze the patient to determine which anxiety disorder the person has, if any, and to address any underlying problems. Often, in the case of anxiety disorders, substance abuse and/or depression is also present. In order for the treatment of anxiety disorders to work, these obstacles must be overcome first. People who have already undergone treatment for any anxiety disorder should inform their doctor of this. The doctor will need to know what disorder the patient had been diagnosed, what treatment method or methods were used, and how they worked. In some cases, intense psychotherapy and medications will be used to control the problem.