What is an anxiety disorder?
Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety throughout life. Anxiety is the human symptom of an instinct that you share with animals, known as the fight or flight response. When you enter the fight or flight response you feel physically and mentally altered. When this happens unnecessarily you will suffer detrimental effects. Continue reading to see whether you have occasional feelings of anxiety or an anxiety disorder.
There is a difference between feelings of anxiety and a recognised anxiety disorder. Above all, typical anxiety is short lived and you mostly understand why it is present. For instance, an exam coming up, a strained relationship, a work deadline etc. After that anxiety becomes disordered and at this point it is unmanageable or overwhelming. There are six main anxiety disorders. However, if you do not fit into a category but your anxiety is negatively affecting your life you should still seek help.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD occurs after a situation of exceptionally threatening or catastrophic nature.
- A serious road accident.
- A violent personal assault.
- Sexual abuse.
- Violence or severe neglect.
- Witnessing a violent death.
- Military combat.
- Being held hostage.
- A terrorist attack.
- A natural disaster.
The above list is not exclusive and there are other situations that seem insignificant to some but traumatic to others. Describing a situation as traumatic often happens colloquially but PTSD does not generally occur after an upsetting event such as losing a job, failing an exam, or getting divorced. However, if you feel disturbed by an event, regardless of what it is, seek support to help you move forward.
PTSD develops when the fearfulness and bad dreams commonly caused by the event, alongside the difficulty in stopping thinking about what happened do not fade away. As a result, a diagnoses of PTSD is made when you re-experience the event alongside some or all of the following symptoms;
- Avoiding places and people that remind you of the event.
- Feeling no emotion at all (emotional numbing).
- Constantly on alert, aware of threats and easily startled. As a result you experience feelings of irritability, anger, insomnia and concentration difficulties.
- Other problems in life.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is a continuous fear of one or more social or performance situations. The worry about the situation is before and afterwards. In addition the worry is out of proportion to the threat of the activity. This can be a fear of eating, drinking, speaking and / or performing in public.
Symptoms of social anxiety disorder are;
- Anxiety about being with others and difficulty in talking to them.
- Feeling self-conscious in front of other people and embarrassed or afraid that others will judge or criticise you.
- You dread talking in groups.
- Feelings of worry for days or weeks before a social engagement.
- You avoid places where there are other people.
- You struggle to make friends.
- Find yourself blushing, sweating, trembling and / or feeling sick around other people.
- You dread everyday activities.
- You dread starting conversations.
- Attempts to alleviate anxiety with drugs or alcohol.
- You dread speaking on the telephone.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
Identified by time consuming behaviours such as
- Mirror gazing.
- Comparing features to others.
- Excessive camouflaging tactics.
- Skin picking.
- Feeling anxious around others.
- Reassurance seeking.
BDD causes you to fear others with the worry that they consider you vain or self-obsessed. As a result you may be secretive and reluctant to seek help, though cosmetic surgery, excessive diets and / or exercise are appealing.
Panic disorder is present if you have had at least two panic attacks with at least one month of persistent worry about having another panic attack after. You feel concerned about the consequences or there is a significant change in your behaviour because of the attacks.
Panic attacks are attacks of severe anxiety generally lasting between 30 and 45 minutes. A panic attack involves some or all of the following symptoms:
- Intense fear / discomfort.
- Heart palpitations.
- Hot flushes.
- Shortness of breath.
- A choking sensation.
- Chest pain.
- Feeling faint.
- Tingling sensation / pins and needles.
- Dry mouth.
- A need to go to the toilet.
- A feeling of dread.
- Fear of dying.
- Churning stomach.
As a result of these symptoms you almost always experience a fear of dying, losing control or going mad. The fear of having another panic attack often causes agoraphobia.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Often used to describe behaviours, the following information should give a clear picture into the true feelings of OCD. OCD is distinguished by the existence of unpleasant and distressing obsessions, for example unwanted intrusive thoughts, images or urges that repeatedly enter your mind. You feel compelled to perform and sometime do perform acts, including repetitive behaviours. The feelings create an illusion that the behaviours will temporarily reduce anxiety or distress. However, in reality the symptoms cause significant difficulties and distress so the initialism should never be used as a throw away term.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
The main symptom of GAD is excessive worry about several different things. However, to be formally diagnosed with GAD there are two main conditions to meet:
1. Excessive worry about several things.
2. Difficulty controlling the worry.
In addition there must be three or more psychological symptoms. The symptoms should have been present for at least six months and have a great effect on your life. Alongside the above, further symptoms of GAD are;
- Difficulty in concentrating.
- Muscle tension.
- Sleep problems.
- Heart palpitations.
- Muscle aches.
- Trembling / shaking.
- Dry mouth.
- Excessive sweating.
- Stomach aches.
- Feeling sick.
- Pins & needles.
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