Feeling anxious from time to time is common and normal reaction to stress in everyday life. Public speaking and taking a test are very often on the top of stressful situations. All of us are familiar with feelings of uneasiness, fear, heart palpitations, sweaty hands, memory blocks and stomach quakes.
If temporarily, anxiety can be a natural bodyís coping response. But if anxiety is excessive and interferes with personís life, it may be an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders affect 18% or about 40 million Americans age 18 years and older with a higher rate among women than men.
Types of anxiety disorders are:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Phobia (specific phobia and social phobia)
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
People with generalized anxiety disorder are stressed out with constant worries. They worry without a real threat about many specific circumstances like their job or school performance, family, children, relationships, health issues and finances. Generalized anxiety disorder can be diagnosed if someone worries continuously about everyday things for at least six months.
Signs and symptoms for GAD:
- excessive worry and tension
- restlessness and lack of energy
- dry mouth and sweaty palms
- sweating or hot flashes
- palpitations and feeling of tightness in the chest
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty falling or staying asleep
- stomach problems
Specific phobia is a persistent fear of specific objects like animals, height, water or blood and situations like flying or using the elevator. Social phobia includes a persistent fear sometimes accompanied by panic attacks in social or performance situations like public speaking. People with phobias tend to avoid the objects and situations that make them so afraid.
Some of the most common phobias are:
- Acrophobia or Altophobia - fear of heights,
- Agoraphobia - fear of a place or event where escape is difficult or when help is unavailable,
- Arachnaphobia - fear of spiders,
- Autophobia - fear of being alone,
- Claustrophobia - fear of confined spaces,
- Dental phobia, Dentophobia, Odontophobia - fear of dentists and dental procedures,
- Technophobia - fear of technology,
- Xenophobia - fear of strangers, foreigners, or aliens,
- Zoophobia - a generic term for animal phobias.
Treatment can help people with phobias and seeking help shouldnít be delayed.
People with panic disorder experience repeated and unexpected feelings of
- intense fear,
- choking sensations,
- shortness of breath,
- heart palpitations and
- chest pain.
Panic attacks may happen anytime and anywhere and last from few minutes to hours. Some people with panic disorder develop agoraphobia. These people usually fear of having another attack and avoid the places and situations where previous panic attacks have occurred. Many people with panic disorder also suffer from depression.
Panic disorder is more common among women than men. Majority of people usually get better with an effective treatment.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common illness characterized by unwanted and distressing obsessions. Obsessions are persistent, recurring thoughts or impulses that cause personís anxiety and distress. They could be repeated thoughts about being contaminated with germs or having left the stove on.
Despite the person being aware that the obsessive thoughts are irrational, he or she is not able to stop them. The person performs repetitive actions called compulsions in order to prevent or relieve anxiety. Some compulsions are excessive hand-washing or repeated checking that door is locked. In many cases obsessive- compulsive disorder is accompanied by depression.
Persons who experience very traumatic events or circumstances such as actual or threatened injury to themselves or others may develop posttraumatic stress disorder. People usually feel intense fear and a sense of helplessness in some distressing or traumatic situations such as military combat, sexual abuse, kidnapping, severe automobile accidents, natural disasters, violence of any kind etc. Symptoms may appear immediately after the traumatic event or may be delayed and last from several months to many years.
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include:
- recurrent flashbacks and/or nightmares,
- intense distress on exposure to cues that recall the event,
- numbing of general responsiveness (avoidance behaviors, detachment, decreased interest in activities),
- angry or violent outbursts,
- exaggerated startle response,
- difficulty concentrating,
- low self-esteem.