Anxiety disorders are incredibly common, and affect literally hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
In GAD, people are preoccupied with worry, which they find hard to control, and which persists for months. The anxiety is often accompanied by feeling fatigued, loss of train of thought, muscle tension, problems with sleep, being irritable and on-edge. Worries are usually about everyday concerns, such as one’s job, relationships, paying bills, or concern about a family member. You may find that you cannot function at work or in your home life due to how much the anxiety affects your life.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
With the proliferation of reality shows depicting the lives of people with OCD, it is an increasing recognized (and treatable) condition. In OCD, an individual may have repetitive, intrusive, and unwanted thoughts that are distressing (obsessions); engage in ritualized or repetitive behaviors—often to reduce the distress from the obsessions or to relieve inner tension (compulsions); or both. The obsessions and compulsions are very bothersome to the individual.
The hallmark of panic disorder is the frequent occurrence of panic attacks, which occur suddenly (commonly when there is nothing to be nervous or scared about). Panic attacks are a very physical form of anxiety, marked by racing heartbeat, sweating, shakiness, dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, heaviness in the chest, and tingling in the hands. During a panic attack, you might feel as if something very bad is happening to you or that you are going to die. A panic attack usually peaks very quickly (10-15 minutes), but can persist for several minutes to hours. In panic disorder, you might develop concern that you will have frequent panic attacks or there are serious consequences as a result of the panic attacks.
There are many different types of phobias, are excessive fears about a specific situation or thing, that cause a significant amount of distress to the individual.
- Social phobia – a fear of social situations, where you might worry about how people perceive you, that you may be embarrassed in front of others, or that other people may think you are foolish or stupid. People with social phobia often report they have difficulty initiating conversations with others and have difficulty forming relationships.
- Agoraphobia – a condition where a person avoids or becomes fearful in a situation where escape might be difficult, such as a crowded theatre, airplane, or elevator
- Specific phobia – an extreme or excessive fear of an object or situation, that a person sees as unreasonable, and which causes an individual to avoid or develop extreme avoidance of or distress in the situation. Examples can include fear of needles, insects, going into tunnels, or being in water.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Although PTSD is usually associated with survivors of war or abuse, PTSD symptoms can occur in anyone who has been directly exposed to or witnessed an event where actual injury or threat of harm occurred. Following the trauma, people with PTSD may find that they are often ‘on guard,’ need to be aware of their surroundings, become more irritable, or startle easily (hyperarousal); may avoid reminders of the trauma, including attempts to block memories of what happened (avoidance); and may have nightmares about their trauma or be awake and begin to feel they are experiencing the traumatic event again (re-experiencing).
For more information about anxiety disorders or other mental health issues, please see the American Psychiatric Association’s Let’s Talk Facts.