Anxiety disorders affect almost 20% of the population. Unlike transient anxiety caused by a stressful event (such as public speaking or a first love appointment), anxiety disorders last longer and may get worse if left untreated.
Below are the different types of anxiety. Each anxiety disorder has different symptoms, but all the symptoms are grouped around an irrational and excessive fear.
Panic disorder is characterized by sudden attacks of terror, usually accompanied by a strong heartbeat, sweating, weakness, dizziness, or shortness of breath. During these attacks, people with panic disorder may become hot or cold, feel a tingling in their hands, or feel numb; and experience nausea, chest pain, or asphyxiating sensations. Panic attacks usually produce a sense of unreality, fear of impending doom, or fear of losing control.
Fear of unexplained physical symptoms of oneself is also a symptom of panic disorder. Sometimes, people who suffer from panic attacks believe that they are having a heart attack, that they are going crazy, or that they are on the verge of death. They can not predict when or where an attack will occur, and between episodes, many people become intensely concerned and terrified of thinking about the next attack.
Panic attacks can occur at any time, even when sleeping. Generally, an attack reaches its maximum intensity during the first ten minutes, but some symptoms may last much longer.
Panic attacks usually begin in late adolescence or early adulthood, but not everyone who suffers from panic attacks will develop panic disorder. Many people only have one attack and never have another.
People who have repeated panic attacks and at maximum expression, can become very disabled by this disease, and should seek treatment before they begin to avoid places or situations in which they have suffered panic attacks. For example, if a panic attack occurred in an elevator, someone suffering from panic disorder may develop fear of elevators, which can affect their work or housing decisions and severely limit their daily lives.
The lives of some people are so restricted that they end up avoiding normal activities, such as shopping or driving a car. Approximately one third of these people are limited to living in their homes or can only face a feared situation if they are accompanied by their spouse or a trusted person. When the disease reaches this point, it is called agoraphobia or fear of open spaces.
Early treatment can prevent agoraphobia, but people with panic disorder can sometimes go from one doctor to another for years, and go to the emergency room repeatedly, before someone can diagnose correctly. This is unfortunate, since panic disorder is one of the most treatable anxiety disorders, since in most cases it responds very well to Neurolinguistic Programming, which helps to change the thought patterns that lead to fear and the anxiety.
Panic disorder is often accompanied by depressive symptoms. Symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, lack of energy, and difficulty concentrating.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have persistent and annoying thoughts (obsessions) and use rituals (compulsions) to control the anxiety produced by these thoughts. Most of the time, the rituals end up controlling those people.
For example, if people are obsessed with germs or dirt, they may develop a compulsion to wash their hands over and over again. Fear of social embarrassment can cause people with OCD to comb their hair compulsively in front of a mirror-sometimes they can be "caught" in front of the mirror and can not be separated from it. It is not pleasant to perform such rituals. At best, it produces temporary relief from the anxiety generated by obsessive thoughts.
Other common rituals consist in the need to check things repeatedly, touch objects (especially in a particular sequence), or tell things. People with OCD can also worry about order and symmetry, having difficulty getting rid of things (accumulating them), or saving unnecessary items.
Healthy people also have rituals, such as checking several times if the stove is turned off before leaving the house. The difference is that people with OCD perform their rituals although doing so interferes with their daily lives, and that repetition is overwhelming. Although most adults with OCD recognize that what they are doing is meaningless, some adults and most children may not be aware that their behavior is out of the ordinary.
OCD may be accompanied by eating disorders, other anxiety disorders, or depression. This disorder affects approximately equal numbers men and women. The symptoms can appear and disappear, diminish with time, or get worse. If OCD becomes severe, it can incapacitate the person from working or carrying out their normal responsibilities at home.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after a traumatic event that involves physical damage or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may be the one who was affected, the damage may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a traumatic event that happened to their loved ones or strangers.
PTSD can be the result of various traumatic incidents, such as assaults, rape, torture, kidnapping or captivity, child abuse, car accidents, air accidents or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.
People with PTSD can easily become frightened, lose interest in the things they used to enjoy, have trouble showing affection, become irritable, more aggressive, or even violent. They avoid situations that remind them of the original incident and the anniversaries of the incident are often a very difficult time.
Most people with PTSD relive the trauma in their thoughts during the day and nightmares when sleeping.
Symptoms usually start a few months after the incident, but occasionally they may appear several years later. The evolution is variable. Some people can recover after six months, while others have symptoms that last much longer. In some people it becomes chronic.
PTSD can occur at any age, even in childhood. Frequently, PTSD is accompanied by depression, or one or more of the other anxiety disorders.
Social phobia (social anxiety disorder)
Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, is diagnosed when people feel elevated levels of anxiety in social situations of daily life. They have intense, persistent, and chronic fear of being observed and judged by others and of doing things that will cause them shame. They may feel worried for days or weeks before a situation that causes them fear. This fear can become so intense that it interferes with their work, studies, and other common activities, and can make it difficult to make new friendships or keep them.
Although people with social phobia are aware that their fears of being with people are excessive or irrational, they are unable to overcome them. Even if they manage to face their fears and manage to be surrounded by others, they often feel very anxious beforehand, they feel very uncomfortable during the meeting, and they worry for many hours after the situation about how they were judged for others.
Social phobia can be limited to a single situation (such as asking people something, eating or drinking, or writing on a blackboard in front of others), or it can be as broad (as in the case of a generalized social phobia). ) that the person may experience anxiety in the presence of virtually anyone other than their family.
The physical symptoms that often accompany social phobia include flushing, intense sweating, tremor, nausea, and difficulty speaking. When these symptoms occur, people with social phobia feel that all people are watching them.
Women and men are equally likely to develop the disorder, which usually begins in childhood or early adolescence. There is some evidence that there are genetic factors involved. Typically, social phobia is accompanied by other disorders, such as anxiety or depression, and substance abuse can develop if people try to self-medicate to treat their anxiety.
Social phobia can be treated.
A specific phobia is an intense and irrational fear towards something that in reality constitutes a minimum or no threat. Some of the most common specific phobias are heights, escalators, tunnels, driving on roads, confined spaces, water, flying, dogs, spiders, and bloody wounds. Although adults with phobias are aware that such fears are irrational, they often find that coping, or even thinking about having to face the object or situation that produces fear, brings on a panic attack or intense anxiety.
If the situation or object causing the fear is easy to avoid, people with specific phobias may not seek help; But if avoiding it interferes with your professional development or your personal lives, this can disable people and you have to seek treatment.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) spend the day full of worries and exaggerated tensions, even when there is little or nothing that causes them. Such people expect disasters and are too preoccupied with issues of health, money, family problems, or work difficulties. Sometimes, the simple thought of how to spend the day produces anxiety.
People with GAD seem unable to free themselves from their worries, even though they are aware that their anxiety is more excessive. They can not relax, they get scared easily, and they have difficulty concentrating. Often, they have trouble sleeping. Physical symptoms that often accompany anxiety include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, tremors, nervous tics, irritability, sweating, nausea, dizziness, frequent need to go to the bathroom, feeling of lack of air, and sudden hot flashes.
When their anxiety levels are moderate, people with GAD can function socially and maintain a job. Although they do not avoid certain situations as a result of their disorder, people with GAD may have difficulty carrying out the simplest activities of daily living if their anxiety is severe.
The disorder develops gradually and can begin at any point in the life cycle. Other anxiety disorders, depression, or substance abuse may accompany GAD, which rarely occurs on its own.