What is Anxiety?
Experiencing occasional anxiety is normal. We have all had times when a stressful situation has left us feeling anxious. However, people with anxiety disorders frequently experience intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, these anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror.
These feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily life, are difficult to control, and can last a long time. People suffering with an anxiety disorder may avoid places or situations in order to prevent or avoid these feelings. Symptoms may start during childhood or the teen years and continue into adulthood.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Generalized Anxiety Disorder – This disorder is characterized by persistent anxiety, exaggerated worry, and tension. These feelings occur even when there is little or nothing to provoke them. This fear and anxiety can cause significant problems in their life, such as during social interactions, school, and work.
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Having difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Feeling irritable
- Experiencing muscle tension
- Having difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Suffering from sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – People with obsessive compulsive disorder experience recurrent, unwanted thoughts or obsessions, and/or exhibit repetitive behaviors or compulsions to perform various behaviors. These can often be simple behaviors such as hand washing, counting, or checking locks or switches. These actions are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. These only provide momentary relief and often not doing these obsessions increases their anxiety.
Common obsession symptoms involve:
- Fear of germs or contamination
- Unwanted thoughts involving sex, religion, and harm
- Aggressive thoughts towards others or their self
- Ordering things in symmetrical or perfect patterns
Common compulsions symptoms include:
- Excessive cleaning and/or hand-washing
- Ordering and arranging things in a particular, precise way
- Repeatedly checking on objects, such as repeatedly checking to see if the door is locked or an appliance is unplugged
- Compulsive counting
Panic Disorder – People with panic disorders experience unexpected and repeated episodes of intense, debilitating fear. These episodes occur quickly and unexpectedly or be brought on by a trigger such as a feared or uncomfortable situation.
During a panic attack, people may experience the following symptoms:
- Heart palpitations, a pounding heartbeat, or an accelerated heartrate
- Trembling or shaking
- Feelings of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking
- Feelings of impending doom
- Feelings of being out of control
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – PTSD can develop after experiencing a frightening event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events often involve violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following symptoms for at least one month:
- At least one re-experiencing – flashbacks or bad dreams
- At least one avoidance symptom – avoiding places, events, or objects that are reminders of the traumatic experience
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms – feeling tense, difficulty sleeping, and angry outbursts
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms – difficulty remembering moments of the traumatic event or feelings of guilt or blame
Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder) – This anxiety disorder is commonly characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. It can be limited to only one type of situation or, in its most severe form, may be so extensive that a person experiences symptoms whenever they are around other people.
Symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:
- Blushing, sweating, trembling, feeling a rapid heart rate, or feeling their “mind going blank”
- Feeling nauseated or sick to their stomach
- Showing a rigid body posture, making little eye contact, or speaking with an overly soft voice
- Finding difficult to be with other people, especially those they don’t already know
- Being very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed
- Being very afraid that other people will judge them
- Staying away from places where there are other people
These factors may increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder:
- Trauma – Children who endured abuse or trauma or witnessed traumatic events are at a higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder at some point in life. Adults who experience a traumatic event also can develop anxiety disorders.
- Stress due to an illness – Having a health condition or serious illness can cause significant worry about issues such as your treatment and your future.
- Stress buildup – A big event or a buildup of smaller, stressful life situations can trigger excessive anxiety, such as a death in the family or ongoing worry about bills.
- Personality – People with certain personality types are more disposed to anxiety disorders.
- Other mental health disorders – People with other mental health disorders, such as depression, often also have an anxiety disorder.
- Genetics – Anxiety disorders can be hereditary.
- Drugs or alcohol – Drug or alcohol use or withdrawal can cause or worsen anxiety.
How We Can Help
Different anxiety disorders have their own clear sets of symptoms. This means that each type of anxiety disorder also has its own treatment plan. Anxiety disorders are generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both. If you are experiencing symptoms of the above-mentioned types of anxiety, help is readily available.
Our anxiety treatment programs in the Atlanta area utilize a variety of modalities with a framework consisting of cognitive behavior therapy, resilience training, mindfulness, and more. Contact us today to learn more.