Anxiety is a normal human reaction to stressful situations; the reality is that everyone experiences some worry or fear regularly. For individuals with anxiety disorders, this worry is not temporary. It is chronic and pervasive, slowly growing in strength as time progresses.
Anxiety can be debilitating – impacting one’s ability to perform professionally, to maintain healthy relationships and to be present in social situations. Anxiety disorders occur in both adults and children, with approximately 18% of US adults and 25% of adolescents vulnerable to these chronic symptoms.
An individual’s treatment will center on gaining greater understanding and awareness of their own internal experience, in order to equip oneself with the tools necessary to alleviate the presence of these negative symptoms.
Major Types Of Anxiety
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by persistent and excessive worry. An individual’s fears can center on a number of different issues such as healthy, safety, finances, or a general feeling of impending doom. These worries are difficult to control and can appear irrational or an overreaction to the outside world. In addition to excessive worry, symptoms can also include restlessness, irritability, headaches, nausea, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension and being easily startled.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over. The obsessive thoughts can include unwanted or forbidden thoughts, fear of contamination and aggressive thoughts towards self or others. Compulsive behaviors can include excessive cleaning or handwashing, arranging things in a precise manner, repeatedly checking on things or compulsively counting. Although an individual may realize that these thoughts and behaviors are irrational, they have difficulty gaining control. These symptoms have a negative impact on an individual’s quality of life, impacting their employment, relationships and ability to complete certain daily life skills.
Panic Disorder is characterized by recurring panic attacks that include shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, rapid heart rate, chest pains, dizziness, hot flashes and a feeling of dread. These attacks can be brought on suddenly and symptoms can be intense and temporarily paralyzing. Although these attacks are not life threatening, they can be very frightening and impact one’s quality of life. There is typically a chronic fear of experiencing another panic attack, once someone has endured their first one. As a result, functioning at work or in social settings can be difficult since there is always an impending fear of another attack occuring.
Phobias are characterized by intense fears regarding certain objects or situations that are distressing or intrusive. These phobias can prohibit an individual from completing certain tasks, interacting with others, or even leaving their home.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is characterized as a condition that is triggered by a traumatic that was either experienced or witnessed. Trauma can encompass any situation that was deeply distressing and disturbing for an individual. There are a wide range of symptoms that can be experienced such as recurrent and unwanted memories of the event, flashbacks, nightmares, a desire to avoid conversation, places or people that serve as a reminder of the event, hopelessness for the future, negative thoughts about self or others, difficulty maintaining relationships and chronic feeling of detachment. Individuals may also get easily startled, engage in self-destructuve behaviors, have difficulty sleeping, experience irritatbility and an overwhelming sense of shame / guilt.
Social anxiety is characterized by being fearful of social situations and is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders. Individuals who experience social anxiety tend to be self conscious and have an overwhelming fear of being judged or embarrased while in a social setting. They may also have difficulty making / keeping friends and following through with social obligations. Symptoms may include excessive worry prior to planned event, nausea, shakiness, difficulty breathing and at times, having an “out of body” experience. Individuals who experience social anxiety may have difficulty talking to strangers, speaking in public, maintaining eye contact, eating in front of others and starting conversations.
Although this is a common ailment, the reality is that anxiety can be triggered for many different reasons. Some individuals have a biological predisposition, while others may have experienced loss, transition, trauma, or interpersonal conflict.
A comprehensive treatment approach can be successful in minimizing the symptoms of anxiety, as an individual gains greater understanding of their experiences, learns to self-regulate, alter their perspectives and regain control of their life.