Anxiety affects people in many different ways. Having some anxiety at certain times is a useful coping tool for people.
It’s our way of reacting to stress and alerting us of any possible risks. For instance it helps us to focus if we’re making a work presentation, walking by a barking dog or driving our car in fast traffic.
But for many people anxiety goes into overdrive. It becomes their everyday way of being.
It hinders or stops someone from having a normal life. When it’s like this it is an Anxiety Disorder.
Anxiety Disorders are a group of mental health illnesses that cause constant and overwhelming anxiety and fear.
Excessive anxiety like this can cause anyone suffering from it to avoid friends and family. They may not feel able to go to work, college, social events, drive their car, use public transport or even leave their house.
Psychotherapist Wayne Kemp says in the book The Anxiety Conversation: “I always think of anxiety as a disease… people are dis-at-ease. It’s something that they’re creating, but not something they’re choosing. It’s their response to the world.”
Around the world Anxiety Disorders affect almost 300 million people. There are likely to be many more than this, but the nature of the illness means it is often not diagnosed.
What are the most common Anxiety Disorders?
There are several Anxiety Disorders, but the five major types are:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Someone with GAD feels excessive worry and fear with seemingly little or no reason. They will spend much if not all their waking hours focussing on worst-case scenarios to do with work, family, health, finances and life in general.
Someone with GAD will feel anxious virtually all the time. It is a state of being that many leading executives experience due to the stresses of work.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services: “Someone with GAD displays excessive anxiety or worry, most days for at least six months, about a number of things such as personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday routine life circumstances. The fear and anxiety can cause significant problems in areas of their life, such as social interactions, school, and work.”
As a result they will feel tense much of the time, breathing can be shallow and difficult, and their heart rate may rise. Other physical symptoms are a dry mouth, hot flashes and sweatiness, faintness, dizziness, numbness and tingling.
Feeling restless, irritable and discontent will become their normal state and this can mean they have concentration problems or a mind that often goes completely blank. Insomnia only adds to the problems leaving them tired and increasing such as the irritability and concentration issues.
Nearly seven million Americans suffer from GAD. That’s more than three percent of the population, which makes it the most common mental illness in the US today.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
NIMH describes OCD as “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.”
Common repetitive behaviors include hand washing, counting, cleaning or checking such as doors are locked.
These are often done in an attempt to stop or make obsessive thoughts go away. But it gives only short-term relief.
Most people are diagnosed by their late teens. It does start in some people even after the age of 35.
Causes of OCD are not fully understood and research is ongoing. Some studies have shown it is more likely to happen in people with close relatives who have it and that childhood trauma can increase the risk of developing OCD.
- Panic Disorder
Someone with Panic Disorder will experience recurrent unexpected panic attacks. These are often extremely scary sudden periods of intense fear that come on quickly. They can reach a peak within minutes.
A panic attack can develop abruptly for no obvious reason. Or they can be triggered by a situation or object that the person fears.
This could be anything that reaches the five senses. So from something they see, hear or taste to a certain texture or smell.
Attempts to avoid the next panic attack lead to major problems in everyday living. A sufferer will make considerable efforts in attempts to prevent any future panic attacks – by avoiding behavior, situations or places they connect to their panic attacks.
Because of this some people will develop agoraphobia. They end up trapped in their own home in a relentless cycle of anxiety and panic attacks.
During a panic attack, someone can experience:
- Shaking or trembling.
- Abdominal distress.
- Shortness of breath, and/or a sense of being smothered or choking.
- Continual feelings of impending doom.
- An overwhelming sense of being out of control.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is caused by extremely terrifying, distressing or stressful incidents. It can come on straight after someone experiences a traumatic event or it can happen weeks, months and even years later.
Any situation that a person finds traumatic can cause PTSD.
- Childhood neglect, abuse or violence.
- Being in a serious accident.
- Personal attacks, such as a mugging or a sexual assault.
- Witnessing a serious accident, assault or harm, abuse or cruelty to someone else or an animal.
- Having a serious injury or illness.
- Living in a traumatic household or community.
- Bereavement, in particular from such as homicide, suicide or an accident.
- Being bullied.
- Incidents of war.
- Natural disasters.
- Some childbirth experiences.
Having PTSD means the person frequently relives the trauma through flashbacks and nightmares. This can mean they have problems staying focussed and suffer from sleep difficulties.
They can struggle with intense feelings of guilt and shame that can lead to such as irritability, rage and social isolation. These symptoms are often so intense and continual that they have an extremely negative impact on the person’s everyday life.
PTSD is estimated to affect around a third of people who suffer a trauma.
- Social Phobia
Also known as Social Anxiety Disorder, this is a long-term and overwhelming fear of social situations. It usually begins during teenage years and can have an extremely negative impact on someone’s daily life.
It is much more than being shy or having an occasional worry about social situations. It is an intense fear.
Having Social Phobia will cause problems with normal activities, relationships and work or college life. It leaves someone with major self-confidence and self-esteem issues.
It can be an anxiety to one type of situation, such as a fear of eating in front of others. But in its most extreme form someone will feel excessively worried before, during and after all social situations. Consequently they may completely avoid any social event.
Someone with Social Phobia may be constantly anxious about doing something embarrassing, such as not seeming intelligent or competent, sweating or blushing. Frequently they will experience nausea, trembling or have palpitations.
There are many treatments that can help with all types of Anxiety Disorders in any situation. So if you recognize any of the signs of an Anxiety Disorder in yourself or someone you care about, please contact us as soon as possible.
Our experienced team will establish the right treatment to help you or someone you love get back on track and know a fulfilling life.