Anxiety, which generates fear, uneasiness and distress, is simply the body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous or unfamiliar situations. Occasional anxiety is a part of everyday life, but when it causes enough distress to come in the way of one’s ability to lead a normal life, it becomes a disorder.
Anxiety disorders are mental disorders that involve more than temporary fear or worry. Anxiety disorder can be debilitating and can keep people from sleeping, concentrating or socializing. Anxiety can prevent one from leading a normal life in school or at work and can even hamper relationships. For an individual with this disorder, anxiety does not go away, instead, it can become worse over time, if not treated early. Anxiety disorders can force individuals to avoid situations that can trigger or worsen their symptoms. However, such disorders are treatable. A comprehensive treatment for anxiety disorder includes a combination of medications and psychotherapy.
Anxiety disorder: Types
As per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses to affect both children and adults. According to the ADAA, an estimated 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders. Though the disorders are treatable, only about one-third of the patients receive treatment.
There are several types of anxiety disorders – generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and specific phobias.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
It involves persistent, excessive and unrealistic worry and tension that interfere with one’s daily activities. Individuals with GAD display excessive anxiety or worry for months and face several anxiety-related symptoms. The ongoing worry and tension may be accompanied by physical symptoms like restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension and sleeping problems.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
It involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. The worry is often based on the fear of being judged by others, or of behaving in a way that might lead to embarrassment or ridicule. Also called social phobia, it makes people extremely anxious around others and makes it difficult for them to talk or interact.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
It is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder. An individual with OCD has uncontrollable, recurring thoughts and behaviors that he or she feels the urge to repeat. Such individuals may have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions or both that can interfere with almost all the aspects of life. Individuals with OCD experience uncontrollable, distressing thoughts about certain things that can lead to compulsive behaviors performed as an attempt to alleviate worry or anxiety.
Characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks within a period of time, individuals with panic disorder have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. Panic attacks can be defined as short episodes of intense fear often accompanied by serious physical symptoms and uncontrollable feelings of dread and doom. Symptoms of a panic attack may include chest pain, trembling, palpitations, sweating and feeling of choking.
Individuals with specific phobias have excessive and persistent fear of a specific object, situation or activity. The fear can cause distress and can force people to go to extreme lengths to avoid common everyday situations.