Anxiety Disorders

Understanding Anxiety Disorders

Do I have an Anxiety Disorder if I’m Nervous? 

   You hear people saying all the time that they have anxiety or that they are nervous.  Does that mean they have an Anxiety Disorder? No.  The type of anxiety people who have anxiety disorders live with every day takes over their lives. It’s disabling. No matter where you go or what you do, there is no escape from it.  Your mind battles with it day and night, and it continues to grow over time until it interferes with all the activities of your life—your job, school, your relationships, everything. The anxiety so consumes you that you can’t eat, breathe, sleep, open, or close your eyes without knowing it’s there, feeling its presence and the weight of it crushing your very being. It consumes who you are.

 

   Several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and various phobia-related disorders. While medication and psychotherapy are both used as treatments, various psychotherapies provide the best treatment options in helping the individual learn to cope with their fears.  Exposure therapy (desensitization), combined with relaxation and imagery, helps teach the individual how to face their anxiety through a progressive encounter with their fear trigger.  Cognitive therapy teaches the individual to face their anxiety by thinking about, behaving, and reacting to the object generating fear using coping skills.

The National Institute of Mental Health provides detailed information on most mental health conditions.  If you would like to read more about anxiety disorders in general, go to https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

   All anxiety disorders seem to have the following symptoms in common plus some that are unique to their diagnosis:

  • Feeling restlessness, tense, wound-up, on edge.
  • Easily fatigued
  • Have difficulty concentrating; the mind goes blank easily.
  • Becomes irritable easily
  • Significant muscle tension
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry or thoughts about topics of worry
  • Difficulty sleeping, falling asleep, staying asleep
Symptoms of Panic Disorder

     Panic attacks are characterized by intense fear that peaks within minutes resulting in heart palpitations, a pounding or racing heart rate, sweating, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath or feeling like they can’t take a breath, a feeling of impending doom, and that everything all around them is totally out of control.

Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

     People with OCD usually have both obsessions and compulsions but may have only one or the other. The symptoms are so severe they interfere with all aspects of life, including but not limited to work, school, and personal relationships.

Symptoms of PTSD include
  • Re-experiencing the trauma in dreams and thoughts, including physical symptoms like racing heart rates, sweating, panic attacks.
  • Avoiding places near the trauma area, being around people involved with the event, or using anything associated with the event. Refusing to talk about what happened.
  • Feeling jumpy, being easily startled and on-edge, having difficulty sleeping, having angry outbursts.
  • Holding onto negative feelings about themselves and the world. Experiencing distorted feelings of guilt or blame. Losing any interest in participating in pleasurable activities.
Phobia-Related Symptoms

 A phobia is an intense fear of—or aversion to—specific objects or situations. Although it can be realistic to be anxious in some circumstances, the fear people with phobias feel is out of proportion to the actual danger caused by the situation or object. If they are unfortunate enough to encounter the situation, they experience immediate, intense anxiety.

PTSD is common after experiencing traumatic events
PTSD is common after experiencing traumatic events

Separation Anxiety

 Adults and children may be affected by Separation Disorder. People who have separation anxiety disorder have fears about being parted from people to whom they are attached. They often worry that some sort of harm or something untoward will happen to their attachment figures while they are separated. This fear leads them to avoid being separated from their attachment figures and to avoid being alone. People with separation anxiety may have nightmares about being separated from attachment figures or experience physical symptoms with anticipated separation or when they occur.

Phobia-RElated Disorders

Phobia =Fear

     People with phobias have an irrational intense fear or aversion to a specific object or situation. They worry excessively about encountering this situation to such an extreme that it affects all aspects of their life. The level of fear they feel when they encounter the object, that is the subject of the phobia is significantly disproportionate to the level of danger it can direct to the individual. However, that doesn’t matter.  The person will take steps to avoid the feared object or situation.

Types of Phobias

     There are several types of phobias and phobia-related disorders. Simple phobias against things such as fear of flying, heights, animals (snakes, spiders, dogs, etc.) shots, blood, etc.

For More Information On Phobia-Related Disorders

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtm

Additional Anxiety Disorders

Factitious disorders:

Factitious disorders are conditions in which a person knowingly and intentionally creates or complains of physical or emotional symptoms to place the individual in the role of a patient or a person in need of help.

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-types-illness

Impulse Control and Addiction Disorders:

 People with impulse control disorders are unable to resist urges, or impulses, to perform acts that could be harmful to themselves or others. Pyromania (starting fires), kleptomania (stealing), and compulsive gambling are examples of impulse control disorders. Alcohol and drug are common objects of addictions. Often, people with these disorders become so involved with the objects of their obsession that they begin to ignore responsibilities and relationships.

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-types-illness#1

Personality Disorders:

People with personality disorders have extreme and inflexible personality traits that are distressing to the person and cause problems in work, school, or social relationships. Also, the person’s patterns of thinking and behavior significantly differ from the expectations of society and are so rigid that they interfere with the person’s normal functioning. Examples include antisocial personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and paranoid personality disorder.

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-types-illness#1
Sexual and gender disorders:

These include conditions that affect sexual desire, performance, and behavior. Sexual dysfunction, gender identity disorder, and paraphilias are examples of sexual and gender disorders.

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-types-illness

 
Somatic symptom disorders:

 A person with a somatic symptom disorder, formerly known as a psychosomatic disorder or somatoform disorder, experiences physical symptoms of an illness or of pain with an excessive and disproportionate level of distress, regardless of whether or not a doctor can find a medical cause for the symptoms.

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-types-illness

Stress response syndromes (formerly called adjustment disorders):

 Stress response syndromes occur when a person develops emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to a stressful event or situation. The stressors may include natural disasters, such as an earthquake or tornado; events or crises, such as a car accident or the diagnosis of a major illness; or interpersonal problems, such as a divorce, death of a loved one, loss of a job, or a problem with substance abuse. Stress response syndromes usually begin within three months of the event or situation and end within six months after the stressor stops.

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-types-illness#1

Tic disorders: 

People with tic disorders make sounds or display non-purposeful body movements repetitively, quickly, suddenly, or uncontrollably. (Vocal tics are sounds made involuntarily) Tourette’s syndrome is an example of a tic disorder.

Other diseases or conditions, including various sleep-related problems and many forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, are sometimes classified as mental illnesses because they involve the brain.

 
https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-types-illness

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

 Generalized Anxiety Disorder    

     Individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) worry about everything. They display the symptoms noted in the introduction every day for at least six months and have no relief in sight.  They worry about their health, the health of their family, their job, home, the state of the economy, the dog down the street; it could be anything. They cannot control their worry. Fear and anxiety eat away at them every waking minute and into their sleep at night. It interferes with their family life, their ability to perform well in their job, their health, and their will to live.

 

To read more about this disorder: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtm

Panic Disorder

Panic

     Another common anxiety disorder, Panic Attacks, occur suddenly without warning. People who are plagued with them live in fear that an attack will hit them at an inopportune moment when they cannot manage both the attack and what is happening in their lives at that moment. Therefore, many avoid places, situations, and behaviors they feel might trigger an attack. Unfortunately, the more they worry about triggers, the more they generate through anxiety.

 

For more information on Panic Disorders go to:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/panic-disorder-when-fear-overwhelms/index.shtml

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder    

     Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), like most illnesses, has various degrees of severity. Most of us have a bit of an obsession with something in our lives that we feel must be done “just so,” and if it’s not, we don’t feel “right” until it’s corrected.

 

For Example

      I had many people over the years who would enter my office and notice I had a picture that hung crooked.  Instead of beginning our meeting, they would ask to put our meeting on hold until they could correct the picture’s angle because they just “had” to fix it.  They explained that if they didn’t, they would be too distracted to meet with me. These individuals would then precisely fix the crooked frame, ensuring that all sides were level. That’s how someone with OCD acts.

For more information on OCD, go to:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

     Individuals who experience traumatic events such as war, abuse, assault, disasters, accidents, and sudden death are at risk for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While most people tend to experience symptoms within three months of a traumatic event, PTSD can hit many years later.

 

     If you or your family member has PTSD, more information is available on this topic at

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml

     Encourage your family member to seek a support group to help them move beyond the event(s) causing PTSD into a time of peace.

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