Each anxiety disorder has its own distinct features, but they
are all bound together by the common theme of excessive, irrational
fear and dread.
Severe symptoms of anxiety include:
· Shortness of breathe
· Chest pressure or pain
· Extreme worry and tension
· Unxplanable peiod of intense fear
· Panic attacks
· Preference to isolate and avoid people and places or
situations in order to feel less anxious
It is common for an anxiety disorder to be accompanied
by another anxiety disorder or another illness. Often people who
have panic disorder or social phobia, for example, also experience
the intense sadness and hopelessness associated with depression.
Depression often accompanies anxiety disorders.When
it does, it needs to be treated as well. Symptoms of depression
include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, changes in appetite
or sleep, low energy, and difficulty concentrating. Most people
with depression can be effectively treated with antidepressant
medications, certain types of psychotherapy, or a combination
Other conditions that a person can have along with an anxiety
disorder include an eating disorder or alcohol or drug abuse.
Any of these problems will need to be treated as well, ideally
at the same time as the anxiety disorder.
OCD involves anxious thoughts or rituals you feel you can't control.
If you have OCD, you may be plagued by persistent, unwelcome thoughts
or images, or by the urgent need to engage in certain rituals.
You may be obsessed with germs or dirt, so you wash
your hands over and over. You may be filled with doubt and feel
the need to check things repeatedly. You may have frequent thoughts
of violence, and fear that you will harm people close to you.
You may spend long periods touching things or counting; you may
be pre-occupied by order or symmetry; you may have persistent
thoughts of performing sexual acts that are repugnant to you;
or you may be troubled by thoughts that are against your religious
The disturbing thoughts or images are called obsessions,
and the rituals that are performed to try to prevent or get rid
of them are called compulsions. There is no pleasure in carrying
out the rituals you are drawn to and it’s only temporary
relief from the anxiety that grows when you don't perform them.
A lot of healthy people can identify with some of
the symptoms of OCD, such as checking the stove several times
before leaving the house. But for people with OCD, such activities
consume at least an hour a day, are very distressing, and interfere
with daily life.
Most adults with this condition recognize that what they're doing
is senseless, but they can't stop it. Some people, though, particularly
children with OCD, may not realize that their behavior is out
of the ordinary.
OCD strikes men and women in approximately equal
numbers and usually first appears in childhood, adolescence, or
early adulthood. One-third of adults with OCD report having experienced
their first symptoms as children. The course of the disease is
variable-symptoms may come and go, they may ease over time, or
they can grow progressively worse. Research evidence suggests
that OCD might run in families.
Depression or other anxiety disorders may accompany OCD, and some
people with OCD also have eating disorders. In addition, people
with OCD may avoid situations in which they might have to confront
their obsessions, or they may try unsuccessfully to use alcohol
or drugs to calm themselves. If OCD grows severe enough, it can
keep someone from holding down a job or from carrying out normal
responsibilities at home.
OCD generally responds well to treatment with medications
or carefully targeted psychotherapy.
· Panic disorder
This type of anxiety causes the patient to have feelings of terror
that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. They can't
predict when an attack will occur, and many develop intense anxiety
between episodes, worrying when and where the next one will strike.
Suddenly, your chest feels tight, your heart races and you begin
to feel dizzy and faint. You start to choke and feel as if the
end is near.
Panic attacks can occur at any time, even during
sleep. An attack generally peaks within 10 minutes, but some symptoms
may last much longer. Panic attacks last about 5 to 30 minutes
and may include any of the symptoms below:
· Feeling like you're going to choke
· Chest pressure or chest pain
· Pounding heart
· Racing pulse
· Dizziness or lightheadedness
· Shortness of breath or tightness in the throat
· Your hands may tingle or feel numb
· Sense of unreality, or fear of impending doom
· Loss of control
· Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
· Hot flashes or chills
· Trembling or shaking
· Sense of unreality or dreamlike sensations
· Fear of losing control, doing something embarrassing,
going "crazy" or dying
Risk of developing panic disorder appears to be
inherited. Not everyone who experiences panic attacks will develop
panic disorder-for example, many people have one attack but never
have another. For those who do have panic disorder, though, it's
important to seek treatment. Untreated, the disorder can become
Many people with panic disorder visit the hospital
emergency room repeatedly or see a number of doctors before they
obtain a correct diagnosis. Some people with panic disorder may
go for years without learning that they have a real, treatable
illness. Panic disorder is often accompanied by other serious
conditions such as depression, drug abuse, or alcoholism and may
lead to a pattern of avoidance of places or situations where panic
attacks have occurred. For example, if a panic attack strikes
while you're riding in an elevator, you may develop a fear of
elevators. If you start avoiding them, that could affect your
choice of a job or apartment and greatly restrict other parts
of your life.
Some people's lives become so restricted that they
avoid normal, everyday activities such as grocery shopping or
driving. In some cases they become housebound. Or, they may be
able to confront a feared situation only if accompanied by a spouse
or other trusted person.
Basically, these people avoid any situation in which
they would feel helpless if a panic attack were to occur. When
people's lives become so restricted, as happens in about one-third
of people with panic disorder, the condition is called agoraphobia.
Early treatment of panic disorder can often prevent agoraphobia.
Panic attacks can lead to phobias if they aren't
treated but it is one of the most treatable of the anxiety disorders,
responding in most cases to medications or carefully targeted
· Post-traumatic stress
Also known as PTSD, this is a debilitating condition that can
develop following a terrifying event. Often, people with PTSD
have persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal
and feel emotionally numb, especially with people they were once
PTSD was first brought to public attention by war
veterans, but it can result from any number of traumatic incidents.
These include violent attacks such as mugging, rape or torture;
being kidnapped or held captive; child abuse; serious accidents
such as car or train wrecks; and natural disasters such as floods
or earthquakes. The event that triggers PTSD may be something
that threatened the person's life or the life of someone close
to him or her. Or it could be something witnessed, such as massive
death and destruction after a building is bombed or a plane crashes.
Whatever the source of the problem, some people
with PTSD repeatedly relive the trauma in the form of nightmares
and disturbing recollections during the day. They may also experience
other sleep problems, feel detached or numb, or be easily startled.
They may lose interest in things they used to enjoy and have trouble
feeling affectionate. They may feel irritable, more aggressive
than before, or even violent. Things that remind them of the trauma
may be very distressing, which could lead them to avoid certain
places or situations that bring back those memories. Anniversaries
of the traumatic event are often very difficult.
PTSD affects women are more likely than men and
it can occur at any age, including childhood, and there is some
evidence that susceptibility to PTSD may run in families. The
disorder is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse,
or one or more other anxiety disorders. In severe cases, the person
may have trouble working or socializing. In general, the symptoms
seem to be worse if the event that triggered them was deliberately
initiated by a person-such as a rape or kidnapping.
Ordinary events can serve as reminders of the trauma
and trigger flashbacks or intrusive images. A person having a
flashback, which can come in the form of images, sounds, smells,
or feelings, may lose touch with reality and believe that the
traumatic event is happening all over again.
Not every traumatized person gets full-blown PTSD,
or experiences PTSD at all. PTSD is diagnosed only if the symptoms
last more than a month. In those who do develop PTSD, symptoms
usually begin within 3 months of the trauma, and the course of
the illness varies. Some people recover within 6 months, others
have symptoms that last much longer. In some cases, the condition
may be chronic. Occasionally, the illness doesn't show up until
years after the traumatic event.
People with PTSD can be helped by medications and
carefully targeted psychotherapy.
· Social Phobia
Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, involves overwhelming
anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.
People with social phobia have a persistent, intense, and chronic
fear of being watched and judged by others and being embarrassed
or humiliated by their own actions. Their fear may be so intensified
that it interferes with work or school, and other ordinary activities.
While many people with social phobia recognize that their fear
of being around people may be excessive or unreasonable, they
are unable to overcome it. They often worry for days or weeks
in advance of a dreaded situation.
Social phobia can be limited to only one type of
situation- such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations,
or eating, drinking, or writing in front of others. In its most
severe form, may be so broad that a person experiences these symptoms
almost anytime they are around other people. Social phobia can
be very debilitating - it may even keep people from going to work
or school on some days. Many people with this illness have a hard
time making and keeping friends.
Physical symptoms often accompany the intense anxiety
of social phobia and include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling,
nausea, and difficulty talking. If you suffer from social phobia,
you may be painfully embarrassed by these symptoms and feel as
though all eyes are focused on you. You may be afraid of being
with people other than your family.
People with social phobia are aware that their feelings
are irrational. Even if they manage to confront what they fear,
they usually feel very anxious beforehand and are intensely uncomfortable
throughout. Afterward, the unpleasant feelings may linger, as
they worry about how they may have been judged or what others
may have thought or observed about them.
Social phobia affects women and men equally and
the disorder usually begins in childhood or early adolescence,
and there is some evidence that genetic factors are involved.
Social phobia often co-occurs with other anxiety disorders or
depression. Substance abuse or dependence may develop in individuals
who attempt to "self-medicate" their social phobia by
drinking or using drugs.
Social phobia can be treated successfully with carefully
targeted psychotherapy or medications.
· Specific phobia
A specific phobia is an intense fear of something that poses little
or no actual danger. Some of the more common specific phobias
are centered around closed-in places, heights, escalators, tunnels,
highway driving, water, flying, dogs, and injuries involving blood.
Such phobias aren't just extreme fear; they are irrational fear
of a particular thing. You may be able to ski the world's tallest
mountains with ease but be unable to go above the 5th floor of
an office building. While adults with phobias realize that these
fears are irrational, they often find that facing, or even thinking
about facing, the feared object or situation brings on a panic
attack or severe anxiety.
Specific phobias are twice as common in women as
in men. The causes of specific phobias are not well understood,
though there is some evidence that these phobias may run in families.
Specific phobias usually first appear during childhood or adolescence
and tend to persist into adulthood.
If the object of the fear is easy to avoid, people with specific
phobias may not feel the need to seek treatment. Sometimes, though,
they may make important career or personal decisions to avoid
a phobic situation, and if this avoidance is carried to extreme
lengths, it can be disabling.
Specific phobias are highly treatable with carefully
· Generalised Anxiety
People suffering from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) always
anticipating disaster, often worrying excessively about health,
money, family, or work. Sometimes, though, the source of the worry
is hard to pinpoint. Simply the thought of getting through the
day provokes anxiety. It is more than the normal anxiety people
experience day to day.
Generalized anxiety disorder is ongoing worry or
fear that isn't related to a particular event or situation, or
is out of proportion to what you would expect--for instance, constantly
worrying about a child who is perfectly healthy. It's chronic
and fills one's day with exaggerated worry and tension, even though
there is little or nothing to provoke it. Symptoms of generalized
anxiety disorder include muscle tension, trembling, shortness
of breath, fast heartbeat, dry mouth, dizziness, nausea, irritability,
loss of sleep and not being able to concentrate.
Patients can’t seem to shake their concerns,
even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense
than the situation warrants. Their worries are accompanied by
physical symptoms, especially fatigue, headaches, muscle tension,
muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability,
sweating, and hot flashes. They may feel lightheaded or out of
breath. They also may feel nauseated or have to go to the bathroom
frequently. They have problem relaxing, and they may startle more
easily than other people. They tend to have difficulty concentrating,
too. Often, they have trouble falling or staying asleep.
Unlike people with several other anxiety disorders,
people with GAD don't characteristically avoid certain situations
as a result of their disorder. When impairment associated with
GAD is mild, people with the disorder may be able to function
in social settings or on the job. If severe, however, GAD can
be very debilitating, making it difficult to carry out even the
most ordinary daily activities.
GAD affects about twice as many women as men. The
disorder comes on gradually and can begin across the life cycle,
though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age. It
is diagnosed when someone spends at least 6 months worrying excessively
about a number of everyday problems. There is evidence that genes
play a modest role in GAD.
It is common for an anxiety disorder to be accompanied by another
anxiety disorder or another illness. Often people who have panic
disorder or social phobia, for example, also experience the intense
sadness and hopelessness associated with depression. Other conditions
that a person can have along with an anxiety disorder include
an eating disorder or alcohol or drug abuse. Any of these problems
will need to be treated as well, ideally at the same time as the
General Anxiety Disorder is commonly treated with
medications. GAD rarely occurs alone, however; it is usually accompanied
by another anxiety disorder, depression, or substance abuse. These
other conditions must be treated along with GAD.