There are a lot of misconceptions about anxiety disorders. People often mistake them for simple nervousness or stress. However, anxiety disorders are much more complex and can seriously impact your overall wellness and quality of life. In this blog post, we’ll explore what anxiety disorders are, the different types of anxiety disorders, and some of the most common symptoms.
What Is Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety is a normal emotion that we all experience from time to time. It’s that feeling of worry, nervousness, or fear that comes up in response to an uncertain situation or event. Everyone experiences anxiety to some degree, and it’s actually beneficial in small doses. For example, anxiety can help us stay alert and focused, motivated to achieve goals, and ready to respond to danger.
However, when anxiety becomes persistent, it can interfere with our daily lives. This is when it becomes a disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 19.1 percent of the US population, or approximately 40 million adults, have an anxiety disorder at any given time.
By definition, anxiety disorders are a type of mental illness that causes persistent and excessive irrational fear or dread. Some people only experience anxiety in specific situations, while others may feel anxious or scared all the time. For some people, the anxiety is so intense that it interferes with their ability to function or live a normal life.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
The most common types of anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, specific phobias, and agoraphobia.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD is by far the most common form of anxiety that causes chronic worry about everyday life. People with this type of anxiety may worry about their health, finances, work, or relationships. This worry is usually accompanied by physical symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, muscle tension, and difficulty sleeping.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that causes people to experience unexpected recurrent panic attacks that often happen without any trigger. A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear or apprehension that comes on without warning and peaks within minutes. Panic attacks can cause physical symptoms such as accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, or dizziness. Most people with panic disorder live in fear of having another attack and avoid places or situations where they think an attack could occur.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Social anxiety is an intense fear or anxiety about social situations, such as attending parties, going on dates, or speaking in front of others. People with social anxiety disorder often worry about being judged, evaluated negatively, or getting embarrassed in front of other people. As a result, they may go to great lengths to avoid social situations or suffer through them with great distress.
A specific phobia is an intense fear of specific objects or situations, such as heights, flying on airplanes, spiders, snakes, or needles. People with specific phobias often realize that their fear is irrational but feel powerless to control it. As a result, they will often go to great lengths to avoid the object or situation that they’re afraid of.
Separation anxiety is characterized by a crippling fear of being separated from someone you’re close to. This type of anxiety is often seen in children who are afraid of being away from their parents or guardians. However, it can also occur in adults who have a close relationship, such as a spouse, partner, or family member.
Agoraphobia is an excessive fear or anxiety of places where escape may be challenging, or help would not be readily available if something went wrong. People with agoraphobia often avoid crowded places, public transportation, or any situation where they might feel trapped. In severe cases, people with agoraphobia may become completely incapacitated and unable to leave their homes.
Common Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders
Everyone experiences anxiety differently, and the symptoms can vary significantly from one person to another. However, there are some common symptoms that you can watch out for if you suspect you or someone close to you has an anxiety disorder. These include:
- Persistent irrational fear
- Constantly feeling on edge or tense
- Cognitive difficulties
- Accelerated heart rate
- Poor sleep patterns
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Muscle tension
Anxiety is a serious and potentially crippling mental illness. But the good news is there are many effective treatments available for anxiety disorders, including medication, psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, and alternative therapies. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, don’t hesitate to seek help. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most people with an anxiety disorder can lead healthy and productive lives.