Anxiety is a normal, human experience. It is common to feel anxious or experience feelings of fear and trepidation when faced with important life decisions, in-coming test results, or during a job interview or any other potentially stressful situation. Feelings of anxiety is our body's response to alerting us of potential danger or feelings of unease.
However, an overwhelming experience of anxiety is more than just a natural response to danger. Anxiety disorders are common - affecting over 30% of the population - and are most commonly the root of many co-occurring disorders or mental health issues.
Is anxiety a disorder?
What is an anxiety disorder? Anxiety in and of itself is not a disorder. Anxiety is a necessary and natural response to uncomfortable situations or potentially dangerous experiences. It is natural and common for people to feel a sense of unease when dealing with various situations they may find themselves in. However, feelings of anxiety that lead to a feeling of intense fear, pose harmful physical symptoms, or leave you with seemingly irrational fears and phobias are considered anxiety disorders. Clinically, there are six types of anxiety disorders: agoraphobia, panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. Below we will dissect and hopefully help you understand the differences between the six anxiety disorders.
What is the most common anxiety disorder?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
Generalized anxiety disorder is a common anxiety disorder that affects the mental health of an individual as they try to perform their daily activities. There is usually never one particular thing causing feelings of excessive worry and fear. Generalized anxiety may include fear of the future, anxiety regarding various daily tasks, a sense of incompleteness, and more. This disorder may have physical symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, increased heart rate, inability to concentrate, muscle tension or soreness, or unease.
What are the 6 types of anxiety disorders?
Although the most common anxiety disorder is considered a general sense of unease, there are 5 other types of anxiety disorders. The other mental disorders associated with anxiety include:
Agoraphobia is most commonly misunderstood as being simply the fear of leaving home or space which feels safe and comfortable. However, it is much more complex than that. Agoraphobia is the feeling of intense fear of being in a situation where escape may be difficult or painful to experience. This, as mentioned before, is not excluded to being only at home, but may appear in any public situation - whether it be on public transportation, in a public building, or any other enclosed or open space. Agoraphobia may also include the fear of being outside of the home unaccompanied. When agoraphobia is left untreated, it can lead to an irrational fear of leaving home or being alone. In severe cases, this can lead to the one suffering never leaving their home.
Panic disorder is a recurring experience of intense anxiety and fear. Panic disorder is most commonly associated with sporadic panic attacks, frequently occurring anxiety attacks, or other intense feelings of anxiety and fear. Panic disorders can present themselves with painful and potentially harmful physical symptoms such as:
- Fear of dying, loss of control, etc
- Heart palpitations
- Feelings of detachment
- Stomach pain and nausea
- Chills or hot flashes
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling like your throat is closing (choking)
- Numbness in extremities
- Chest pain
- Tingling in the arms or legs
Many people who suffer from intense panic attacks seek medical care believing they are suffering from a heart attack. That is due to the symptoms of the disorder mimicking symptoms of cardiac arrest or cardiac issues.
A phobia is the intense fear of an object, person, place, or thing. These fears almost always present themselves as an irrational fear of a particular idea or mental association. Various phobias may include the fear or flying, the fear of clowns, spiders, public speaking, small spaces and more. Those suffering are typically aware that their phobias are irrational, but are incapable of overcoming the fear associated with their particular aversion. This type of anxiety disorder is also known as specific phobias.
Social Anxiety Disorder:
Social anxiety disorder or social phobia, is a common anxiety disorder that encompasses fears like public speaking, fear of being in public spaces, or aversions to social interactions. This type of disorder can be limited to one specific type of social interaction or can include multiple fears of social interactions. People who suffer from social phobia disorder may feel a overwhelming sense of fear, anxiety, or become excessively self-conscious in their daily interactions with others. However, social phobia does not only involve the fear of public speaking but can include the fears of eating in public, informal social situations or leaving the house. In severe cases, this may affect a person's ability to eat or drink in public and may hinder them from meeting new people. However, in order for the disorder to be diagnosed, someone must experience the fear for approximately six months.
Separation Anxiety Disorder:
Separation anxiety is an extreme, irrational fear of being distant or separated from a loved one. This fear can arise when a particular person is present or absent (fear of them leaving for a particular reason, or fear of them coming into harm's way while apart). This anxiety disorder is typically excessive and an inappropriate response due to the individual's age and maturity. Symptoms may include nightmares, panic attacks, or an inappropriate attachment to the loved one leading to a refusal of separation.
What causes anxiety disorders to develop?
Anxiety disorders are not one-size-fits-all diagnoses. They can develop based on a number of factors. Research has shown that these triggers can include things such as: traumatic life events, genetics, personality, chemical imbalances, and more. In some cases, studies believe anxiety disorders may be hereditary concluding that anxiety may be biological.
Is anxiety a mental illness?
Anxiety itself is not a mental illness. Yet, sensations of intense fear, anxiety, nausea, or aversions can indicate an underlying mental illness or anxiety disorder. These can lead to a host of varying symptoms. Intense fears, phobias, and aversions can be a sign of any of the aforementioned types of anxiety disorders. All of which can greatly affect the mental health of the suffering individual. Anxiety disorders are mental health disorders.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Various types of anxieties can pose varying symptoms. The most common symptoms for anxiety disorders can include:
- Feelings of unease, discomfort, or tenseness
- Sense of impending doom, panic, or danger
- Heart palpitations
- Rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue or physical weakness
- Concentration issues
- Stomach pains or vomiting
- Inability to control worry
- Strong aversions to certain situations or people
In some cases, the symptoms of anxiety disorders can lead to hospitalization, reclusiveness, and frequent bouts of insomnia. If left without treatment, some cases of anxiety disorders can lead to people being unable to leave home, mental health issues, and drastically affect a person's lifestyle and well-being.
Seeking Help for Anxiety Disorders
The first step to seeking help for those who believe they are suffering from an anxiety disorder should consult with their doctor for a conclusive diagnosis. This ensures that the issue is actually an anxiety disorder and not an underlying illness. Treatments for anxiety disorders can include medication as well as psychotherapy. Medications (i.e. antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, and/or beta-blockers) are not a cure-all treatment but can help ease the symptoms of the disorder.
One form of psychotherapy that has shown successful results for treating anxiety disorders includes cognitive behavioral therapy. This treatment aids in helping victims develop a new way of thinking that can help them feel less anxious and properly address their aversions and fears.
Transformations Treatment Center seeks to provide individually specialized treatments for each individual. We treat co-occurring disorders and specific disorders in order to understand and treat the unique needs of each client. Along with behavioral therapies, we provide medication-assisted treatment programs, holistic therapies, individual and group therapies, and more. We desire to provide the necessary care and treatment options in order to make the greatest impact in improving our patients' lives.