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Anxiety

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things.  People with the disorder experience exaggerated worry and tension, often expecting the worst, even when there is no apparent reason for concern. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about a variety of everyday problems for at least 6 months.   People with GAD experience constant, chronic, and unsubstantiated worry, often about health, family, money, or work. This worrying goes on every day, possibly all day. It disrupts social activities and interferes with work, school, or family.

Physical symptoms of GAD include the following:

  • muscle tension
  • fatigue
  • restlessness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • irritability
  • edginess

Social Phobia (aka Social Anxiety Disorder) is the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations: Social anxiety disorder can wreak havoc on the lives of those who suffer from it.  Symptoms may be so extreme that they disrupt daily life. People with this disorder may have few or no social or romantic relationships, making them feel powerless, alone, or even ashamed.  Although they recognize that the fear is excessive and unreasonable, people with social anxiety disorder feel powerless against their anxiety. They are terrified they will humiliate or embarrass themselves.  Social Phobia usually begins in childhood or adolescence, it affects about 15 million people, and a third of sufferers live with it for about 10 years before seeking help.

Depression is a condition in which a person feels discouraged, sad, hopeless, unmotivated, or disinterested in life in general. When these feelings last for a short period of time, it may be a case of "the blues."  But when such feelings last for more than two weeks and when the feelings interfere with daily activities such as taking care of family, spending time with friends, or going to work or school, it's likely a major depressive episode. It is not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. The good news is that these disorders are both treatable, separately and together.

Panic Disorder (often with Agoraphobia) is when people experience spontaneous, out-of-the-blue panic attacks (also called anxiety attacks) and are preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack. Panic attacks occur unexpectedly, sometimes even during sleep.  A panic attack is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
  • Fear of dyingand are preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack.

Agoraphobia is typically when people stop going into situations or places in which they've previously had a panic attack in anticipation of it happening again. They avoid public places where they feel immediate escape might be difficult, such as shopping malls, public transportation, or large sports arenas. About one in three people with panic disorder develops agoraphobia. Their world may become smaller as they are constantly on guard, waiting for the next panic attack. Some people develop a fixed route or territory, and it may become impossible for them to travel beyond their safety zones without suffering severe anxiety.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  is when people who have experienced traumatic events have flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive memories after something terrible happens in their lives.  PTSD is a serious, potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, violent personal assault such as rape, or other life-threatening events.  People with PTSD often continue to be severely depressed and anxious for months or even years following the event. Women are twice as likely to develop posttraumatic stress disorder as men, and children can also develop it. PTSD often occurs with depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders.

Specific Phobias are when people experience strong irrational fear reactions, work hard to avoid common places, situations, or objects even though they know there's no threat or danger. The fear may not make any sense, but they feel powerless to stop it.  People who experience these seemingly excessive and unreasonable fears in the presence of or in anticipation of a specific object, place, or situation have a specific phobia.  Having phobias can disrupt daily routines, limit work efficiency, reduce self-esteem, and place a strain on relationships because people will do whatever they can to avoid the uncomfortable and often-terrifying feelings of phobic anxiety.  While some phobias develop in childhood, most seem to arise unexpectedly, usually during adolescence or early adulthood. Their onset is usually sudden, and they may occur in situations that previously did not cause any discomfort or anxiety.  Specific phobias commonly focus on animals, insects, germs, heights, thunder, driving, public transportation, flying, dental or medical procedures, and elevators.  Although people with phobias realize that their fear is irrational, even thinking about it can often cause extreme anxiety.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is when children and adults suffer from unwanted and intrusive thoughts that they can't seem to get out of their heads (obsessions), often compelling them to repeatedly perform ritualistic behaviors and routines (compulsions) to try and ease their anxiety.  Most people who have OCD are aware that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational, yet they feel powerless to stop them.  Some spend hours at a time performing complicated rituals involving hand-washing, counting, or checking to ward off persistent, unwelcome thoughts, feelings, or images. These can interfere with a person's normal routine, schoolwork, job, family, or social activities. Several hours every day may be spent focusing on obsessive thoughts and performing seemingly senseless rituals. Trying to concentrate on daily activities may be difficult. Symptoms of OCD may include:

Obsessions — unwanted intrusive thoughts

  • Constant, irrational worry about dirt, germs, or contamination.
  • Excessive concern with order, arrangement, or symmetry.
  • Fear that negative or aggressive thoughts or impulses will cause personal harm or harm to a loved one.
  • Preoccupation with losing or throwing away objects with little or no value.
  • Excessive concern about accidentally or purposefully injuring another person.
  • Feeling overly responsible for the safety of others.
  • Distasteful religious and sexual thoughts or images.
  • Doubting that is irrational or excessive.

Compulsions — ritualistic behaviors and routines to ease anxiety or distress

  • Cleaning — Repeatedly washing one’s hands, bathing, or cleaning household items, often for hours at a time.
  • Checking — Checking and re-checking several to hundreds of times a day that the doors are locked, the stove is turned off, the hairdryer is unplugged, etc.
  • Repeating — Inability to stop repeating a name, phrase, or simple activity (such as going through a doorway over and over).
  • Hoarding — Difficulty throwing away useless items such as old newspapers or magazines, bottle caps, or rubber bands.
  • Touching and arranging
  • Mental rituals — Endless reviewing of conversations, counting; repetitively calling up “good” thoughts to neutralize “bad” thoughts or obsessions; or excessive praying and using special words or phrases to neutralize obsessions.


Sourced from Anxiety and Depression Association of America: http://www.adaa.org