Anxiety is not unusual, but when it becomes so intense it causes difficulty with daily activities or when it refuses to go away, an anxiety disorder may be the cause. They are the most common mental condition in the United States. An anxiety disorder is a real illness that often worsens over time but responds well to medical treatment. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association, approximately 44 million adults in the United States suffer from intense anxiety, and only one out of three gets treatment. Diagnoses fall into one of five broad categories: generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social phobia. Research shows that genetic and environmental factors, or an interaction of both, contribute to the development of anxiety disorders. Specific risk factors include loneliness, trauma, shyness, mental illnesses in the family, poverty, and gender. Females are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety than males. Treatment includes different kinds of therapy, support groups, lifestyle changes, and medication. A combination of therapy and medication is standard protocol. What follows are the most common types of anxiety disorders.
Generalized anxiety disorder is very common and encompasses many different aspects of a person’s life. People with a generalized anxiety disorder may attempt to avoid many things, or put off interactions and big life choices. They can struggle at work, and often can’t sleep at night as they consider aspects of their relationships or think about money. Generalized anxiety disorder combined with a large amount of stress can be very difficult to manage.
There are many people who suffer from mild to major forms of obsessive compulsive disorder. These people see something that may be out of order, or performed in a different order than they are used to, and then react to it. Most commonly, they will work to try and complete a task how their mind believes it should be completed. Other times, it may be completed multiple times, like flipping a light switch 5 times exactly every time. If things aren’t completed, it creates a cognitive dissonance that causes extreme mental pain to the person suffering from it.
An anxiety disorder in which a person experiences sudden, unexpected episodes of intense fear is called panic disorder. During a panic attack, sufferers may experience a rapid heartbeat, palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath, chest pain, or have a feeling that something bad is going to happen. Numbness, nausea, dizziness, and hot or cold flashes may also occur. The length of a panic attack varies from minutes to hours, and individual episodes may worsen the disorder by increasing fear of future attacks.
Social phobia, or social anxiety disorder, is an anxiety causes people to feel fear around other people or do anything that could make them feel judged, embarrassed, or rejected. There may also be a fear of offending other people. Worry may occur for days or weeks before a social event and may lead to avoidance of people and situations. People with this disorder often have trouble making and keeping friends and may feel nauseous, blush, or sweat when they are forced to engage with others.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder caused by exposure to a traumatic event, such as combat, a traffic accident, or violent crime. Individual factors, like age, gender, and previous exposure to trauma, have an influence on PTSD's development and severity. The disorder is worsened by stress after the precipitating event and lessened by social support. Symptoms include reliving the trauma, developing negative feelings about oneself and others, avoiding events similar to the traumatic episode, and staying in a flight or fight mode.