Anxiety disorders are the most common of emotional disorders and affect more than 25 million people in this country every year. Anxiety disorders range from feelings of uneasiness to immobilizing bouts of terror. Most people experience anxiety at some point in their lives and some nervousness in anticipation of a real situation. However if a person cannot shake unwarranted worries, or if the feelings are jarring to the point of avoiding everyday activities, he or she most likely has an anxiety disorder.
Like most disorders there are many different types of anxiety disorders. The following information provides a very basic overview of the different forms of anxiety disorders. If you believe you or a loved one has an anxiety disorder, seek competent, professional advice or another form of support.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Chronic, exaggerated worry, tension, and irritability that appear to have no cause or are more intense than the situation warrants. Physical signs, such as restlessness, trouble falling or staying asleep, headaches, trembling, twitching, muscle tension, or sweating, often accompany these psychological symptoms. Symptoms need to occur for at least six months with excessive worry about everyday problems to meet this diagnosis.
Panic Disorder: People with panic disorder experience white-knuckled, heart-pounding terror that strikes suddenly and without warning. Many people live in persistent worry that another one could overcome them at any moment. Symptoms can include pounding heart, chest pains, lightheadedness or dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, shaking or trembling, choking, fear of dying, sweating, feelings of unreality, numbness or tingling, hot flashes or chills, and a feeling of going out of control or going crazy. Most panic attacks last only a few minutes, but they occasionally go on for ten minutes.
Phobias: Most of us steer clear of certain, hazardous things. Phobias however, are irrational fears that lead people to altogether avoid specific things or situations that trigger intense anxiety. Phobias occur in several forms, for example, agoraphobia is the fear of being in any situation that might trigger a panic attack and from which escape might be difficult. Social phobia is a fear of being extremely embarrassed in front of other people. The most common social phobia is fear of public speaking.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or 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. Most people who experience such events recover from them, but people with PTSD can continue to be severely depressed and anxious for months or even years following the event. Sometimes they relive the event through flashbacks and nightmares.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): People with OCD 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.
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