Everyone experiences anxiety sometimes, and that’s a good thing. Anxiety is a human reaction to a potentially difficult situation. Without the anxiety response, we may put ourselves into dangerous situations without realizing it - like walking out in front of that hurtling truck or stepping into the path of a ravenous lion! So those circumstances may be a little far-fetched. Still, it serves the point well – anxiety can be a positive thing.
However, it moves from being a normal human response to a disorder when the response symptoms become chronic and interfere with life, be it in specific circumstances or every day. Unlike your interfering nosy neighbor, an interfering condition will begin to affect your ability to function as you usually would. Symptoms can include, but not limited to:
Poor memory and an inability to concentrate
Sweaty palms and hands
Constant worry, fear, and perhaps confusion
Inability to relax
Shortness of breath and palpitations
The causes of anxiety disorders can range quite a bit. It may stem from an already-present mental or physical condition or maybe the result of drug or alcohol abuse. Just as likely, it could spring from daily stresses, such as work, school, relationships, or financial pressures. Several disorders below fit within the umbrella term ‘anxiety,’ and each has specific nuances. Do know that not all disorders are listed.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD
Characterized by a chronic and often exaggerated worry, GAD is an anxious response seemingly with little or no provocation. Sufferers of GAD sometimes find that simply getting through the day can induce anxiety, but in the main, sufferers are aware that their response is, for the most part, irrational. It usually develops in children or adolescents and sometimes, although not often, in adults. Generalized Anxiety Disorder can have the following symptoms:
Physical reactions such as trembling, twitching, muscle tensions, headaches, and sweating
Feelings of being light-headed or dizzy
This disorder is different from GAD in that this disorder is characterized by sudden attacks of feelings of terror and panic. These attacks tend to happen with no warning and can even occur during sleep. The very real fear that these attacks can occur at any time and in any place can lead to general anxiety between them. This form of anxiety affects a massive three to six million Americans. While it’s important to remember that one panic attack will not necessarily lead to another, the disorder can be debilitating without treatment. It can lead to depression, drug and alcohol use, and even spawn phobias. Typical symptoms of a panic attack, which last on average only a few minutes, can include:
Pounding heart and chest pain
Feeling like you are being smothered
Dizziness or feeling faint
Tingling or numb hands
A sensation of impending doom
As the name suggests, Social Anxiety focuses more on social situations and interactions. It is characterized by the fear of humiliating or embarrassing oneself in front of others and the assumption that they will judge you. It typically occurs when out in public or when performing in front of a group of people. It can develop into agoraphobia (the fear of public and open places) if severe enough. Between five and thirteen percent of all Americans say that they have suffered from Social Anxiety at some point in their lives, and it tends to develop during the teenage years. Typical symptoms include:
Tremors and muscle tension
Shaking voice and hands
Anticipatory anxiety between events
Specific or Simple Phobias
These are specific and intense phobias of particular things, such as dogs, spiders, heights, elevators, and so on. Affecting more than ten percent of the population, they appear suddenly and persist in the long term. Although known to be irrational by the sufferer, interaction with the feared object will produce an immediate and often intense anxiety response. When it interferes with a person’s life or causes marked distress, it is time to seek help.
Anxiety from Trauma Read more about trauma, it is a type of anxiety disorder.
If you feel you may be suffering from one of the above disorders and want to seek help, please don’t hesitate to contact me.