Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental disorders, affecting about 20 percent of the population. Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses that cause people to feel excessively frightened, distressed or uneasy during situations in which most people would not experience these same feelings. There are several types of anxiety disorders, each with their own distinct features. These include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):
When persistent and unrealistic worry becomes a normal way of approaching situations, an individual may be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder. Many individuals with this disorder constantly anticipate disaster and often worry excessively about health, money, family or work.
Individuals with panic disorder have sudden and repeated feelings of terror known as panic attacks. Panic attacks usually produce a sense of unreality, a fear of impending doom, or a fear of losing control. These attacks can occur at any time and usually last a few minutes.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD):
Characterized by repetitive, intrusive, irrational and unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or rituals that seem impossible to control (compulsions). Some individuals with OCD have specific compulsions that they must perform multiple times each day to release their anxiety.
Common symptoms of anxiety disorders:
- Worry excessively about everyday issues for at least 6 months
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, failure and lack of self-worth
- Changes in eating, sleeping or other daily habits
- Nausea, headaches, stomach problems, muscle tension and irritability
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, chills or sweating
- Shortness of breath, a feeling of choking, chest pains, unexplained aches or pains
- Diminished capacity for pleasure or loss of interest in activities
- Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying
- Thoughts of death or suicide attempts
- Unrealistic fear of germs, radiation, social situations or dying
- Developing time-consuming rituals or repeating a series of maneuvers to perfection
- Compulsively repeating a phrase or name to protect someone from harm
If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms associated with an anxiety disorder, reach out to your health care provider.
Credit: Frontier Behavioral Health. Used with permission.