On this post, we are going to be talking about the different Types of Anxiety Disorders.
As we established in the previous post, anxiety and fear are normal emotions that we all experience from time to time.
Sometimes our anxiety and fear are realistic in the context, but often our reactions reflect unrealistic or exaggerated concerns.
Almost everyone misinterprets events from time to time, so it’s perfectly normal to experience unrealistic fear and anxiety on occasion.
But if you experience exaggerated levels of anxiety and fear frequently, and the anxiety is causing problems in your day-to-day life, you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
A panic attack on itself is not actually an anxiety disorder, but it can be a feature of any of the anxiety disorders.
Essentially, a panic attack is an episode of intense fear or discomfort that comes on quickly and includes a number of physical sensations or other symptoms.
To be considered a full panic attack, the episode must include at least four of the following symptoms:
- Racing or pounding heart
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath or smothering sensations
- Choking feelings
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal discomfort
- Feelings of dizziness, lightheaded, unsteadiness, or faintness
- Feelings of unreality or detachment
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Hot flushes or chills
Panic Disorder with or without Agoraphobia
People with panic disorder experience panic attacks out of the blue, without any trigger or cause (at least not that they are aware of).
People with panic disorder tend to worry about when their next attack will happen. They also worry about the possible consequences of their attacks.
Because of these fears, people with panic disorder often alter their behavior to protect themselves from panicking or from suffering the consequences of the panic attack. They may rely on “safety” behaviors such as:
- Carrying anti-anxiety medication
- Being accompanied by someone who makes them feel safe
- Carrying water to protect themselves from dry mouth
- Frequently checking blood pressure or heart rate
- Always staying near exits in public spaces
- Driving with the window open for fear of not having enough fresh air
Most people with panic disorder also develop some degree of agoraphobia (the fear of being in places where escape might be difficult, or where help might not be available in the event of a panic attack or panic-like symptoms).
Panic disorders often begin following a period of stress, such as unemployment, marital difficulties, having a new baby, or health problems.
Agoraphobia without History of Panic Disorder
People with agoraphobia might be afraid of experiencing panic-like symptoms, but they never experience full-blown panic attacks.
Instead, they might experience attack with fewer than the four symptoms needed to be called a panic attack.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Social anxiety disorder is an extreme fear of situations in which a person might be observed, judged, or scrutinized.
They are overly concerned about being embarrassed or humiliated, or about making a bad impression on others. They tend to avoid situations involving direct interactions with other people.
Specific phobia refers to an excessive or unrealistic fear of a specific object or situation. There are four main types of specific phobias:
- Animal type (spiders, snakes, dogs, cats, etc.)
- Natural environment type (fear of heights, water, storms, etc.)
- Blood/injection/injury type (seeing blood, dental procedures, shots, etc.)
- Situational type (flying, driving, enclosed places, etc.)
- Other types: anything that can’t be categorized in the above four, like the fear of clowns.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Acute Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that begins following a serious trauma in which a person’s life or physical well-being is threatened.
- Sexual abuse, assault, or rape
- Physical abuse or assault
- Being a victim of an armed robbery
- Serious accidents at work, home, while driving, etc.
- Seeing someone getting killed or badly hurt
- Surviving a fire, earthquake, serious storm, or other disaster
During the trauma, the individual’s response is one of fear, helplessness, or horror. People with PTSD develop symptoms from each of three main clusters or groups.
- Some symptoms involving mentally reexperiencing the trauma.
- The ones involving avoidance of situations that remind the person of the trauma and general numbing of the person’s emotions.
- Symptoms involving a heightened awareness of one’s surroundings and increased arousal.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
People with generalized anxiety disorder are worriers. They worry about a wide range of topics (work, health, money, the world, etc.)