Panic and anxiety disorders come in different forms and vary in intensity from person to person. While some have identifiable origins, the causes of most anxiety disorders are elusive at best.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is defined as persistent symptoms of uncontrolled worry, nervousness or anxiety that last for six months or more. This anxiety may initially focus on a specific worry such as relationships or finances, or it may present itself as a vague anxiety about almost anything. Accompanying irritability is very common. Physical symptoms often develop, including:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Muscle pain
Panic Anxiety Disorder
Panic anxiety disorder occurs when panic attacks occur on a frequent basis. The sufferer experiences intense anxiety, fear or unfounded panic during these attacks. Physical symptoms of panic anxiety disorder include:
- Chest pain
- Feelings of imminent death, disaster or loss of control
- Pounding heart
- Tingling sensations.
There are three types of anxiety attacks that are associated with panic anxiety disorder:
- Situational panic attacks always occur in a specific location or circumstance (such as driving at night). This particular location or circumstance can almost always cue a panic attack.
- Situational predisposed panic attacks also occur in response to a situation or location. However, they don’t always happen in the presence of the cue, and the reaction may be delayed for some time.
- Unexpected panic attacks can strike at any time, without warning.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is one of the few anxiety disorders with a specific trigger or cause. Some of the most common causes of PTSD include:
- A physical assault
- The death of a loved one
- Traumatic events, such as war or natural disasters
- Witnessing death.
This anxiety disorder’s victims often relive the event that triggered the condition, either through nightmares or flashbacks. They may do whatever is necessary to avoid what reminds them of the traumatic event. Many victims develop emotional numbness as the mind attempts to protect itself from the PTSD.
Types of Phobias
There are many types of phobias, or fear responses to situations or things. Almost anything can become a phobia, such as:
- Enclosed spaces
The fear generated by various types of phobias is typically out of proportion to any actual danger that is posed. Although the person affected by the phobia is generally aware of this, awareness doesn’t prevent types of phobias from occurring. For this reason, many sufferers go to great lengths to avoid facing the origin of their phobias.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Symptoms
OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, affects 2 to 3 percent of the American population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. People with obsessive compulsive disorder have persistent, recurring thoughts caused by fears or anxiety. OCD symptoms usually involve ritualistic behavior designed to protect sufferers. Some common examples of OCD symptoms include excessive hand washing to prevent illness, or checking and rechecking locked doors before retiring to bed.
Overcome Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is a social phobia. People with social anxiety disorder are irrationally concerned about being judged or ridiculed in social situations, and feel extreme embarrassment and anxiety when in public. Some physical symptoms of social anxiety include:
- Heart palpitations
Medication, therapy or a combination of the two may help patients to overcome social anxiety.
Anxiety Disorders Association of America Staff. (n.d.). Brief overview of anxiety disorders. Retrieved June 10, 2002 from the ADAA website: www.adaa.org/AnxietyDisorderInfor/OverviewAnxDis.cfm.
Healthlogy.com Staff. (2002). Anxiety and anxiety disorders. Retrieved June 10, 2002 from the Healthology website: www.healthology.com/focus_article.asp?f=mentalhealth