When it comes to anxiety disorders there is no one type. Each form of anxiety has its own set of symptoms and treatments. It is important to remember that while some symptoms will overlap, no two anxiety disorders are alike. This list aims to bring attention to the five major anxiety disorders and what they mean for the sufferers. We hope to bring awareness to the growing number of anxiety sufferers and their needs, so here are five anxiety disorders, as well as their symptoms and treatments.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder technically has two components, the obsessions and the compulsions. Obsessions can encompass anything from a severe fear of germs to the placement of things around the home and many things in between. The compulsions are what the sufferer does to rid themselves of those obsessive thoughts. Someone who has obsessions about germs may ritually wash their hands or carry hand sanitizer everywhere they go. Someone who has obsessive thoughts about the placement of objects might arrange and rearrange their belongings until they feel just right. These obsessions and compulsions can become very intrusive and disruptive to the sufferer’s daily life. As far as treatments for OCD go, there are a couple. There are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as fluoxetine sertraline. These medications are meant to help alleviate the symptoms for the sufferer so that they are at a manageable and less destructive level. the other widely-used treatment is psychotherapy. With this you might run into cognitive behavioral therapy that will be used to help the sufferer essentially reprogram their response to obsessions and compulsions. For the most part, medications and therapies are used in tandem to get the best results.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD is a bit unlike the other anxiety disorders on this list. Those who suffer from GAD aren’t always able to give a reason for their symptoms. In fact, one of the symptoms is a general feel of restlessness or unease. They may also experience worry as one of the symptoms. Everyone worries from time to time but GAD causes the sufferer to internalize those worries and take them to an entirely new level. They may think of them in an obsessive manner which will case a downward spiral of other symptoms such as a disturbance in sleep patterns. The treatments available for GAD are similar to those of OCD, medications and therapy, though in this case, the medications may be benzodiazepines and antidepressants rather than the run-of-the-mill SSRIs. Cognitive behavioral therapy is used with GAD as well as relaxation techniques and mindfulness.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Those with Social Anxiety Disorder experience panic attacks related to social situations. this can manifest in a fear of public speaking or stage fright and can be so severe that they avoid going into public altogether. Social anxiety can also have symptoms of severe self-consciousness and a general fear of being around others. Someone with social anxiety might find it hard to speak when other people are present even if they aren’t addressing the crowd as a whole. Social anxiety is mainly treated with SSRIs and therapy. As we stated before, just because a treatment option looks similar from one anxiety to another, it isn’t going to be the same. Each sufferer presents their own needs that must be taken into account. Each therapy isn’t going to work the same for each individual. Personalization of treatment is key in these situations.
A panic attack is a natural response to a dangerous or stressful situation. Panic attacks are more common than you may imagine. Approximately 40 per cent of people will experience it at some point in their life.
A panic attack is characterized by an overwhelming sense of fear or panic; increased heart rate; the thought that you are going mad or dying; trouble breathing; excessive perspiration; and/or lightheadedness or dizziness. When episodes of panic attacks keep recurring frequently and disable your day-to-day life, the condition may be described as a panic disorder.
Besides unexpected and recurring panic attacks, a panic disorder is characterized by anxiety that you will suffer another attack, worrying about the consequences of such an attack and attributing it to a medical problem. Individuals with panic disorder may also exhibit changes in behavior associated with panic attacks. For instance, they may avoid exercising with the fear that it will increase the heart rate.
In the United States alone, an estimated six million are living with panic disorder. The condition may begin when people are in their mid twenties. Women are twice as likely to be affected by panic disorder as men, and the condition is rare in children and seniors. Panic disorder has a high comorbidity rate.
A number of factors cause panic disorder, as outlined below:
Biological make-up: Certain medical conditions, including asthma, hyperthyroidism, arrhythmias, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, are linked to panic disorder.
Family history: Individuals diagnosed with panic disorder are likely to have a family history of anxiety disorders or depression-related illnesses. Some studies also indicated genetics to be a contributing factor, though more research is required in this area.
Negative experiences: Some life experiences have been associated with panic disorder and periods of continuous stress. These include sexual abuse, bereavement or loss of a family member.
Though panic disorder is ascribed to a combination of physical and psychological factors, the condition is yet to be understood fully. It’s important to note that some symptoms of panic attacks or disorder are similar to those of physical conditions/diseases, and must be accurately distinguished. They include anemia, mitral valve prolapse, diabetes, adrenal tumors, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, thyrotoxicosis, and postural orthostatic tachycardic syndrome.
It is best to seek medical help for panic disorder at an early stage in order to make a full and successful recovery. In some cases, leaving it untreated can increase likelihood of developing other conditions, such as phobias.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD can be diagnosed in anyone. For the most part, you have probably heard it when someone speaks about veterans or police officers. While those careers have a higher rate of PTSD, it is in fact true that anyone can be diagnosed with it. PTSD is the result of a very traumatic event or series of events.
This leaves the sufferer with flashbacks and night terrors where they feel as if they are right back in the event again. The sufferer may also suffer from panic attacks as well as phobias associated with people, places or even sounds. Medications such as fluoxetine venlafaxine may be used in the treatment of PTSD. Therapies such as prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy and brief eclectic psychotherapy may be utilized as well.
Again, this is a situation where the use of medications and therapy together can help give a better outcome than just one alone. It is important to note that those with PTSD can lash out in certain situations but there is no need to be afraid of the sufferers. There is nothing inherently dangerous about them. In fact, those with mental illness are exponentially more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than they are to be the perpetrator.
This is not a complete list of the different anxiety disorders out there by any means, nor is it completely comprehensive in each description. There are many kinds of anxiety. These just happen to the most talked about and diagnosed at this particular moment. Regardless of which anxiety disorder the diagnosis is for, it is important to remember that the sufferer is in need of help and acceptance.
You don’t have to understand anxiety to be able to offer an ear to talk to or some words to keep them grounded in the moment. Remind the sufferer that they are alright, that what they are feeling are just symptoms of their anxiety and that it will pass is given the time. Aside from that, just make sure that they know you are there with them and wait it out.