Everything you need to know about anxiety disorder symptoms, signs, and treatments methods.
Click Here if you are curious about how to help a friend with their anxiety.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Social Anxiety Disorder
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Increased Risk Factors
When to See a Doctor
Those who are diagnosed with GAD show signs of excessive anxiousness, worry, and distress. The symptoms are over the course of 6 months or longer displaying themselves on most days despite environment or circumstance. They can become anxious about almost anything including: personal health, social situations, work, and just everyday routine circumstances. This anxiety often gets in the way of normal functioning in areas of life such as school, work, and social interactions.
- Easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating
- “Spacing out”/mind going blank
- Easily irritable
- Feeling restless or “on edge”
- Chronic muscle tension
- Difficulty getting a handle on the feeling of worry
- Sleep problems
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People with panic disorder experience recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. These episodes are sudden and is an intense sensation of overwhelming emotions- primarily fear and worry. Panic attacks are not controllable and can not be shut off once they start. They can be triggered by a specific experience or thought, and can also come on unexpectedly with not trigger at all. Often, those who struggle worry about when their next attack will be and causes them to live life trying to avoid them. This effort causes disruption in a normal lifestyle because so much effort goes into actively avoiding something that could happen unexpectedly.
Physical symptoms of an anxiety attack:
- Accelerated heart rate, or feeling of heart pounding in chest
- Uncontrollable shaking or trembling
- Sensation of choking or inability to breath
- Feeling that “the world is going to end”
- Feeling completely out of control
This is a common and chronic disorder where those who are diagnosed uncontrollable, recurring, obsessive thoughts, and compulsive behaviors in response to that obsession. Those with OCD have uncontrollable thought processes that cause them severe anxiety, and cope with that anxiety by performing ritualistic routines in response to what is causing the distress. These obsessive thoughts and routines are a temporary fix to the chronic anxiety and often get in the way of functioning normally at work, school, or in everyday situations.
Includes normal physical manifestations of anxiety in the body.
Obsessions could be:
- Having everything organized and symmetrical
- Fear of germs or illnesses
- Fear of losing something
- Taboo conversation topics like religion, sex, ect.
- Chronic worry about injury or harm coming to themselves or others
- Doing things that same way at the same time- obsessive routines
Compulsions could be:
- Excessive cleaning of environment and/or body
- Hoarding unnecessary objects/belongings
- Constant organizing
- Constantly checking on things like the oven being on, or the door being unlocked
- Repeatedly counting objects or belongings
- Desperate need for reassurance
Those who experience PTSD develop the disorder from a situation that caused extreme shock or fear from a dangerous or traumatic event. Fear causes the human body to make split-second decisions for the sake of survival to help defend against danger, or avoid it completely. Everyone experiences trauma at some point in their life. Many people are able to recover from those initial reactions to trauma relatively quickly. Those with PTSD continue to experience those reactions and feel afraid, in danger, or distressed even when they are not in danger of whatever they are fearful of.
PTSD is not always caused by a danger event. PTSD can also be caused by a sudden, life-altering event like a death of a loved one, or a sudden abandonment. Sometimes symptoms can show up as early as 3 months after the traumatic event, but they can also be triggered years after.
To be diagnosed with PTSD the symptoms must last more than a month and severe enough to interfere with relationships, work, school, and daily life activities. Sometimes people can recover in 6 months, others can take longer, while even some will develop PTSD chronically.
Signs and Symptoms:
- Flashbacks of the traumatic event- causes physical signs of distress
- Avoiding thoughts of feelings from event
- Bad dreams
- Frightening thoughts of current situations by comparing to traumatic event
- Staying away from anything that reminds them of traumatic event
- Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
- Negative thoughts about oneself
- Inaccurate thoughts of shame or guilt
- Trouble remembering key aspects of traumatic event
Those with social anxiety disorder feel an intense and disproportionate amount of fear and distress toward social interactions and performance situations. Most of the time the fear and anxiety stems from the belief that their behaviors associated with their anxiety will be noticed and judged by others leading them to feel embarrassed- even before the interaction happens. This fear causes them to avoid social interactions. Social anxiety disorder can manifest in a range of ways in different people, but often interferes with their relational health.
Although separation anxiety disorder is most often associated with children, adults can be diagnosed and be severely influenced by the fears caused by this anxiety. The fears stem from being separated from the people that they feel attached to, and they often worry that harm will come to their attachment figures while they are separated from them. This causes those who struggle with separation anxiety to avoid situations where they are separated from their attachment figures. If separation does occur then physical manifestations of anxiety will often take over.
This is an unusual and rare disorder where people who have normal language skills are unable to speak in certain social situations. Often this disorder is seen and diagnosed before the age of 5, and is most times diagnosed with other co occurring anxiety disorders.
Signs and Symptoms:
- Fear in social situations
- Extreme shyness
- Fear of embarrassment
- Compulsive traits
- Temper tantrums
- Fear of separation
Many of these physical manifestations of anxiety can occur whether or not the individual recognizes that anxiety is causing it. It can occur subconsciously.
- Increased heart rate
- Pounding heart in chest
- Hyperventilation/shortness of breath
- Excessive sweating
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Fatigue or weakness
- Inability to sleep
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Frequent urination or diarrhea
- Chronic muscle tension (usually in neck, shoulders, and back)
- Chills or heat sensations
- Chest pains
- Impaired immune system/frequent sickness
- Loss of libido
- Increase in blood pressure
Research is finding that both environmental and genetic factors play into whether or not someone is more susceptible to developing an anxiety disorder.
- Patterns of shyness or behavior inhibitions in childhood
- Being exposed to traumatic life or environmental events (childhood or adulthood)
- Family history of anxiety or other mental illnesses
- Caffeine and other substances can aggravate anxiety symptoms
- Stress due to other illness
- Stress build up
- Personalities that are more prone to anxious thoughts and behaviors
- Other mental health disorders
- Drugs or alcohol
Behavioral Cognitive Therapy
This is a type of psychotherapy with a more tangible approach to teach individuals how to think, behave, and react toward anxiety and stress-inducing environments, situations, and triggers. Cognitive therapy focuses on identifying, challenging, and then neutralizing distorted thought processes that are beneath the surface of an anxiety disorder.
BCT can also incorporate exposure therapy where individuals confront and engage with the circumstances and environments that they have been actively avoiding.
When used in conjunction with one another and in addition to relaxation and meditation practices, this treatment can be extremely effective.
Catered to an individual’s specific needs this is a type of therapy where they get to talk through what is causing them anxiety and distress with a mental health professional.
Medications do not cure individuals from anxiety disorders. They are primarily used to decrease the severity of the symptoms and make the anxiety manageable. These are always prescribed by a medical professional, however some psychiatrists can be trained especially for prescribing psychiatric medications. There is genetic testing available to see which medications would be helpful for individuals, and if there are any that would cause adverse effects.
Click Here for my thoughts on why you should consider medication in your treatment.
There are support groups available for those who struggle with anxiety disorders and can be helpful with the feelings of isolation and motivation to fight the adverse effect that they can have on living normally.
Individual Stress Management
Research has found that breathing exercises and meditation can help significantly with the symptoms of anxiety. It is also believed that exercise can help with the effects of anxiety, but it can become dangerous if anxiety is not managed in other ways and under the guidance of a health professional.
***ALL TREATMENT SHOULD BE OVERSEEN BY A MEDICAL OR MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL AND ALL MENTAL HEALTH ADVICE SHOULD BE TALKED THROUGH WITH A TRUSTED PROFESSIONAL***
- If your worry and anxiety is interfering with work, school, relationships, and every day activities.
- If you are concerned and upset by your reactions to triggering environments or situations.
- If you feel out of control of your emotions.
- If you are feeling depressed or have other mental health concerns in conjunction with your anxiety.
- If you are beginning to have trouble with drug and/or alcohol use.
- If you think your anxiety could be correlated with a physical health issue
- If you have suicidal thoughts or behaviors- IN THIS CASE SEEK EMERGENCY TREATMENT IMMEDIATELY.
Get help early.
Like most mental health disorders, if you wait it can be harder to fight and to treat.
Stay active doing what you love.
Participating in activities that you love and interacting in social situations with caring relationships can lessen worrying behaviors.
Avoid alcohol and drug use.
Substances can worsen the symptoms and effects of mental health disorders. If you are addicted to any substance and it causes anxiety to quit, then seek medical attention and a support group to help you.