When is anxiety a disorder? What triggers it? How does it impact the way you think? These questions can be difficult to answer. The truth is that there are several types of anxiety disorders. The answers to important questions about your anxiety, like what you can do to start getting better, depend on which type is affecting you.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
A person with generalized anxiety disorder worries excessively in seemingly ordinary situations.
The realization that your anxieties are disproportionate to the situation fails to relieve the pressure. You know your worrying is unproductive, yet you cannot stop.
Because common indicators of GAD include trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and physical symptoms like feeling fatigued, lightheaded, or tense, you may have to visit your doctor many times before being properly diagnosed.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD anxieties arise when a person fears what goes on inside his or her own mind.
Unable to block out unwanted thoughts, you turn to compulsions such as repeated, unnecessary hand washing to suppress mental obsessions.
There are several different kinds of OCD. Your fixations can deal with sequence, hoarding, or cleanliness; or you could focus on and become afraid of performing forbidden actions. The fears caused by all types of OCD are dramatic and cause devastating changes in your quality of life.
Panic Disorder (PD)
In cases of PD, a person experiences intense episodes of panic and develops significant anxiety around the thought of having another attack.
Your panic attacks occur unexpectedly and make you feel as if you’re dying or have completely lost control.
You restructure your life to feel prepared for your next episode. You might methodically avoid scary situations from which you feel you can’t escape, choosing to stay at home instead of venturing out. Constant worries about being in a safe space can persist even if your panic attacks subside.
The anxiety felt by people with a specific phobia targets a particular situation or object.
As opposed to specific fears, phobias impede your normal functioning. If you have a weather-related phobia, you might uproot your entire life to avoid snow or summer heat. If you have a flying phobia, you will avoid airplanes, even at the cost of a job or visiting close friends and family.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD arises after instances or threats of death, serious injury, or violence.
When you suffer from PTSD, you don’t just remember the details of the event; PTSD means you remember the intense emotions accompanying the trauma. In PTSD, you relive your trauma over and over, in waking hours and during sleep.
PTSD is associated with hyper-arousal. You can be impulsive and over-reactive and have a hard time sleeping. You might be jumpy and irritable, or you might appear emotionally numb and unavailable to friends and family members. After a deeply affecting trauma, you can have a difficult time adjusting to old realities.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
SAD is more than shyness. People with SAD worry about noticeable physical reactions to social situations like blushing or sweaty palms.
When you suffer from social anxiety disorder, negative social outcomes become a major focus. You may fear specific social interactions, or your fears may be associated with being seen in public. You are likely to avoid a public place rather than experience intense stress.
From avoiding something that reminds them of a traumatic event, to avoiding potentially embarrassing situations, people with anxiety disorders tend to try and minimize emotional pain by circumventing what makes them feel afraid. Unfortunately, avoidance only strengthens anxiety.