Types of Anxiety Disorders and Treatments
Everyone experiences some degree of anxiety during their lifetime. Whether it’s before an important event or during a stressful situation, anxiety is a normal human emotion. But for some people, anxiety can be constant and overwhelming, affecting their daily lives. When anxiety becomes crippling, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder. There are 6 distinct types of anxiety disorders and treatments.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD is characterized by excessive worry and stress that interferes with day-to-day activities. People with GAD may feel anxious about a variety of things, such as money, work, family health, or world events. They may feel like they can’t control their worry and that their anxiety is bigger than them. People with GAD often have physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, sweating, and hot flashes. (2)
People with panic disorder have recurrent unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is a period of intense fear or discomfort that peaks within minutes. Physical symptoms include a rapid heart rate, chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, stomach upset, dizziness, fainting, sweating, trembling, and feeling chills or tingling sensations. During a panic attack, people may feel like they are “going crazy” or “about to die.” Many people who experience panic attacks develop phobias, which are intense fears about particular objects or situations. For example, someone with a phobia of bridges may avoid driving over any bridge—even if it means taking a very long route.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Also known as social phobia, SAD is marked by intense fear or discomfort when around other people—particularly in social situations—which leads to avoidance. It’s different from shyness; people with SAD usually recognize that their fear is unreasonable but still feel powerless to do anything about it. Physical symptoms may include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, diarrhea and difficulty speaking. Because SAD can make it hard to hold a job or keep up friendships, some people withdraw from society altogether. When this happens, people with SAD may develop agoraphobia. This is a type of phobia characterized by avoidance of places or situations where escape might be difficult.
A phobia is an intense fear of a specific object or situation. People with phobias may go to great lengths to avoid the thing they are afraid of. Common phobias include heights , thunderstorms, flying, snakes, dogs, and elevators . Phobias can cause such severe anxiety that people may limit their activities or even become housebound.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
People with OCD have persistent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and use rituals (compulsions) to try to control them. Obsessions can include fear of germs or contamination, needing things to be symmetrical or in a certain order, or intrusive, violent, or sexually explicit thoughts. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that the person feels compelled to do to “neutralize” the obsessions and make them go away. Common compulsions include excessive hand-washing, counting, or checking. OCD can be extremely debilitating, making it hard to work, socialize, or even leave the house.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event, such as warfare, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. People with PTSD may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares ; they may feel edgy and on guard, startled easily, and have difficulty sleeping; and they may avoid people or places that remind them of the trauma.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are generally treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. If you think you might have an anxiety disorder, talk to your doctor. Getting treatment can make a big difference in your life.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT is a type of therapy that helps people change their thinking and behavior. In CBT for anxiety disorders, patients work with a therapist to identify thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their anxiety. They then learn new ways of thinking and behaving that are less anxiety-provoking. CBT can be done in individual sessions or in a group.
Although most people feel anxious at some point in their lives, for some it can be constant and overwhelming, affecting their daily lives in major ways. Different types of anxiety disorders exist, with each having its own set of symptoms. All share one common feature: long-lasting feelings of fear and worry that interfere with job performance, school, work, personal relationships and other areas of life. If you think you might have an anxiety disorder, talk to your doctor so he or she can help find treatment that’s right for you.
Jonas Hill Hospital & Clinic, a division of Caldwell Memorial Hospital provides our community with safe, dignified and integrated care for adult patients experiencing an acute mental health need. We provide hope, treatment, and healing through a holistic program of evidence-based psychiatric treatment, team-based medical care, and education provided by engaging and dedicated professionals in a safe and healing environment. Contact us today for more information. A safe space to heal.