Anxiety disorder is a blanket term covering several different forms of a type of mental illness of abnormal and pathological fear and anxiety.
There are many types of anxiety disorders that include panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at times. Many people feel anxious, or nervous, when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision. Anxiety disorders, however, are different. They can cause such distress that it interferes with a person’s ability to lead a normal life.
An anxiety disorder is a serious mental illness. For people with anxiety disorders, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be crippling.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a pattern of frequent, constant worry and anxiety over many different activities and events.
The main symptom is the almost constant presence of worry or tension, even when there is little or no cause. Worries seem to float from one problem to another, such as family or relationship problems, work issues, money, health, and other problems.
Even when aware that their worries or fears are stronger than needed, a person with GAD still has difficulty controlling them.
Other symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Problems falling or staying asleep, and sleep that is often restless and unsatisfying
- Restlessness, and often becoming startled very easily
Along with the worries and anxieties, a number of physical symptoms may also be present, including muscle tension (shakiness, headaches) and stomach problems, such as nausea or diarrhea.
Anxiety Disorders: Post-Traumatic Stress
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terribly frightening, life-threatening, unsafe experience or event.
PTSD is believed to be caused by experiencing any of a wide range of circumstances which produces intense negative feelings of fear, helplessness or horror in the observer or participant. Sources of such feelings may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
PTSD sufferers re-experience the traumatic event or events. They tend to avoid places, people, or other things that remind them of the event, and are keenly sensitive to normal life experiences.
Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while. But with time and taking care of yourself, such traumatic reactions usually get better. In some cases, though, the symptoms can get worse or last for months or even years. Sometimes they may completely shake up your life. In a case such as this, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder
Getting treatment as soon as possible after post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms develop may prevent long-term post-traumatic stress disorder.
Anxiety Disorders: Panic Attack
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear or apprehension that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening.
When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack or even dying. They may have duration of several minutes to hours.
Panic attacks are triggered by a situation from which the sufferer desires to escape, some sufferers may make frantic efforts to escape, which may be violent if others attempt to contain the sufferer. Some panic attacks can subside on their own over the next several hours.
Many people have just one or two panic attacks in their lifetimes, and the problem goes away, perhaps when a stressful situation ends. But if you’ve had recurrent, unexpected panic attacks and spent long periods in constant fear of another attack, you may have a condition called panic disorder.
Panic attacks were once dismissed as nerves or stress, but they’re now recognized as a real medical condition. Although panic attacks can significantly affect your quality of life, treatment can be very effective.
Anxiety attacks are the same as panic attacks.
Panic attacks can be terrifying. These attacks stem from profound anxiety that can make your heart pound and your knees go weak. Panic attacks can make it difficult to catch your breath and can also cause chest pain and dizziness — you may even think you’re having a heart attack. A panic attack may only last a few minutes, but it can leave you feeling frightened and uneasy.
A panic attack and its symptoms of tremendous anxiety can strike suddenly, out of the blue. While a panic attack itself may be brief, it can lead to a lasting fear of having another episode. When panic attacks and the fear of having attacks occur repeatedly, people are said to have a panic disorder, a type of anxiety disorder.
Fortunately, you don’t have to live in fear of panic attacks. There are specific strategies you can use to help manage your anxiety and control your physical symptoms as well.
When you’re feeling anxious or stressed, these strategies will help you cope:
- Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
- Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
- Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
- Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health. Check out the fitness tips below.
- Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
- Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
- Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn’t possible, be proud of however close you get.
- Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
- Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.
- Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
- Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
- Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
- Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.
For the biggest benefits of exercise, try to include at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) each week, 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity (such as jogging or swimming laps), or a combination of the two