What are the different types of Anxiety Disorders?

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Anxiety disorder

Anxiety disorders are blanket terms covering several different forms of abnormal and pathological fear and anxiety which only came under the aegis of psychiatry at the very end of the 19th century. Gelder, Mayou & Geddes (2005) explains that anxiety disorders are classified in two groups: continuous symptoms and episodic symptoms. Current psychiatric diagnostic criteria recognize a wide variety of anxiety disorders. Recent surveys have found that as many as 18% of Americans may be affected by one or more of them.

The term anxiety covers four aspects of experiences an individual may have: mental apprehension, physical tension, physical symptoms and dissociative anxiety (symptoms associated with hyperventilation). Anxiety disorder is divided into generalized anxiety, phobic, and panic disorders.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common chronic disorder characterized by long-lasting anxiety that is not focused on any one object or situation. Those suffering from generalized anxiety experience non-specific persistent fear and worry and become overly concerned with everyday matters. Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common anxiety disorder to affect older adults. Anxiety can be a symptom of a medical or substance abuse problem, and medical professionals must be aware of this. A diagnosis of GAD is made when a person has been excessively worried about an everyday problem for six months or more. A person may find they have problems making daily decisions and remembering commitments as a result of lack of concentration/preoccupation with worry. Appearance looks strained, skin is pale with increased sweating from the hands, feet and axillae. May be tearful which can suggest depression.

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Panic disorder

In panic disorder, a person suffers from brief attacks of intense terror and apprehension, often marked by trembling, shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, difficulty breathing. These panic attacks, defined by the APA as fear or discomfort that abruptly arises and peaks in less than ten minutes, can last for several hours and can be triggered by stress, fear, or even exercise; the specific cause is not always apparent.

In addition to recurrent unexpected panic attacks, a diagnosis of panic disorder requires that said attacks have chronic consequences: either worry over the attacks’ potential implications, persistent fear of future attacks, or significant changes in behavior related to the attacks. Accordingly, those suffering from panic disorder experience symptoms even outside specific panic episodes. Often, normal changes in heartbeat are noticed by a panic sufferer, leading them to think something is wrong with their heart or they are about to have another panic attack. In some cases, a heightened awareness (hypervigilance) of body functioning occurs during panic attacks, wherein any perceived physiological change is interpreted as a possible life-threatening illness (i.e., fit hypochondriasis). However, with the correct professional help 70%-90% of those suffering from panic disorder are helped in 6-8 weeks.

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Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety disorder (SAD; also known as social phobia) describes an intense fear and avoidance of negative public scrutiny, public embarrassment, humiliation, or social interaction. This fear can be specific to particular social situations (such as public speaking) or, more typically, is experienced in most (or all) social interactions. Social anxiety often manifests specific physical symptoms, including blushing, sweating, and difficulty speaking. Like with all phobic disorders, those suffering from social anxiety often will attempt to avoid the source of their anxiety; in the case of social anxiety this is particularly problematic, and in severe cases can lead to complete social isolation.

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder which us characterized by repetitive obsessions (distressing, persistent, and intrusive thoughts or images) and compulsions (to perform specific acts or). It affects roughly around 3% of the population worldwide. The OCD thought pattern may be likened to superstitions insofar as it involves a belief in a causative relationship where, in reality, one does not exist. Often the process is entirely illogical; for example, the compulsion of walking in a certain pattern may be employed to alleviate the obsession of impending harm. And in many cases, the compulsion is entirely inexplicable, simply an urge to complete a ritual triggered by nervousness.

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Post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder which results from a traumatic experience. Post-traumatic stress can result from an extreme situation, such as combat, natural disaster, rape, hostage situations, more serious kinds of child abuse, or even a serious accident. It can also result from long term (chronic) exposure to a severe stressor, for example soldiers who endure individual battles but cannot cope with continuous combat. Common symptoms include hypervigilance, flashbacks, avoidant behaviors, anxiety, anger and depression. There are a number of treatments which form the basis of the care plan for those suffering with PTSD. Such treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy and support from family and friends. These are all examples of treatments used to help people suffering from PTSD.

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Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety disorder (SepAD) is the feeling of excessive and inappropriate levels of anxiety over being separated from a person or place. Separation anxiety is a normal part of development in babies or children, and it is only when this feeling is excessive or inappropriate that it can be considered a disorder. Separation anxiety disorder affects roughly 7% of adults and 4% of children, but the childhood cases tend to be more severe, in some instances even a brief separation can produce panic.

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Childhood anxiety disorders

Children as well as adults experience feelings of anxiousness, worry and fear when facing different situations, especially those involving a new experience. However, if anxiety is no longer temporary and begins to interfere with the child’s normal functioning or do harm to their learning, the problem may be more than just an ordinary anxiousness and fear common to the age.

When children suffer from a severe anxiety disorder their thinking, decision-making ability, perceptions of the environment, learning and concentration get affected. They not only experience fear, nervousness, and shyness but also start avoiding places and activities. Anxiety also raises blood pressure and heart rate and can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, ulcers, diarrhea, tingling, weakness, and shortness of breath. Some other symptoms are frequent self-doubt and self-criticism, irritability, sleep problems and, in extreme cases, thoughts of not wanting to be alive.

If these children are left untreated, they face risks such as poor results at school, avoidance of important social activities, and substance abuse. Children who suffer from an anxiety disorder are likely to suffer other disorders such as depression, eating disorders, and attention deficit disorders, both hyperactive and inattentive.

About 13 of every 100 children and adolescents between 9 to 17 years experience some kind of anxiety disorder, and girls are more affected than boys. The basic temperament of children may be key in some of their childhood and adolescent disorders.

Research in this area is very difficult to perform because as children grow their fears change, making it difficult for researchers to obtain enough data and thus more reliable results. For instance, between the ages of 6 and 8, children’s fear of the dark and imaginary creatures decreases, but they become more anxious about school performance and social relationships. If children experience an excessive amount of anxiety during this stage, this could lead to development of anxiety disorders later in life.

According to research, childhood anxiety disorders are caused by biological and psychological factors. Also, it is suggested that when children have a parent with anxiety disorders, they are more likely to have an anxiety disorder, too. Stress can trigger anxiety disorders, and children and adolescents with anxiety disorders seem to have an increased physical and psychological reaction to stress. Their reaction to danger, even if it is a small one, is quicker and stronger.

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