Understanding Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders

in Health & Well-being

Anxiety is a person’s response to stress, and is the feeling of fear, apprehension, nervousness, and worry. It can be triggered by multiple things, such as exams, job interviews, doctor and dentist appointments, pregnancy and parenthood, bereavements, bullying, and socializing.

Though the symptoms may be similar, there is a difference between anxiety and other anxiety disorders, and it’s important that we learn those differences. Most people experience anxiety from time to time, and simply telling an anxious person that “it will be fine” and that they need to “get over it” will not help them. It can be difficult to tell whether someone is experiencing anxiety or an anxiety disorder, and to be able to understand the difference between them, you must be able to identify the stressor, the intensity of the person’s anxiety, the symptoms, and the effect those symptoms have on that person. Fortunately, anxiety and anxiety disorders can be diagnosed and treated with therapy, medication, and stress management at places like Kaizen Brain Center.

Read on for more information on anxiety disorders:

General Anxiety Disorder

General anxiety disorder (GAD) is when a person experiences excessive and persistent anxiety that is long-term. It’s characterized by ongoing and uncontrollable worrying and stress over seemingly normal things and more stressful triggers. GAD can affect everyday life, including a person’s relationships and their ability to cope with certain situations. People with GAD often exhibit one of more physical symptoms, such as sweating, feeling chilly, muscle aches, upset stomachs, nausea, problems with concentrating, feeling a sense of doom or dread, overthinking things, irritability, feeling tired, and having trouble sleeping.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is where people experience extreme anxiety and recurring panic attacks. Panic attacks can last between five minutes and thirty minutes, though they have been known to last longer. The symptoms of panic attacks are similar to the symptoms of anxiety (see General Anxiety Disorder above), and include having shakes, palpitations, difficulty breathing, feeling detached, feeling like you’re not really there, and a fear of dying.

Specific Phobias

A specific phobia is an overwhelming and irrational fear of a specific person, object, place, animal, or thing.

More common phobias include claustrophobia (a fear of confined spaces), arachnophobia (a fear of spiders), nyctophobia (fear of the dark), aerophobia (fear of flying), trypanophobia (fear of needles or injections), and dentophobia (a fear of dentists).

Less common phobias include genuphobia (a fear of knees), octophobia (a fear of the number eight), porphyrophobia (a fear of the colour purple), hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (a fear of long words), barophobia (a fear of gravity), and chronomentrophobia (a fear of clocks).

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is the fear of being in a place or situation where a person feels they can’t escape. A person will often feel trapped, embarrassed, frightened, or helpless, and this can often trigger panic attacks. This is likely to happen when leaving the house, on public transport, in shopping malls, in open areas, in restaurants, and in elevators.

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is the fear of social situations, and can affect a person’s school, work, or social life. Social anxiety can be triggered by being asked to answer questions in class, work meetings, and meeting new people or having to talk to people they don’t know. People with social anxiety will often try to avoid social interactions and this may involve skipping school, making excuses to not go into work (like feigning illness), and turning down invitations to go for meals or to parties.

Selective Mutism

Selective mutism is where a child or adult is physically unable to speak in certain situations. For example, a person may be able to speak freely to their immediate family or someone they have known for a long time and see regularly, but not to a stranger or someone who makes them feel uncomfortable. People with selective mutism often benefit from language therapy and speech therapy.

Other anxiety disorders include separation anxiety, medication/substance-induced anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (OCD). If you think you have the symptoms of anxiety or an anxiety disorder, don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help or to contact your GP for a diagnosis and treatment.


Image Credits: Suzy Hazelwood

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