Types of anxiety disorders.
Typically, anxiety disorders do not consist of one single ailment, but encompass several different types of problems.
The common ones include generalized anxiety disorders, panic disorder, specific phobias, and social phobias.
Generalized Anxiety Disorders
A common form of anxiety disorders, generalized anxiety disorders (GAD) are severe enough to significantly interfere with the routine activities of daily life. They often do not have discrete, apparent causes. Generally, the person with the disorder is a consummate "worrier" and may develop a debilitating level of anxiety. Often multiple sources of worry exist, and it is hard to exactly pinpoint the root cause of the worry. To be labeled as having GAD, a person must meet the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disturbances) criterion of having three or more of the following six symptoms for more days than not during a period of six months
- Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep)
Often GAD runs in families and is readily treatable with benzodiazepines such as Librium, Valium, and Xanax, which calm the person for short periods. More effective long-term treatments are achieved through individual therapy.
Panic attacks are typically described as sudden bursts of disabling terror. Unfortunately for many, a typical distinguishing feature of panic disorder is a feeling of panic that has no connection with events in the person's present experience. The feeling is often labeled as "free-floating anxiety." According to the DSM-IV, a panic attack may be described as a discrete period of fear or discomfort in which at least four of the following symptoms develop abruptly and reach a peak within 10 minutes:
- Palpitations, pounding of the heart, or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- Feeling of choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
- De-realization (feeling of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
- Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)
- Chills or hot flashes
In contrast with panic disorders, phobias, or phobic disorders, involve a persistent and irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation, often out of proportion to the circumstances. About 13 percent of Americans suffer from phobias, such as fear of spiders or snakes, fear of public speaking, and so on. Social phobias are perhaps the most common phobic response.
A social phobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by the persistent fear and avoidance of social situations. Essentially, the person dreads these situations for fear of being humiliated, embarrassed, or even looked at. These disorders vary in scope. Some cause difficulty only in specific situations, such as getting up in front of the class to give a report. In more extreme cases, a person avoids all contact with others. These phobias can be very problematic for individuals who suffer from them.