Anxiety occurs when a person experiences a threat or dangerous situation. However, chronic and irrational fear can lead to a form of anxiety disorder. There are different types of anxiety disorders, depending on their causes or triggers.
Common forms of anxiety disorders
Generalized anxiety disorder
A person who has this type of anxiety disorder experiences prolonged anxiety that is often without basis. More accurately, people with generalized anxiety disorders cannot articulate the reason behind their anxiety. This type of anxiety usually lasts for six months and often affects women. Due to the persistence of anxiety, people affected by generalized anxiety disorder constantly fret and worry; this results in heart palpitations, insomnia, headaches, and dizzy spells.
Unlike someone with generalized anxiety disorder, a person who has a specific phobia experiences extreme and often irrational fear of a particular situation or object. When exposed to the object or situation they fear, people with specific phobias exhibit signs of intense fear like shaking, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and nausea. Common specific phobias include fear of heights, enclosed spaces, blood, and animals. The fear a person with phobia feels can be so extreme that he or she may disregard safety to escape the situation.
Also known as Agoraphobia, panic disorders are characterized by recurring panic attacks, which are often unexpected. Symptoms are usually shaking, chest pains, dizziness, fear of losing control, and the reluctance of being alone. People with panic disorder are aware that their panic is usually unfounded and illogical; this is why they avoid public situations and being alone. A panic attack can be so severe that people may lose control and hurt themselves.
Alternatively, called social anxiety, a person with social phobia may exhibit similar symptoms like those of panic disorder, especially in social situations. Shaking, dizziness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations may ensue when a person with social phobia finds himself or herself at the center of attention or in the company of many people, regardless of whether they are strangers or not.
Post-traumatic stress disorder may occur after a person experienced a severely traumatic event. He or she may relive the experience in his or her mind, which causes stress and anxiety. If a person with PTSD comes into contact with stimuli (any object, person, or situation) that he or she associates with a traumatic event, he or she may re-experience the event by crying, panicking, or losing control. Subtler symptoms include insomnia and avoidant behavior. PTSD may manifest itself immediately after the traumatic event or even years after.
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder experience anxiety caused by an obsession or persistent idea. They tend to avoid experiencing anxiety by resorting to repetitive actions or behaviors that prevent stress. For example, a person who is obsessed with cleanliness may experience anxiety at the mere sight of a vase placed slightly off-center. To prevent anxiety, he or she will clean and organize everything compulsively or without reason.
Determining the type of anxiety disorder a person has is crucial to seeking treatment and recovery. Techniques and methods that are used to help a person cope with anxiety target the management of symptoms and coping mechanisms when exposed to triggers. After a thorough diagnosis is determined, treatment and recovery for anxiety disorders can take place.