What are Anxiety Disorders?
Everyone feels anxious from time to time. In fact, a certain amount of anxiety can be helpful, as it motivates people to perform at optimal levels. For example, if you have absolutely no anxiety about an upcoming exam, you would probably not be motivated to study. If you had no anxiety about giving a speech at work, or about going on a first date with someone, you might not be motivated enough to put in the preparation needed for the event to go well.
What differentiates someone with an Anxiety Disorder from someone with “normal” levels of anxiety?
People who worry occasionally, or who are not overly bothered by their worrying, or can easily let their worries go, do not meet criteria for a diagnosis of an Anxiety Disorder. People who do meet criteria for an Anxiety Disorder, have anxiety more often, and the worrying and fear is more intense. When someone has an Anxiety Disorder, they are struggling with anxiety and worrying on a pretty regular basis, they are experiencing emotional suffering, and their life is negatively impacted. At high levels, anxiety can become debilitating, as it can lead to avoidance of things that are important to you, and it can also be related to having panic attacks (when anxiety levels become very high, very quickly).
What are some types of Anxiety Disorders?
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Social Anxiety Disorder: Many people feel shy from time to time in various social situations. However, someone is considered to be struggling with Social Anxiety Disorder, when their shyness causes them emotional suffering and negatively impacts their ability to perform in various areas of life such as work, school, or socially. Social Anxiety Disorder involves having anxiety or fear about one or more social situations, due to fear of being negatively judged by others. Social situations include things like social interactions (e.g., conversations, meeting new people), being observed (e. g., eating, drinking, writing), or performance situations (e.g., giving a presentation or speech, acting or signing, playing sports). People with social anxiety often worry that others will notice how anxious they are, and will judge them negatively for being anxious.
Panic Disorder: Panic attacks can occur across a variety of mental disorders. However, Panic Disorder is characterized by a fear of panic attacks themselves. When people fear panic attacks, they may change their behaviour in order to try and prevent future panic attacks from occurring. However, this avoidance then leads to new problems, such as avoiding the very things that are important to you, and ironically does not stop panic attacks from occurring, as overall fear is heightened.
Agoraphobia: Anxiety, fear, or avoidance related to being in places or situations where escape might be difficult or help might not be available. Agoraphobia involves excessive fear in at least two of the following situations: using public transportation, being in enclosed spaces, being in open spaces, being in a line or crowd, and being away from home. Due to fear, someone with agoraphobia will often try to avoid the feared situations, need a companion to face them, or endure them with extreme anxiety.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Excessive worry or anxiety about a number of things, having difficulty controlling the worrying, and having a number of physical symptoms such as feeling restless, keyed up or on edge, trouble concentrating or having the mind go blank, muscle tension, irritability, being easily fatigued, and having sleep-related difficulties.
Specific Phobia: Intense fear or anxiety about a specific situation or object, such as fear of animals, heights, flying, blood, or needles. The fear goes beyond the level of actual danger, and causes emotional distress or impairment in functioning.
Anxiety Disorders Treatment
Treatment for Anxiety Disorders can help you to…
- Understand the source of your anxiety, as well as what maintains it
- Differentiate between actual and eventual stressors
- Re-appraise situations as challenges instead of threats
- Improve coping skills such as accepting uncertainty, letting worries go, problem-solving, and planning
- Understand and make peace with the physiological symptoms of anxiety
- Overcome debilitating fears
- Reduce anxiety-related avoidance, freeing you up to pursue meaningful relationships and activities that you may have been avoiding due to anxiety
- Improve relaxation and sleep habits
- Reduce time spent struggling with anxiety