Types of Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders can range from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) to phobias and panic disorders. The symptoms of each of these types of anxiety disorders vary.
Diagnosis requires the help and intervention of a mental health professional. Learning to recognize the signs of an anxiety disorder, however, is an important first step in seeking treatment.
Understanding Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Those with GAD experience continuous and intense stress for days and even weeks at a time. These feelings of stress and anxiety interfere with their ability to conduct their regular day-to-day lives.
That is not to say that those with GAD cannot have days with lower levels of stress. A diagnosis requires that a patient experience more stressful days than not, however, over at least a six month period. Those with intermittent stress that does not fit this timetable may be dealing with another, related mental health disorder.
The Triggers of GAD
The circumstances of an individual’s life can be triggering for someone with GAD. Things such as health, work, school and relationships can all cause chronic stress and anxiety. A therapist can help a patient identify what elements of their life are causing stress and triggering their GAD. Understanding and processing these triggers is essential in ameliorating the effects of this anxiety disorder in the long term.
Research is ongoing with regards to the biological causes of GAD. Many believe that there is an inheritable trait related to anxiety, but this has not been proven. Chemical imbalances can cause GAD when there are no environmental triggers in the patient’s life.
Rates of Occurance with GAD
GAD affects as many as 6.8 million adults in the US, or 3.1% of the population. Statistics are less clear on children and adolescents, though both can experience GAD. Of the known cases of GAD, about one-third are severe in nature. Significantly less than half of those with GAD actually seek treatment. Anyone who thinks they may have an anxiety disorder such as GAD should seek the advice of a professional.
Symptoms of GAD
Symptoms can vary widely with GAD. Patients with GAD can experience any combination of the following.
Psychological GAD Symptoms:
- Overwhelming or constant dread
- Frightens easily
- Constant perseveration
- Faulty ability to concentrate
- Always “on edge”
- Faulty decision making abilities
- Tremors and shaking
- Muscle tension
- General fatigue, even when rested
- Sore muscles
- Heavy perspiration
- Rapid heart rate
Symptoms in Children and Adolescents:
- Constant worrying
- Fixation on disaster
- Holding themselves to a perfectionist standard
- Low self-confidence
- Seeking constant reinforcement from adults
- Social avoidance
Working with a professional to treat GAD can involve a number of approaches, including therapy, lifestyle changes, and medication. Patients work with therapists to identify triggers and develop the best skills for coping with those triggers.
Efective therapies include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, which helps patients acquire new ways of dealing with triggers in a systematic way that does not cause stress.
Medication for GAD can include benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and buspirone. Patients and doctors often need to proceed slowly with medication to find out which medication works best for a particular situation.
In some cases of anxiety disorder, patients may experience what is known as a panic attack. In a panic attack, a patient has an extreme stress reaction to a non-threatening scenario. A panic attack typically involves serious physical symptoms, including shaking, increased heart rate, and heavy perspiration. Those with GAD can experience panic attacks, though they can also present with other anxiety disorders.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is a type of anxiety disorder which causes people to obsess over what others would hardly give second thoughts. This obsession can create extreme fear of germs, repeating tasks that others find mundane, and ticks that impact daily life.
Agoraphobia is a fear of being in situations in which someone may feel cornered or powerless. It is not the anxiety that occurs while in helpless situations, but rather the fear that one could lose control within a location.
Patients with agoraphobia experience such intense fears of certain situations that they may avoid them altogether. Avoiding triggers interrupts everyday life. However, confronting these situations may cause panic attacks.