What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It is a feeling of fear and apprehension about what’s to come. The first day of school, going to a job interview, or giving a speech may cause most people to feel fearful and nervous. But if your feelings of anxiety are extreme, last for longer than six months, and are interfering with your life, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Types of Anxiety
The five major types of anxiety disorders are:
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder, GAD, is an anxiety disorder characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.
2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD, is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Repetitive behaviors such as hand washing, counting, checking, or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. Performing these so-called “rituals,” however, provides only temporary relief, and not performing them markedly increases anxiety.
3. Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.
4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.
5. Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder)
Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder, is an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. Social phobia can be limited to only one type of situation – such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, or eating or drinking in front of others – or, in its most severe form, may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people.
People who have agoraphobia have a fear of certain places or situations that make them feel trapped, powerless, or embarrassed. These feelings lead to panic attacks. People with agoraphobia may try to avoid these places and situations to prevent panic attacks.
7. Specific phobias
This is a fear of a specific object, event, or situation that results in severe anxiety when you’re exposed to that thing. It’s accompanied by a powerful desire to avoid it. Phobias, such as arachnophobia (fear of spiders) or claustrophobia (fear of small spaces), may cause you to experience panic attacks when exposed to the thing you fear.
While anxiety symptoms vary from person to person, in general, the body reacts in a very specific way to anxiety. When you feel anxious, your body goes on high alert, looking for possible danger and activating your fight or flight responses. As a result, some common symptoms of anxiety include:
- Nervousness, restlessness, or being tense
- Feelings of danger, panic, or dread
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid breathing, or hyperventilation
- Increased or heavy sweating
- Trembling or muscle twitching
- Weakness and lethargy
- Difficulty focusing or thinking clearly about anything other than the thing you’re worried about
- Digestive or gastrointestinal problems, such as gas, constipation, or diarrhea
- A strong desire to avoid the things that trigger your anxiety
- Obsessions about certain ideas, a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Performing certain behaviors over and over again
- Anxiety surrounding a particular life event or experience that has occurred in the past, especially indicative of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
A panic attack is a sudden onset of fear or distress that peaks in minutes and involves experiencing at least four of the following symptoms:
- Shaking or trembling
- Feeling shortness of breath or smothering
- Sensation of choking
- Chest pains or tightness
- Nausea or gastrointestinal problems
- Dizziness, light-headedness, or feeling faint
- Feeling hot or cold
- Numbness or tingling sensations (paresthesia)
- Feeling detached from oneself or reality, known as depersonalization and derealization
- Fear of “going crazy” or losing control
- Fear of dying
To help diagnose an anxiety disorder, your mental health provider may:
1. Give you a psychological evaluation.
This involves discussing your thoughts, feelings and behavior to help pinpoint a diagnosis and check for related complications. Anxiety disorders often occur along with other mental health problems — such as depression or substance misuse — which can make diagnosis more challenging.
2. Compare your symptoms to the criteria in the DSM-5.
Many doctors use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose an anxiety disorder.
The two main treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and medications. You may benefit most from a combination of the two. It may take some trial and error to discover which treatments work best for you.
Also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, psychotherapy involves working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. It can be an effective treatment for anxiety.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. Generally a short-term treatment, CBT focuses on teaching you specific skills to improve your symptoms and gradually return to the activities you’ve avoided because of anxiety.
CBT includes exposure therapy, in which you gradually encounter the object or situation that triggers your anxiety so you build confidence that you can manage the situation and anxiety symptoms.
Several types of medications are used to help relieve symptoms, depending on the type of anxiety disorder you have and whether you also have other mental or physical health issues. For example:
Certain antidepressants are also used to treat anxiety disorders.
An anti-anxiety medication called buspirone may be prescribed.
In limited circumstances, your doctor may prescribe other types of medications, such as sedatives, also called benzodiazepines, or beta blockers. These medications are for short-term relief of anxiety symptoms and are not intended to be used long term.
You Are Not Alone
The following famous people have suffered from Anxiety
- Johnny Depp – Johnny Depp may be one of the most popular actors in the world, but that hasn’t stopped him from suffering from panic attacks for years. The actor doesn’t speak about them very often, but his struggles with panic disorder are well known.
- Adele – The most famous singer in the world in 2011 and 2012 appears to have suffered from not only panic attacks but also social phobia and severe stage fright. Performing in front of crowds of thousands can give anyone stage fright, but there is a strong likelihood that her anxiety attacks were an issue long before she ever stepped on stage.
- David Beckham – While he’s managed to live a fairly decent quality of life despite his disorder, David Beckham has all of the qualities of a real celebrity living with OCD. Beckham’s obsession is order, specifically with pairs. He needs to have even numbers or he becomes very uncomfortable and has been known to throw out or add to things in order to make sure they’re an even number.
- Emma Stone – Speaking of famous actors and actresses, Emma Stone may be one of the most popular young women in movies today, but she also dealt with numerous panic attacks to the point where she developed agoraphobia. While most people get panic attacks in their 20’s, Emma Stone got her first panic attack in her youth. Today, she says she still deals with panic attacks once in a while but has found that she’s developed healthy coping strategies to deal with them.
- Howie Mandel – A “fear of germs” doesn’t necessarily make you obsessive compulsive, but Howie Mandel’s lifestyle changes are indicative of a person that is overcoming a real mental health disorder. Mandel not only doesn’t shake hands or touch dirty things – he even keeps his hair shaved to help him feel cleaner.