We all have feelings of anxiety, fear and worry sometimes. These can be normal responses to specific situations and are often considered healthy emotions. However, when a person regularly feels disproportional anxiety, it might become a medical disorder.
If you have an anxiety disorder, these feelings of fear and danger can be ongoing and interfere with your daily routine or cause sleep problems, even long after the threat is gone.
Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Racing thoughts
- Having a sense of danger or panic
- Breathing heavily (hyperventilation)
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty controlling worry/difficulties concentrating
- Experiencing gastrointestinal problems
- Increased heart rate
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
- Changes in appetite
Five Major Types of Anxiety Disorders:
There are five major types of anxiety disorders. Everyone’s experience of anxiety disorders is different, so not everyone will experience the same signs or symptoms.
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
GAD is an anxiety disorder characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and stress, even when there is little or nothing to enrage it.
2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviours (compulsions). Repetitive behaviours such as hand-washing, counting or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts and providing temporary relief.
3. Panic Disorder.
Panic disorder is identified 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 can develop after exposure to a traumatizing event or ordeal in which physical harm or threat occurred. PTSD triggers may include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents or military combat.
5. Social Phobia.
Also known as Social Anxiety Disorder, this is characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. Social Phobia can be limited to one type of situation, such as fear of speaking in formal situations or eating/drinking in front of others. In severe forms, a person may experience symptoms just by being around other people.
When to Seek Medical Attention:
See your doctor if:
- You think your anxiety could be linked to a physical health problem
- You have suicidal thoughts or behaviours - in this case, seek emergency help immediately
- You feel like you’re worrying too much, and it’s interfering with work, relationships or other parts of your life
- Your fear, worry or anxiety is upsetting and difficult to control
- You feel depressed, have trouble with alcohol or drug use.
While it may be extremely hard to prevent anxiety completely, the proper steps can be taken to reduce the impact of symptoms if you are experiencing anxiety.
Some helpful tips include:
- Get help early. Anxiety can be harder to treat the longer you wait.
- Stay active. Be sure to get your daily dose of activities that make you feel good. Enjoying social interaction can help lessen your worries.
- Avoid alcohol and drug use, which can worsen anxiety. If you are addicted to any of these substances, quitting can make you anxious. If you can’t quit on your own, seek help from your doctor.
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Written by: Melissa Ureten