Anxiety disorders are common among people of all ages. In fact, anxiety is the most common mental health issue. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), over 40 million Americans above the age of 18 suffer from one or the other type of anxiety. Everybody feels anxious or nervous sometime or the other. Financial problems, examination fears, blind dates, speaking in public, and wedding day are some occasions where feeling anxious is normal. For some people, anxiety becomes so frequent that it overpowers them and takes over their lives, leaving them incapable of thinking rationally.
Anxiety can range in severity from mild to extreme and even exhausting. A person with an anxiety disorder may feel fearful or uncertain almost all the time. Anxiety is caused due to numerous other reasons too. While some people are susceptible to anxiety because of their genetic makeup, others are just unable to handle stress. The seven main types of anxiety disorders and their accompanying symptoms are discussed here, which may help you identify if you suffer from anxiety disorder.
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most common and widespread type of anxiety, which affect millions of people world-wide. GAD is an ongoing state of mental and/or physical tension and nervousness, either without a specific reason or without the ability to overcome the anxiety. GAD makes people feel disruptions in daily life, constantly on edge, worried, anxious, and physically or mentally stressed. When anxiety occurs for no apparent reason or for trivial reasons that should not cause major anxiousness, you may have generalized anxiety disorder.
Symptoms Of GAD
- Edginess, or a feeling of being without control
- Fatigue, lethargy, or low energy levels
- Muscle tension, especially on the back, neck, and shoulders
- Lack of concentration
- Obsession over negative thoughts
2. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Social phobia, or irrational fear of social situations, affects many people. A certain degree of social phobia is normal. Minor levels of shyness in public places or feeling uncomfortable during public speaking are natural among most people and do not indicate an anxiety problem. But, when it begins to disrupt your life, you may be a victim of social phobia. In people with social phobia, shyness is intense. Also, such people feel uncomfortable, afraid and anxious when socializing or speaking with the public, strangers, authorities, or friends. Such people feel public situations as being painful and distressing. They live with a constant fear of being judged, observed, or avoided. They also have a fear of doing something wrong or embarrassing. This unfounded shyness makes them completely avoid healthy socializing situations.
Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder
- Feeling hopeless
- Fear of unfamiliar people or unfamiliar situations
- Obsession over being watched, observed, or judged by strangers
- Overwhelming anxiety in social situation
- Extreme fear of public speaking
- Anxiety about the idea of social situations
- Problems in meeting new people or speaking to them
3. Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is an exhausting anxiety disorder and quite different from GAD. Panic disorder is when people experience extreme feelings of doom that cause both mental and physical symptoms. In extreme cases, some people are even hospitalized, assuming that they are dangerously unhealthy. Panic attacks are intense physical and mental feelings triggered by stress, anxiety, or for no apparent reason. Panic attacks may be triggered by over-sensitivity to body sensations, by stress, or by nothing at all. Often, panic disorder can be extremely difficult to control without help. Panic disorder causes mental distress, but it also causes many physical symptoms. People may experience some or all the physical symptoms.
Symptoms Of Panic Disorder
- Heart palpitations or irregular or fast paced heart beats
- Excessive sweating or hot/cold flashes
- Tingling sensations, numbness, or weakness in the body
- Headaches, feeling of ear pressure
- Trouble in breathing or feeling out of breath
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Chest pain or stomach pain
- Digestive problems and/or discomfort
Agoraphobia is the fear of going out in public, open spaces or unfamiliar places. Many people with agoraphobia don’t leave their home, or avoid travelling anywhere except their home and office. Some people may go only to specific familiar places. Going to any other place can be a traumatizing experience for them. Some people who have agoraphobia also suffer from panic disorder, as agoraphobia is often caused by panic attacks. Since some people experience panic attacks in public places, they start avoiding more places, until a point where they are afraid leave their homes. Some people may also experience agoraphobia after a traumatic event. They fear losing psychological and physical control, resulting in them avoiding social situations.
Symptoms Of Agoraphobia
- Obsessive fear of socializing with known or unknown people
- Severe anxiety when outside of home
- Tension and stress in daily activities
- Pre-occupation with self-protection and safety in case of trouble in perfectly safe places
- Awareness that your own fears are preventing you from going out
Phobias are extreme feelings of fear of objects, situations, animals, places, etc. Phobias generally cause people to think that the worst will happen or that a disaster may strike. It also causes avoidance behaviors, which is doing whatever possible to avoid the fear. Real danger from what the people fear may or may not exist. It could just be their imagination. Claustrophobic people are afraid of closed spaces, like the elevator and almost always take the stairs. Though phobias are considered as an anxiety disorder, some people live their whole life with a phobia without requiring any treatment. Most people have small phobias that don’t affect their lives much. But, if the phobia affects your ability to live normally, you may have to consult an expert.
Symptoms Of Phobias
- Excessive, continuous fear of a specific situation or event
- Feeling of terror when confronted with the phobia subject
- Inability to control fears despite knowing they are irrational
- Going out of the way to avoid situations or objects that cause fear
- Experiencing disruptions to your normal life due to the fear
6. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
When people experience either physical or emotional trauma in life, it can cause an anxiety problem known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that occurs after experiencing a traumatic event. PTSD affects people both psychologically and physically. Since PTSD affects people even years after a traumatic event, expert medical help is required, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Although PTSD occurs in people who have experienced the traumatic event themselves as a victim, it may also occur in people who have been a witness to a traumatic event.
Symptoms Of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Reliving the trauma emotionally, mentally, and physically, and feeling as though they are transported back in time to the event.
- Having triggers, often related to the event, that cause extreme stress or fear, or just thoughts about the event can trigger PTSD
- Developing severe anxiety over the event re-occurring, experiencing regular anxiety over the thought of the event’s recurrence is also a symptom of PTSD
- Experiencing problems with their emotional thoughts and future, feeling disinterested or detached from love or become emotionally numb or feel they will die; some or all of these emotional problems are common in persons with PTSD
- Adopting avoidance behaviors of events, things, or people that remind them of the event, experiencing higher stress levels on most days, may often be short tempered, experience difficulty in sleeping and can be startled or frightened easily
7. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is often considered as a very destructive anxiety disorder. People who suffer from OCD exhibit behaviors and fears that are confusing and eccentric to those around them as well as to themselves. In most cases, compulsions and obsessions appear very unusual. Some people may also realize that their compulsion or obsession is irrational and unfounded. But, they just can’t get over the habit. Though compulsions and obsessions are similar, they can manifest themselves in different ways.
Obsessions are thought-based and are a preoccupation with a particular thought, which is usually negative or fearful. No matter how hard they try, they are unable to let go of the thought or get it out of their heads.
Compulsions are behavior-based and are a requirement to perform a task, action or activity, often in a very specific and meticulous manner. Whatever they do, they cannot stop themselves from habit of the behavior.
People may require counselling or medical intervention for only obsessions, only compulsions, or both. They may have compulsions without obsessions, although the person will feel severely stressed if they don’t respond to the compulsion. Some people also have obsessions without compulsions, but often these fears lead to a compulsion.
Symptoms Of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Repeated intrusive and obsessive thoughts about almost anything like fear of contamination by germs or dirt; fear of intruders; preoccupation with violent acts; unwanted sexual images and acts; unwanted religious thoughts; preoccupation with neatness and hygiene; obsession over certain sounds, images, words, or numbers.
- Doing the same action repeatedly like washing hands, locking and unlocking doors, cabinets and drawers, hoarding useless possessions, counting, repeating the same steps, excessive cleaning and tidying, constant need for approval, skin picking, hair pulling, etc.
- Though people with OCD do not derive pleasure from performing the actions repeatedly, they obtain a brief respite or relief from anxiety caused by the interfering OCD thoughts. Such thoughts consume a considerable amount of the person’s time and energy, causes stress and interferes with daily life and social activities.
Common Symptoms Of Anxiety
Anxiety is a strong emotion that we all experience at sometime or the other in our lives. While these emotional experiences are not any specific type of anxiety, they do cause some disturbance to our lives and display some physical and mental symptoms, which are common to anxiety, in general. These generic, common symptoms are mentioned below.
1. Excessive Worry
Some people take worrying to the limit. They tend to worry about everything, big or small. Their anxiety interferes with their daily life and is accompanied by noticeable symptoms, such as fatigue. The difference between an anxiety disorder and just normal anxiety is whether your emotions are causing a lot of suffering and dysfunction.
2. Sleep Problems
Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep can be caused due to both physical and psychological health conditions. It is quite normal to have slightly disturbed sleep on the night before an important day or a job interview. However, some people are unable to sleep and stay awake worrying about trivial problems. Sometimes, they don’t even know what they are worried about. This may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
3. Chronic Indigestion
Remember the sinking feeling in your stomach when you are anxious? Though anxiety begins from the mind, it often manifests itself in the body through physical symptoms, like chronic digestive problems. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a condition accompanied by stomach pain, cramps, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea caused due to anxiety in the digestive tract. The digestive system is sensitive to psychological stress and the physical and social discomfort of chronic digestive problems can make a person feel more anxious.
4. Loss In Appetite
Anxiety can be so overpowering sometimes that people may not even feel hungry. The digestive system is closely connected with how you feel psychologically and appetite may take a backseat when you have other important things on your mind to worry about. However, starving will only worsen the condition. On the contrary, eating something you enjoy can help take your mind off your worries, albeit for just a little while.
5. Social Anxiety
Social anxiety doesn’t always mean addressing a crowd or being in the spotlight. In most cases, the anxiety is caused by common situations like talking to someone at an occasion, or socializing with people. In such scenarios, people with social anxiety disorder feel that everyone is looking at them and tend to become very conscious about themselves, making them blush, tremble, dizzy, sweat or stutter when they speak. These symptoms become a barrier to meet new people, maintain relationships, and progress at work or in school. This is the beginning of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), which is a specific type of anxiety disorder.
6. Panic Attacks
Panic attacks can be a harrowing experience and often includes physical symptoms like breathing problems, increased heart rate, numb hands, sweating, weakness, dizziness, chest or stomach pain, and feeling hot or cold. People who experience panic attacks frequently may suffer from anxiety disorder. They try to avoid places where attacks have occurred in the past.
7. Muscle Tension
People who are anxious tend to make their muscles tense. This is more of the body’s automatic reaction, just as you brace yourself before you fall. Sometimes, people voluntarily tighten their muscles. Common muscle tensions include clenching the jaw or balling the fists. Over time, they make it a habit and often goes unnoticed by the person. Regular exercise can help maintain equilibrium and keep muscle tension under control.
Reliving a disturbing or traumatic experience often occurs with anxiety disorders. Flashbacks may occur with other types of anxiety also. Some people with social anxiety have flashbacks of events that might not seem very traumatic. These people may even avoid reminders of the experience—a symptom reminiscent of PTSD.
9. Dry Mouth
People who experience extreme anxiety often feel their mouths and throats going dry. This happens when your body feels dehydrated. Some people, who are on medication that treats anxiety may also experience the dry mouth effect, as the drugs prescribed may cause this side-effect.
10. Heart Palpitations
Anxiety increases your heart beat and you feel the heart pounding in your chest. The fear of the unknown outcome and your worrying adds to the effect. Palpitations make you feel like your heart is beating too hard or too fast, skipping a beat, or fluttering. Most of the time, they’re caused by strong emotions like stress and anxiety.
11. Excessive Urination Or Sweating
When people experience anxiety or have bouts of anxiety attacks, they sweat and/or urinate. These are natural reactions to anxiety. Their body may sweat profusely, especially the palms and the feet. These also cause water loss, and may require you to drink more water during the day than you normally do. So, as a consequence, when people drink more water due to thirst, they feel the urge to urinate frequently.
12. Fear Of Going Crazy
Many people feel like they have completely lost control of their lives when they experience anxiety. They feel helpless and are unable to think rationally, as they focus more on the problem than on the solution. Even the simplest of tasks seems humongous to them and they feel incapable of accomplishing them. As their thoughts spin out of control, they feel they are going crazy.
So, here are 12 common symptoms of anxiety, which should not be ignored. If you experience some or many of these symptoms, it is better to consult your doctor and follow their advice.