Anxiety is a very common feeling – one that of fear or apprehension about a future event. We all feel a bit anxious every now and then, for instance – right before a big presentation or a job interview. It is simply how the body naturally responds to everyday stress. However, anxiety disorders are a lot different from these usual feelings of anxiety. Anxiety disorders refer to a mental health disorder, which is characterized by feelings of anxiety, fear or worry, strong enough to impede one’s routine activities. Symptoms of such disorders include excessive stress, restlessness and inability to set aside a worry. Anxiety disorders are classified into 6 major types. These include the following –
Generalized Anxiety Disorder - Of all types of anxiety disorders, Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most common one. It is characterized by exaggerated tension and worries over a prolonged period even when there is nothing much to trigger these feelings.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - This type of anxiety disorder is characterized by unwanted, recurrent thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviours (compulsions). A person having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder may feel a strong urge to perform repetitive behaviours, like cleaning, counting, checking or washing with the hope of preventing or eliminating obsessive thoughts. He or she may find temporary relief on performing these ‘rituals’ while not being able to do these tasks may trigger anxiety in them.
Panic Disorder - Panic disorder is characterized by repeated and unexpected episodes of extreme fear accompanied by certain symptoms, such as palpitations, chest pain, abdominal cramps, dizziness and shortness of breath.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder may develop following an unfortunate, traumatic event, in which the person experienced grave physical injuries or mental agony. The person may feel threatened for several days, months or even years after the incident took place. Traumatic events, like an accident, physical assault, sexual abuse, natural or man-made calamity, or military combat, may trigger PTSD.
Social Anxiety Disorder - Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as Social Phobia, is characterized by extreme self-consciousness and overwhelming feelings of anxiety in certain social settings. This type of behaviour may be restricted to one type of situation only, such as the fear of drinking or eating in front of others, or speaking in front of a huge audience. In more severe cases, the fear may be so intense that a person may start experiencing symptoms almost anytime he or she is surrounded by people.
Specific Phobias - These refer to an unreasonable and overwhelming fear of situations or objects that actually pose minimal threat or danger but provoke avoidance and anxiety. For example – a person who is afraid of heights may have an anxiety attack while travelling on a plane or someone with the fear of needles may go to any lengths to avoid getting an injection.
Anxiety disorders are a more serious form of mental illness. If left undiagnosed and untreated for long, these may have a greater impact on one’s life and even lead to other mental health issues, like chronic stress or depression. Therefore, if you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety disorders, or if you know someone who has been witnessing the same, consult a doctor for immediate assistance and coping strategies.