Anxiety versus anxiety disorders
Everyone gets anxious from time to time. Anxiety can help you stay safe. For example, it brings about physiological symptoms that warn you to fight, flee or freeze in dangerous situations. Anxiety also helps you perform better. For example, feeling anxious before an exam can assist you to stay alert, which helps you to do your best. It’s not uncommon to feel anxious before exams or when there are stressful events in your life. For more info, check out the Anxiety fact sheet.
If this anxiety is interfering with many areas of your day-to-day life like schoolwork or relationships, it’s possible that you have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can make you feel nervous a lot of the time in different situations and for maybe long periods of time.
Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million Americans. If you have an anxiety disorder you are definitely not alone.
What causes anxiety and anxiety disorders?
Anxiety can be part your genetic and biochemical make up, as well as part of your personality. There are many things that can trigger anxiety, such as your environment, stressful situations, problems within the family, or a traumatic event.
Some causes of an anxiety disorder might be:
- Genetics: A history of anxiety within your family;
- Biochemical: An imbalance of the chemicals in the brain that regulate feelings and physical reactions, which can alter your thoughts, emotions or behavior;
- A stressful event: A single event or chain of events such as divorce, abuse, ongoing bullying at school, sexual abuse, a death, a relationship break-up, or family conflict;
- Personality: Certain personality types are more at risk of anxiety than others.
Types of anxiety disorders and symptoms
There are many different types of anxiety disorders, each with their own symptoms and treatments. Here is a list of examples:
General anxiety is an extreme and uncontrollable worry that is not specific to any one thing.
Social anxiety or social phobia involves a fear of social or performance situations (such as meeting new people) in which an individual may be embarrassed. People with social anxiety commonly avoid social situations. Check out the Social anxiety fact sheet for more info.
Agoraphobia is anxiety about being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult or embarrassing if an individual has a panic attack. It usually leads to avoidance of certain places and situations.
Claustrophobia is the fear of enclosed or confined spaces. People with claustrophobia may experience panic attacks, or fear of having a panic attack, in situations such as being in elevators or trains.
Panic disorder occurs when you have regular panic attacks. Some people may develop agoraphobia as a result of the panic attacks. Check out the Panic Attacks fact sheet for more info.
Specific phobias involve intense and ongoing fear of particular objects or situations. Seeing the object you’re afraid of might trigger a panic attack. Usually the object or situation is avoided.
Hypochondria refers to an extreme concern or worry about having a serious illness. People with hypochondria have a constant fixation with their body, self-examining and self-diagnosing.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involves unwanted thoughts, impulses, or obsessions and repetitive, routine behaviors, also called compulsions. Check out the OCD fact sheet for more info.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder sparked by a major traumatic event, such as rape or accident. It is marked by upsetting memories, “blunting” of emotions, and difficulties sleeping. Check out the PTSD fact sheet for more info.
There are a number of treatments for the different anxiety disorders. It might be a good idea to research the disorder relevant to you and arrange to see your doctor. They should be able to tell you about the different treatment options available and let you know what the best approach is for you.
Try to remember that managing your anxiety disorder may take time. There may be good days and not so good days. Dealing with your anxiety disorder is possible. For more information and on how to get help, visit Mental Health Support and Treatment Options. You can also look at the Anxiety Disorders of America for more information.
The following source provided information for this fact sheet:
Statistics provided by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Last edited by Kristie - Feb 2014.