Anxiety Disorders

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is anxiety about or avoidance of places or situations from which escape might be difficult or embarrassing. This anxiety typically leads to avoidance of a variety of situations and may impair a person’s ability to work or carry out homemaking responsibilities.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is excessive anxiety and worry, occurring on more days than not, about any number of events or activities, though not specific to anything in particular. People suffering from the disorder find it difficult or impossible to control this worrying. Symptoms include restlessness or feeling on edge, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and difficulty sleeping.

Medical conditions and substances toxic to the body (drugs, environmental toxins, etc.) can cause symptoms similar to those related to GAD, but the causes of the anxiety are specific and more easily identified.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involves having repeated obsessions or compulsions that that are severe enough to be time-consuming or cause significant impairment.

Obsessions are persistent ideas, thoughts, impulses, or images that are intrusive and inappropriate. People with OCD often feel like they have no control over these activities, even as they recognize that these things are products of their own mind and not from an outside source. The most common obsessions are about contamination (such as “germs” from shaking hands), repeated doubts, a need to have things in a particular order, or aggressive or horrific impulses (such as the impulse to hurt one’s child or yell obscenities in church). An individual with such obsessions attempts to ignore or suppress them with various actions or thoughts that they feel compelled to engage in to prevent some dreaded event or situation.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors associated with the obsessions. Examples include constant hand washing; repeated cleaning, straightening, and checking on things; and counting or repeating words silently. By performing these actions, individuals may feel reduced anxiety or stress. People with OCD may recognize that their actions are unreasonable, yet also feel they have no control over performing them. In some cases obsessions and compulsions can consume considerable amounts of time in the course of a day and can interfere significantly with normal routines, occupations, social activities or relationships.

Panic Disorder

A Panic Attack is a period of time in which a person experiences sudden feelings of apprehension, fearfulness, or terror, often accompanied by a sense of impending doom. During these attacks, an afflicted person can experience shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, sensations of choking or being smothered, and fear of losing control or “going crazy.”

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder brought on by a severely traumatic experience. These experiences can include actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others. Such trauma can result from military combat, sexual assault, robbery, mugging, kidnapping, terrorist attack, torture, internment as a prisoner of war, natural or manmade disasters or accidents, or being diagnosed with a life threatening illness.

PSTD can manifest itself in many ways, but, most commonly, a person suffers recurrent and intrusive recollections, “flash backs,” or dreams. In order to avoid recalling the original trauma, an individual may make deliberate efforts to stay away from certain activities, situations, and conversations. Symptoms can include anxiety, exaggerated startle responses, irritability, outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating or completing tasks, and difficulty falling or staying asleep out of fear of recurrent nightmares.

Acute Stress Disorder

Like PTSD, Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) is an anxiety disorder that involves a very specific reaction following exposure to a traumatic event or stressor (a serious injury to oneself, witnessing an act of violence, hearing about something horrible that has happened to someone you are close to). However, the duration of acute stress disorder is shorter than that for PTSD. For a diagnosis of acute stress disorder, the full range of symptoms must be present for at least two days and no more than four weeks. If the symptoms persist for longer than four weeks, a diagnosis of PTSD should be considered.

Social Phobia

Social Phobia is the fear of confronting certain social situations. Symptoms include intense self-consciousness and unreasonable fear of embarrassment. Physical symptoms also can manifest themselves, including blushing, trembling, sweating, or muscle tension.

Specific Phobia

Specific Phobia is anxiety provoked by a specific feared object or situation. Phobias can include Animal Type (animals and insects); Natural Environment Type (thunderstorms, heights, water); Blood-Injection Injury Type (receiving an injection or other bodily injury); Situational Type (tunnels, bridges, elevators, flying, enclosed places) and Other Type (choking, vomiting, contracting an illness). Most of the time the person recognizes that the fear is unreasonable.

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