A Guide to Anxiety

February 3rd, 2014 by


Anxiety is an umbrella term for a number of disorders characterised by worry, nervousness, fear and apprehension. Mild anxiety can be unsettling, while severe anxiety can have a serious impact on an individual’s life to a debilitating extent. These disorders impact behaviour in both personal and professional environments, and manifest a range of physical symptoms.

Of course, it is perfectly justified to expect a certain degree of fear or worry before an exam, presentation or other personally challenging situation. It is only considered a problem when an individual’s anxiety interferes with healthy function such as their sleep pattern or eating habits. Anxiety is generally recognised when fear and apprehension occur to a degree that is not normally expected in a specific situation.

Anxiety can be classified into a number of recognised forms.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a chronic disorder, which is plagued with excessive worry and fear which is long lasting and applied to life itself, rather than specific stimuli. GAD sufferers typically have health fears, money worries, career anxiety and the list goes on. They typical struggle to view things in perspective and fail to control fears from escalating. As a result their worries grow completely out of proportion or to unrealistic measures, and this has a serious impact on their life. GAD sufferers expect disaster and failure which interferes with daily life, relationships and work.

Panic Disorder is characterised by acute bouts of terror and intense fear. These sudden panic attacks lead to shaking, difficulty breathing, dizziness and even nausea. These attacks tend to last no longer than 10 minutes, but can last hours. Panic disorders typically occur after an acutely stressful or terrifying experience, but they can also be random with the cause unknown. Panic attacks can be confused as heart attacks or other serious life-threatening conditions. Panic disorders often lead sufferers to constantly fear spontaneous attacks, which may lead to drastic changes in behaviour.

A phobia is an unreasonable fear for an object or situation. A phobia is a strong reaction with an identified stimuli – be it an object or situation. The fear may be recognised as irrational but the individual may be incapable of controlling the anxiety. The stimuli for phobias can range from certain situations, creatures or even to household objects.

Social Anxiety Disorder is a phobia caused by social events or circumstances. It is characterised by a fear reminiscent of stage fright and severe humiliation. Usually fears spring from being judged negatively by others or public embarrassment. Sufferers may avoid social situations and public contact to the point of rarely leaving the house.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a condition which is identified by repetitive, unsettling and intrusive actions or logic. The thought process of an individual with OCD may appear almost superstitious in nature, such as walking up the stairs in a certain unbreakable pattern. OCD sufferers may obsessively clean their hands to point of red raw skin, or repeatedly check the oven is switched off over and over again before leaving the house.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a fear that is consequence of a previous traumatic experience such as a serious accident or attack. PTSD commonly leads to mind flashbacks and behavioural shifts in character.

Separation Anxiety is characterised by intense fear when separated from a person or object which provides comfort and a sense of security. The panic that arises during such separation is labelled a disorder if the response is irrational and excessive.

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