5 Surprising Types of Anxiety Disorders You Might Not Know About
In today’s topic, I’m going to talk about five types of anxiety disorders. Are you a worrier? No, I don’t mean do you have appropriate concern. I mean, do you have excessive, consistent, persistent worry that causes you distress or even impairs your life?
Let me ask you this: Have you ever locked the front door, and you know you locked that front door, yet the thought of the possibility of it being unlocked drives you to go in and lock it again, and then to keep checking over and over again to make sure that it’s locked? If the answer is yes, you may have an anxiety disorder.
What is anxiety?
Well, anxiety in and of itself is a normal part of life. It is a nervousness or uneasiness in anticipation of an impending doom or a negative event. It becomes an anxiety disorder when this excessive worry, this consistent, persistent intrusion of thoughts, actually causes distress or impairs one’s life. Some symptoms of anxiety disorders include excessive, persistent worry, difficulty sleeping, difficulty relaxing, forgetfulness, and fatigue. You may get headaches, neck or shoulder pain, and back pain. You may also get some aches or dizziness.
Let’s talk about five types of anxiety disorders.
1. Generalized anxiety disorder
Now, again, it is normal to have some worries and some anxiety. In generalized anxiety disorder, there is an excessive, consistent worry that actually causes great distress and impairs life’s function. For example, if you are a person who does not have a job and you need a job, and now you are going on yet another job interview, but all of a sudden you have so much intense worry about things that may go wrong.
You have various concerns before your job interview: thoughts of a potential flight mishap, worries about tripping on the stairs, concerns about your suit fitting properly, and some unfounded anxieties about your appearance and the job’s location.
Now, you have difficulty sleeping, you’re irritable, and you get to the point where this intense fear, this anxiety, is so great that you cancel yet another job interview. This impairs your life because you need a job, but you can’t get a job because of your generalized anxiety disorder.
In order to have a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, this impairing anxiety must occur more days than not and for at least six months. Generalized anxiety disorder is more common among women than men, and it’s also common among patients with chronic pain, especially if the chronic pain cannot seem to be diagnosed medically.
2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Used to be classified as an anxiety disorder, but now it actually has a classification of its own. But I’ll still address it in this lesson because anxiety is so relevant in OCD. Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is characterized by repetitive, intrusive, persistent thoughts or urges. These are the obsessions. The obsessions cause anxiety.
The anxiety must be relieved by the person with OCD performing repetitive behaviors or mental activities; these are the compulsions. Now, usually, the obsessions or the urges are not warranted, but a person with OCD absolutely must perform the compulsive act in order to relieve the anxiety. Usually, there is a rigidity in these acts that must be completed in order to make the person with OCD feel whole.
Example Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- If the obsession is contamination or feeling dirty, then the compulsion may be hand washing. Now, I don’t mean the person who sits next to you in the cubicle who loves to use Purell or hand sanitizer every chance she gets. I mean a person who feels obsessed. They’re constantly thinking about worrying about being contaminated or dirty, and it drives them to wash their hands over and over again. Every time they touch something, they wash their hands. Every time they think about something getting on them, they wash their hands, and they wash their hands to the point of their hands becoming chapped and bleeding or even infected. This is an example of what someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder might do.
- Another example of a potential obsession is symmetry. If a person is obsessed with things being symmetrical and in order, the compulsion may be to count over and over again or to reorganize their pantry so that all the cans are in perfect balance in color and size. Or a person obsessed with symmetry may reorganize their towel closet over and over again so that all the towel sizes and all the towel colors balance, all about symmetry.
They’re counting to the point where these compulsions prevent them from doing other things, preventing them from being productive, so it becomes an impairment. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, usually starts in childhood or adolescence and can last through life. 76% of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder also have another anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder, and 63% of patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder have an associated mood disorder, most commonly major depressive disorder.
3. Panic disorder
Panic disorder is characterized by an abrupt, spontaneous, intense fear that leads to physical symptoms such as chest pains, shortness of breath, and hyperventilation. A panic attack can cause a person to feel like they are extremely physically ill and often leads them to go to the emergency department. Panic attacks may be triggered by a traumatic event. For example, if a person has been severely bitten by a dog, then watching a movie like “The Secret Life of Pets” may actually trigger a panic attack. Or if a person has an extreme fear of flying, then watching a Delta commercial with a flight attendant may trigger a panic attack. Sometimes panic attacks require no trigger at all, or sometimes the fear of having a panic attack can trigger a panic attack.
4. Social anxiety disorder or social phobia.
Social anxiety disorder is characterized by an intense fear of embarrassment, humiliation, scrutiny, or judgment in social settings or in settings where one has to perform or speak.
The intense anxiety or fear caused by these social settings is so extreme that it will cause a person with social anxiety disorder to avoid these social settings, even if it’s to their own detriment. For example, a person with social anxiety who is a technical professional, working on computers all day in isolation, might have to make a presentation to others in the company to secure a job promotion. However, their intense fear of humiliation, failure, embarrassment, or scrutiny could lead them to opt not to do the presentation, thereby forfeiting the promotion and even risking job loss—all because the social anxiety is so overwhelming. This is an example of what may happen in social anxiety disorder. The actions taken to avoid anxiety often end up impairing a person’s life.
5. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
These can occur in individuals who have experienced trauma, which refers to an event that has caused serious harm, or death, or an event with the potential to cause serious harm, injury, or death. Examples of individuals who may suffer from PTSD include veterans who have lived through a war, experienced combat or witnessed the deaths of friends during wartime. Additionally, someone who has survived a major car accident or a mass shooting may develop PTSD. Patients with PTSD can exhibit symptoms such as being highly jumpy or easily startled.
They can have difficulty sleeping, difficulty relaxing, or they can even have numbness, where they have kind of a flat emotional response. Many patients with PTSD also have mood disorders such as major depressive disorders, and patients with PTSD who are not adequately managed, and not treated, can be at high risk for trying to take their own lives.
Fortunately, there are treatments for anxiety disorders.
Depending on the specific type of anxiety disorder or the patient, the treatment will vary. So, treatments include:
– Therapy, such as psychotherapy cognitive-behavioral therapy, or medications.
– There can be psychotropic drugs, antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and benzodiazepines.
If any of these symptoms sound like they could affect you or a loved one, please consult your physician and get worked up. Find out if you could have an anxiety disorder and what the best treatment for you.