You don’t have to be looking for Delray Mental Health resources in order to experience anxiety—in fact, anxiety is a normal, and even healthy, part of life for the average American. However, in excess, this emotion can go from a great guide on your life path to an overbearing demon that prevents you from taking risks, socializing, or even leaving the house!
Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health conditions in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the US every year. That’s 18% of the population! There are several different types of anxiety disorders, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Disorder. In this article, we will discuss what each type of anxiety disorder is and how it is treated, as well as what to do if you experience overwhelming anxiety.
What's the Difference Between Feeling Anxious and Being Diagnosed With an Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety itself is a fact of normal life and will present naturally, especially in moments of growth or achievement. Experiencing this emotion in and of itself can be a good guide for navigating stress—but when it accumulates to the point that regular life is impaired, a patient may need a psychiatrist to step in. Anxiety presents in a wide array of ways including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, and others. If you suspect you may be struggling with an anxiety disorder, it’s crucial to seek psychiatric care from a qualified professional in order to regain control of your life.
What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
General Anxiety Disorder is expressed in a state of constant, uncontrollable worry that interferes with daily life. This type of anxiety disorder can evolve into Agoraphobia or Panic Disorder if left untreated—so seeking psychiatric help is vital to a patient’s success. Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder include:
· Inability to or challenges with accepting uncertainty
· Difficulty letting go of worried thinking, or relaxing
· Challenges with concentration
· Magnifying mundane events or people into perceived threats
· Fatigue, or sleep problems
· Tension or muscle pain
· Gastrointestinal issues or nausea
· Profuse sweating without physical exertion
· Rapid heart rate
General Anxiety Disorder is characterized by a disproportionate amount of worry over regular, commonplace events that would not be equal to the impact of the event. For example, a person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder may worry that they were too bold in asking for a raise and catastrophize scenarios in their head, imagining that they will be rejected, demoted, or even fired. In reality, the impact of asking for a raise comes in the form of either a “yes” or a “no,” and generally would not result in terminated employment. General Anxiety Disorder may even prevent a patient from taking risks like asking for a raise in the first place.
What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Sometimes also referred to as Social Phobia, Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by extreme fear of embarrassment or judgment from others; it often manifests in the form of self-consciousness and can lead to patterns of avoidance that may disrupt school, work, or other social functions. Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder include:
· Heightened, disproportionate fear of talking to strangers
· Fear of embarrassment or judgment from others
· Self-consciousness, or worrying that you will look worried
· Avoiding public speaking or being the primary focus of others’ attention
· Overthinking and rehashing of social interactions and picking apart personal flaws
· Expecting the worst-case scenario out of social interaction
· Disinclination to speak for fear of being perceived negatively
· Muscle aches or tension
· Blushing, trembling, or sweating
· Rapid heart rate
· Feeling “blank” or frozen
Social Anxiety Disorder is best differentiated from General Anxiety Disorder by an individual’s perception of public speaking or social events. If these sorts of activities seem unbearable to the individual, they may have Social Anxiety Disorder rather than General Anxiety Disorder.
What Is Panic Disorder?
In contrast to Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder is characterized by extreme fear which can manifest and cause physical problems for the patient. This fear is often incredibly debilitating and may lead to symptoms like:
· Heart palpitations
· Chest pain
· Gastrointestinal distress or nausea
· Inability to control breathing (shortness of breath or gasping)
· Inability to control feelings of panic or intense fear
Panic Attacks or Panic Disorder can be triggered by environmental stressors such as drinking too much coffee, undergoing a major life change, or experiencing a traumatic event—but they may also occur if your family has a history of Panic Disorder or even if you have a history of abuse. Panic Disorder is extremely serious and, if left untreated, can evolve into other mental health conditions, including comorbidities with other phobias, Depression, impulsive or suicidal behavior, or substance abuse.
What Is Agoraphobia?
This anxiety disorder is characterized by an aversion to or avoidance of situations where the patient will feel trapped, helpless, or like they cannot escape. This avoidance of public places can escalate to the extent that a patient will fear stepping foot outside their home, let alone going to work or to the grocery store. Symptoms of Agoraphobia include:
· Fear of crowds, public places, or waiting in line
· Fear of small spaces like elevators
· Fear of enclosed spaces like lecture halls or gymnasiums
· Fear of open spaces, like parking lots
· Fear of using public transportation like a subway
· Labored breathing
· Trembling or numbness
· Chills or flushing
· Nausea or diarrhea
· Chest pain or rapid heart rate
· Feeling out of control or helpless
· Disproportional fear of dying
Agoraphobia can severely impact a patient’s ability to function during normal tasks like going to an appointment or participating in social events. Left untreated or unaddressed, it is not unusual to see patients who live in a constant state of avoidance rather than confronting their disproportional fears.
What Is the Difference Between Phobias and General Anxiety Disorder?
While Generalized Anxiety Disorder stems from a general, uncontrollable worry over various aspects of everyday life, phobias are specified to certain things, events, or triggers, such as an intense fear of spiders or the color green. Phobias will also often contain an element of avoidance, wherein the patient will go to great lengths to avoid confronting their specific irrational fear; with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a patient might experience uncomfortable physical symptoms and a disrupted lifestyle, but this will not be specific to one root cause.
What Causes Anxiety?
So, what causes all this anxiety? Anxiety is often the result of accumulated stress, substance abuse, or even personality types—but there are physiological aspects to your genetic makeup that may be impacting your level of anxiety as well. For example, anxiety disorders can be carried through bloodlines; and if you experience Anxiety, it may be due to another mental health condition like Depression, as it is very common for mental health conditions to snowball into a multitude of diagnoses if left untreated. Anxiety can also be the result of traumatic experiences, whether they were abused as children or witnessed something violent or cruel.
There is no one-size-fits-all indicator that an individual will experience an anxiety disorder, unfortunately—but knowing your family history and even how you respond to stressful situations may help you to manage overwhelming feelings of anxiety until you can seek professional psychiatric care.
How Many Different Kinds of Anxiety Disorders Are There?
Anxiety disorders can present at any stage of life and can present in complex and involved ways—but it is generally broken down into five primary classifications. They are as follows:
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorders: This is the umbrella term for general anxiety that we touched upon earlier.
2. Panic Disorders: This type of anxiety disorder often manifests in physical ways and can lead to debilitating fear.
3. Social Phobias or Social Anxiety Disorders: This type of fear is rooted in how one is perceived by others and can cause patterns of avoidance that interrupt daily life.
4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders: This type of anxiety response is rooted in traumatic experiences, and can take months or even years to treat. (For more information on PTSD, check out our recent post on the topic!)
5. Obsessive Compulsive Disorders: This anxiety disorder is characterized by repetitive actions or rituals and obsessive thinking that results in actions like compulsive counting, cleaning, or checking that things are in their right place.
Delray Mental Health Resources Near You
No matter how big your anxiety may feel to you at the time, it’s important to remember that these conditions are treatable and can be managed with proper guidance, therapy, and/or medication. You don’t have to settle for living an anxious life of avoidance, stress, and fatigue—in fact, working through anxiety disorders can be an incredibly rewarding pursuit. In learning to manage and live with our anxiety, we may even be able to use it to our advantage by listening to its guidance as we navigate major life decisions.
If you or a loved one is experiencing anxious feelings, panic, or irrational fears that are impeding your ability to function or achieve your goals, it’s time to seek help. Contact Delray Psychiatry today and get started on your healing journey!