Anxiety disorders are chronic conditions in which a person feels worried and apprehensive without any immediate cause. Anxiety disorders and clinical depression often go hand in hand. Anxiety disorders cause the persons affected with the same "to be filled with fearfulness and uncertainty." According to the National Institute of Mental Health (USA), "Unlike the relatively mild, brief anxiety caused by a stressful event (such as speaking in public or a first date), anxiety disorders last at least 6 months and can get worse if they are not treated. Anxiety disorders commonly occur along with other mental or physical illnesses, including alcohol or substance abuse, which may mask anxiety symptoms or make them worse. In some cases, these other illnesses need to be treated before a person will respond to treatment for the anxiety disorder ... Effective therapies for anxiety disorders are available, and research is uncovering new treatments that can help most people with anxiety disorders lead productive, fulfilling lives."
As discussed below, anxiety disorders may take at least five different forms: panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social phobia (or social anxiety disorder), specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
There are five major types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): People with GAD worry excessively about everyday issues despite realizing that such worrying is over trivial issues are not required. They are unable to relax and have problems in sleeping. Certain physical symptoms accompanying GAD included "fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, having to go to the bathroom frequently, feeling out of breath, and hot flashes." With a milder level of GAD, people can carry out their work and social life. But, at an advanced stage of GAD, it becomes difficult to carry our even the simple day-to-day tasks.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): People suffering from OCD harbor persistent and upsetting thoughts (obsessions) and to get over their obsessions, they use certain rituals compulsively - this characteristic of this type of anxiety disorder has given it its name, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. In most of the cases, performing the rituals end up in controlling them. This may be explained with an example: a person may be obsessed with cleanliness and they may develop the ritual of washing repeatedly or a person may be obsessed with the anxiety of intruders in his/her home, and may repeatedly check the locks of the doors.
- Panic Disorder: Panic disorder is "characterized by sudden attacks of terror, usually accompanied by a pounding heart, sweatiness, weakness, faintness, or dizziness. During these attacks, people with panic disorder may flush or feel chilled; their hands may tingle or feel numb; and they may experience nausea, chest pain, or smothering sensations. Panic attacks usually produce a sense of unreality, a fear of impending doom, or a fear of losing control."
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This type of anxiety disorder generally develops after a very bad and terrifying ordeal that "involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm." Persons suffering from PTSD relive the ordeal in flashbacks consisting of "images, sounds, smells, or feelings, and are often triggered by ordinary occurrences, such as a door slamming or a car backfiring on the street." War veterans brought this type of anxiety to focus though it may happne on account of several other reasons from "a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes."
- Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder): Persons suffering social phobia become "overwhelmingly anxious and excessively self-conscious in everyday social situations." Sometimes, it may manifest in one or two activities like taking food or drink with someone other than a family member or talking with non-family members. Sometimes, any sort of interaction outside the family makes them tense and highly uncomfortable. Social phobia may be accompanies by "blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, and difficulty talking."
Anxiety disorders differ from person to person, and so the treatment - an individualized treatment plan is required. Such a treatment may involve medication or psychotherapy or a combination of both. Medications may include prescribing medicines like antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers. Psychotherapy may involve cognitive-behavioral therapy, etc.
- Anxiety disorders - a page from the website of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)