Our busy, sometimes frantic lifestyles lend themselves well to anxiety. Besides trying to balance family life, work, and social obligations, there comes the need to actually take time for one’s self. When those two worlds collide – trying to navigate life with the stress that takes its toll – anxiety can set in. And while being anxious about things is perfectly expected, having an anxiety disorder can be an all-encompassing, deeply personal struggle that can take over nearly every aspect of your life.
There are a number of anxiety disorders that can affect how you see the world, and how the world sees you. It’s more than being stressed out, it’s living with the constant pressure that anxiety and stress put on you. How do you know it’s more than stress? Here are five anxiety disorders whose symptoms should not ignore.
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD causes excessive worry about seemingly mundane things: relationships, wellness, finances, and work, among others. With GAD, the worry never stops, even when things are going smoothly. People with GAD experience muscle tension. They don’t sleep well and find it hard to relax. They may have digestive problems ranging from cramps to constipation to diarrhea. They find it hard to sit still, and often are irritable or restless; this can manifest in nervous habits such as nail biting, hair pulling, or foot tapping. If symptoms are severe, they can prevent you from carrying on your normal daily routine or enjoy things you used to find pleasurable.
Social Anxiety Disorder
We all know someone who is shy. They usually prefer smaller groups, avoid crowds, and enjoy intimate, personal relationships. Oftentimes, when having to deal with social situations, a shy person will eventually warm up, finding their niche in the crowd. Shyness has nothing to do with social anxiety disorder. With social anxiety disorders, patients are extremely anxious about meeting new people, and very worried about being judged or criticized. When faced with social situations, those who have social anxiety experience sweating and their heartrate increases. They may be unable to speak or make eye contact. Sometimes they experience nausea or trembling and panic at even the thought of venturing out into public. Those with social anxiety can find themselves missing out on important events and milestones, such as a graduation or wedding; or social events with large or unknown groups of people. In avoiding public situations, they may miss out on opportunities at work, or begin to erode important relationships.
Panic disorders can be frightening, and some people who suffer severe panic attacks can even think they are dying. Patients who suffer from panic disorders say that not knowing when or where panic attacks might occur is an especially big worry. Common symptoms not to ignore include pounding heart or palpitations, trembling, a sense of doom or of being exposed or vulnerable. You may be unable to capture your breath or a rational thought. Those suffering from panic disorders may avoid anything that even remotely triggers an attack, which could mean even the smallest of everyday activities.
Phobias are an extreme fears of otherwise common things or situations. When faced with a trigger, people with phobias may experience intense and uncontrollable fear, panic or a desire to flee or take immediate action to stop the perceived threat. There are many kinds of phobias, many of which have medical terms and can stem from deep childhood memories or having witnessed something unforgettable. Common phobias include fear of fear of closed spaces (claustrophobia) public speaking (glossophobia), fear of spiders (arachnophobia), or fear of heights (acrophobia). While others might think that phobias are irrational or misguided, those who suffer from them have a much different story, and often seek therapeutic counseling to overcome their fears.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
While PTSD remains in the news with regard to veterans, it is nothing new. During the first world war, it was called “shell shock,” and later, “battle fatigue.” However, one needn’t have seen combat to have from PTSD. Any victim of a traumatic or violent event can suffer the symptoms of PTSD, which include nightmares, anger or irritability, flashbacks, withdrawal, and sleeplessness. PTSD can lay dormant for years, then triggered by a sound, scent, sensation or experience.
Treatment for many mental health problems involves a combination of talk therapy, behavioral therapy, and sometimes, medications. It’s important to work with a mental health professional who is experienced in treating mental health disorders, and who is someone you trust and feel comfortable working with.
Though many of us will experience some these symptoms at least once in our lives, people with anxiety disorder live with many of these symptoms every day. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or in a loved one, or have been diagnosed with one of these disorders, do not let it go ignored. Left untreated, anxiety disorders can get worse and take over your life.
An experienced mental health professional can help evaluate you or a loved one, make a diagnosis, recommend treatment, or perform further testing. To schedule a psychiatric evaluation, please call our Walpole, Mass., office at (508) 660-1666 or request an appointment online.