Anxiety Disorder: What is it and How Serious is it
Everyone gets anxious from time to time – whether you have a difficult exam, a complex project, a deadline or a date with a person you like very much, it is normal to feel a bit nervous and worried about the outcomes.
However, if you are in a constant state of worry and anxiety, even when it comes to small, irrelevant things or even without any particular reason, and you feel like your anxiety is getting in the way of your normal daily activities, you might be suffering from some form of an anxiety disorder.
In these cases, your problems shouldn’t be overlooked. But, luckily, there are various ways and effective treatments available to deal with this condition. In this article, we will be focusing on different types of anxiety disorders, their most common symptoms, and the overall severity of these diseases.
Definition and types of anxiety disorders
While anxiety is a normal, everyday feeling of nervousness and worry about the things with uncertain outcomes, it is important to understand that it is significantly different from having an anxiety disorder which is defined as a condition of chronic and excessive feelings of tension, apprehension, and fear which interfere with our daily lives and prevent us from functioning normally.
Although there are different types of anxiety disorders which all have their own unique symptoms, general symptoms might include trouble sleeping (insomnia), fear, panic, anticipation, irritability, concentration problems, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, sweating, muscle twitches and tension, headaches, stomach problems etc.
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms on a daily basis, it is advised to speak to your doctor as you might be suffering from some type of an anxiety disorder, such as:
Generalized anxiety disorder – or GAD for short, is a condition when a person is constantly worried about something which prevents them from performing simple daily activities and affects their relationships with people around them.
People suffering from GAD usually have trouble sleeping, they are fatigued, restless, and always afraid that something bad is about to happen any moment, and in the majority of cases, they are unsure what exactly they are afraid of.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder – also known as OCD, causes people to have obsessive thoughts and repeatedly do things they are unable to control. People who have OCD might have an urge to arrange things in a particular order, clean excessively, react frantically when things are not in order, or they might have a need to repeat specific actions for a certain number of times (such as switching the lights on and off).
Panic disorder – involves having frequent panic attacks which usually come unexpectedly. These panic attacks are usually followed by irregular heartbeats, excessive sweating, and agoraphobia – the fear of large open spaces where the person feels trapped, embarrassed and helpless.
Social anxiety disorder – also known as social phobia, it causes people to be extremely self-conscious and avoid any social situations fearing that they might be humiliated, embarrassed and judged by others.
Although we are all sometimes worried what someone will think about us, people with social anxiety disorder are extremely shy and completely overwhelmed with thoughts that people will see them negatively.
Phobias – exaggerated, irrational and persistent fear of certain situations, activities or objects. According to The American Psychiatric Association (APA), they can be divided into 3 categories – specific phobia (people who are afraid of heights, some animals, airplanes, dark, elevators etc.), social phobia, and agoraphobia.
All of us are afraid of certain things, but people with phobias feel like the danger is much greater than it actually is and commonly get intense feelings of distress and panic attacks when faced with things they are afraid of.
Separation anxiety disorder – when people (usually children) experience great fear and anxiety when they are separated from their family members or their home. In these cases, children might pretend to be sick when they are at school or when they are supposed to engage in some activities which don’t include their family members.
Post-traumatic stress disorder – it is developed in people who have been exposed to some traumatic, dangerous, scary or shocking event and are usually followed by frequent nightmares or flashbacks of those events.
Are anxiety disorders serious?
According to various scientific studies, anxiety disorders are considered to be quite serious and dangerous if not treated.
People suffering from severe anxiety usually have a high risk of developing an addiction to various substances (illegal drugs, alcohol, prescription pills such as opioids, depressants, and stimulants) and a 70 percent chance of developing depression.
The combination of an anxiety disorder and depression might be a lethal one since people with these conditions have a high risk of committing suicide – around 30 percent of people have suicidal thoughts, while more than 15 percent of them actually attempt suicide.
When it comes to some less extreme cases, anxiety disorders are still serious nevertheless. People diagnosed with this mental disorder skip work and school, they are unable to be productive and have trouble establishing and maintaining good relationships with other people.
Furthermore, there are various effects on their physical health as well. Although the causal connection between medical disorders and anxiety still remains unknown, patients usually experience gastrointestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, heart problems, memory problems, insomnia and chronic headaches.
To sum up, anxiety disorder is a very serious mental condition. If you think you might be suffering from some form of anxiety, no matter how mild your symptoms might be, talk to your therapist or a doctor as soon as possible.
Anxiety is very common and, fortunately, treatable. There are various medications, herbal remedies, and psychotherapy techniques (such as counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy) which can help you overcome your problems, so don’t hesitate to ask for help!