What are The Types of Anxiety Disorders?

Common types of anxiety disorder include Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), specific phobias, and panic disorder. Each kind of anxiety disorder has its own symptoms and treatment options.

While only a mental health professional can give someone an anxiety diagnosis, it’s important for people to know the common symptoms. This understanding can help people decide whether to seek treatment.

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

GAD causes people to feel intense anxiety almost constantly for long stretches of time. Although everyone has stressful days or weeks, people with GAD may feel anxious for months or years. Furthermore, their stress keep them from living their full lives and they may have anxiety over things that other people wouldn’t worry about.

Like all people, patients with GAD can have good day in which their disorder does not cause too much anxiety. However, the criteria for this diagnosis is that the person has more bad day than good for at least six months. Patients who have anxiety but do not meet this exact criteria may have different disorders that also need treatment.

External events can cause people to develop GAD, including significant life changes or stressors. These things are called triggers, and people with GAD have outsized reactions to them.

What Environmental Triggers Affect GAD?

The triggers for GAD vary widely among patients. Some common examples of triggers include:

  • Difficulty at work
  • Health issues with self or loved ones
  • Relationship conflicts
  • Chronic trauma, such as abuse
  • Trouble at school
  • Having too much on one’s plate

Any of these things may cause stress in a healthy person, but they can keep people with GAD from living their daily lives. Even when triggers resolve, the effects of GAD can continue. For example, a patient may leave a stressful job for a better one and continue to have anxiety. Therapy and medication can help.

What are the Biological Reasons for GAD?

People do not have to have external triggers to experience GAD. Often, chemical imbalances in the brain cause people to develop GAD instead. Although it’s not clear why some people develop this imbalance and others don’t, some research suggests there could be a genetic component.

How Common is GAD?

If you have GAD, you are anything but alone in your struggles. An estimated 6.8 million American adults live with GAD at any given time. While minors can also develop this type of anxiety, research is not clear on how many children and teens have the disorder.

Approximately one-third of people with GAD have severe impairments because of their anxieties. These patients may find it difficult to get out of bed or go to work. Sadly, only about 43.2 percent of people who live with GAD get treatment. Every person with this disorder deserves help, whether through medication or therapy.

GAD Symptoms

People with GAD may have mental, emotional, and physical symptoms. However, all patients experience the disorder in unique ways.

Mental and Emotional GAD Symptoms:

  • Trouble making decisions
  • An overwhelming sense of dread
  • Difficulty falling asleep, even when tired
  • Waking frequently throughout the night
  • Easily startled
  • Feeling on-edge
  • An inability to stop worrying
  • Trouble concentrating at work or school

Physical Symptoms:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shaking muscles and hands
  • Unusual sweating
  • Tense muscles and unexplained muscle soreness
  • Fatigue, even with adequate sleep
  • Nausea or other digestive problems

Symptoms in Children and Teens:

  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Worrying about everything
  • Recurrent, unexplained nausea
  • Fixation with disasters
  • Constantly seeking approval from adults
  • Perfectionist tendencies
  • Plummeting self-esteem

GAD Treatment

Medications, individual therapy, or a combination of both can help people with GAD. Before recommending one treatment over the other, mental health professionals try to understand the root cause of the GAD. Patients with chemical imbalances benefit most from medication.

When patients need therapy for GAD, counselors often rely on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This type of counseling teaches patients to react to triggers in healthy ways.

When medication is necessary, psychiatrists may prescribe one of three types of medications: benzodiazepines, antidepressants, or buspirone. Each kind of medicine may work differently for a patient, so people may need some trial and error before they find relief.

What are Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks are acute bouts of anxiety in which people feel as stressed as they would if their lives were in danger, but they happen in non-threatening situations. During a panic attack, a patient may breathe shallowly, sweat excessively, and tremble with fear. Some people with GAD have panic attacks as well. However, some people have panic attacks without GAD.

What is Agoraphobia?

When a person has agoraphobia, they feel terrified of being in a situation over which they have no control. While some people have such severe cases that they never leave their homes, other patients with agoraphobia avoid public transportation and grocery stores.

This disorder is different from being an introvert, in which someone may prefer to be home alone. People with agoraphobia experience such profound fear that it impacts their daily lives.

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