What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. For example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam or having a medical test or a job interview. During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal. However, some people find it hard to control their worries. Your feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect your daily life. Anxiety is the main symptom of several conditions, including panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder (social phobia).
Main types of Anxiety
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD is characterised by excessive, unrealistic worry that lasts six months or more. In adults, the anxiety may focus on issues such as health, money or career. In addition to chronic worry, GAD symptoms include trembling, muscular aches, insomnia, abdominal upsets, dizziness, and irritability.
Panic Attacks, Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia
People with panic disorder suffer severe attacks of panic which make them feel like they are having a heart attack or are going crazy for no apparent reason. Symptoms include heart palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, sweating, trembling, tingling sensations, a feeling of choking, fear of dying, fear of losing control and feelings of unreality. Panic disorder often occurs with agoraphobia, in which people are afraid of having a panic attack in a place from which escape would be difficult, so they avoid these places.
Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder) is characterised by an intense fear of situations, usually social or performance situations, where embarrassment may occur. Individuals with the disorder are acutely aware of the physical signs of their anxiety and fear that others will notice, judge them, and think poorly of them.
People with specific phobias suffer from an intense fear reaction to a specific object or situation (such as spiders, dogs, or heights). The level of fear is usually disproportionate to the situation, and is recognised by the sufferer as being irrational. This inordinate fear can lead to the avoidance of common, everyday situations.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
In OCD, individuals are plagued by persistent, recurring thoughts (obsessions) that reflect exaggerated anxiety or fears; typical obsessions include worry about being contaminated or fears of behaving improperly or acting violently. The obsessions may lead an individual to perform a ritual or routine (compulsions), such as washing hands, repeating phrases or hoarding-to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsession.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD can follow an exposure to a traumatic event such as a sexual or physical assault, witnessing a death, the unexpected death of a loved one or natural disaster. There are three main symptoms associated with PTSD: "reliving" of the traumatic event (such as flashbacks and nightmares); avoidance behaviours (such as avoiding places related to the trauma) and emotional numbing (detachment from others); and physiological arousal, difficulty sleeping, irritability or poor concentration.