When anxiety is left untreated, it can lead to chronic anxiety and other severe anxiety disorders.
Anxiety is a natural human response to particular situations in life that trigger your fight or flight survival response. If you feel anxious when you’re going through a major life transition or change such as getting married, starting a family, moving to a new location or going for a job interview, you’re probably not alone.
People deal with their emotions differently. We all have an internal threshold that measures if we are in control of our emotions or if we’re about to lose it. When it comes to anxiety, there are two things to consider. The level and intensity of how the anxious feelings we have and secondly, how the anxious feelings are impacting your life as a whole.
The difference between anxiety and having an anxiety disorder is the both of these things. If your anxiety is extreme to the point you can’t control it or you can’t calm yourself down, it can lead to other types of anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders impact how you think, feel and react in situations. Your reactions can dictate what you can and cannot do in your life.
6 Types of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders impact your lifestyle, relationships, career and health and wellbeing. Let’s take a look at 6 well-known anxiety disorders and how they impact a person’s life.
1. Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety is an irrational fear of embarrassing yourself or being judged by others in social settings. A lot of people feel anxious when they go to a social event. However, if you have social anxiety, the fear is so intense it can be almost paralysing.
In social settings people with social anxiety disorder worry, they will say or do the wrong thing or people won’t like them. They worry they don’t have anything interesting to talk about.
Ultimately they would prefer to avoid the whole social scene so they don’t have to put themselves through the trauma. Symptoms of social anxiety include blushing, excessive sweating, overactive and excessive negative thoughts, a sick feeling in the stomach or headaches and tension and a racing heart rate.
Social anxiety impacts a person’s lifestyle as it limits what a person can do for fun and how they interact with others. It can lead to loneliness and isolation. People who have social anxiety realise their thoughts are irrational but they can’t talk themselves around it. They avoid places, people and events that they would love to go to because of the intensity of the fear. It robs people of personal and professional opportunities.
2. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
A person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder functions with strict order, perfectionism and control. They create a set of repetitive rituals that must be followed out to do certain things.
These rituals play an essential part in helping them avoid the feelings of anxiety. However, it creates an enormous amount of pressure to carry out these rituals and processes. They have uncontrolled, negative and obsessive thoughts that increase their anxiety and stress.
This disorder includes behaviour concerned with specific details, organisation and rules. They are rigid in their thinking, their morals and standards. They prefer to focus on work and to be productive rather than with social or leisure activities.
Emotional attachment is not valued so friendships and relationships are not their biggest priority. They struggle to get rid of old things even if they are broken and tend to be hoarders.
Agoraphobia Disorder is the fear of being in a public place and not being able to escape. People with Agoraphobia suffer panic attacks and are fearful they will have a panic attack in a public place where they can’t escape. Their thoughts increase this anxiety with the embarrassment of “what will people think about me”.
To manage anxiety, they will avoid places and situations that make them feel alone or in an environment where help may not be available. Places such as department stores, crowded public places, public transport and even being at home alone. Fear is triggered by anticipating they may be stuck somewhere and panic without anyone able to help them.
They become dependent on someone being around them like their partner, parent or someone they experience an emotional attachment. In extreme cases, people with Agoraphobia will avoid driving and even walking on their own. They can reduce their space to living in one room of their house.
Agoraphobia includes panic attacks, consistent levels of anxiety in daily life. A person’s life becomes very limited by the places and situations they fear will cause a panic attack. These limitations can cause depression and can feelings of helplessness.
4. Panic Disorder
Panic Disorder is an intense rush of anxiety and fear that occurs suddenly and without any warning. The feelings don’t last very long but because they occur without any apparent triggers it’s a very scary experience. People with panic disorder also experience panic attacks but the frequency can range from only a few in a lifetime to having them often.
Symptoms include chest pain, hot and cold flushes, heart palpitations, dizziness, feeling like you’re being smothered, breathing difficulties and fear of losing control.
The panic attacks associated with panic disorder aren’t triggered by an overactive mind or irrational fears like some other anxiety disorders. It doesn’t have a phobia attached to it either which makes it difficult to implement prevention strategies.
It’s usually developed in late teens years to early adulthood. Causes of this disorder can have varying factors such as suffering a sudden loss or trauma in life and it can also be a hereditary condition.
5. General Anxiety Disorder
General Anxiety Disorder is chronic anxiety that continues for at least 6 months. It doesn’t include panic attacks or phobias. People with General Anxiety Disorder are anxious, nervous or worried about many life situations including their work, relationship, finances, friendships, health and their future.
The anxiety is overwhelming and out of proportion. It stops people doing things in life and also triggers depression.
The frequency of anxiety and worry is intense and out of their control. The symptoms include insomnia, muscle tension, exhaustion, easily fatigued and having difficulty focusing and concentrating. If you experience persistent worry for 6 months, plus 3 of the symptoms mentioned, it may be considered to be General Anxiety Disorder.
6. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the delayed effect of stress and anxiety from a past event. The psychological impact of the event plays a big role in creating fear.
Symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, emotional numbness, obsessive negative beliefs, repetitive thoughts about the past event, avoiding places, people or activities that once brought pleasure.
This type of anxiety can stop people from living a full life because their fear is triggered without any warning and is intense. It changes people’s personalities and prevents them from performing tasks they were once able to do with little effort.
Symptoms would need to be persistent for a month to be considered as PTSD. If symptoms last less than a month, it is likely to be acute stress rather than PTSD.
The main thing to learn about anxiety is that left untreated it can lead to further and more complicated anxiety disorders. Your first action step would be to make an appointment with a doctor and discuss your symptoms. Your doctor can determine which type of anxiety you are experiencing and what treatment options are available.