No two anxiety disorders are entirely alike. In other words, each type has its own set of symptoms and treatments, although some of these do overlap. The most common types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and specific phobias. For example, agoraphobia is a condition in which people avoid public places for fear of being trapped and not being able to escape, just in case something embarrassing happens or they begin to panic.
Generalized anxiety disorder is the persistent, excessive, and unreasonable worrying about everyday things. These include money and finances, health of family members, relationships, responsibilities at work, or simply getting through the day. GAD causes the sufferer to internalize their worries and think of them in an obsessive manner, but they may not always be able to give a reason for their symptoms. This can then lead to a downward spiral of physical symptoms, the most common of which are restlessness, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, sleep problems, fatigue, and the feeling of being on edge.
Panic disorder is unlike the other anxiety disorders in that it is characterized solely by panic attacks. These attacks usually last between 15 and 20 minutes and are accompanied by symptoms such as heart palpitations, intense fear, sweating, trembling or shaking, chest pain, numbness or tingling, chills or hot flashes, and a feeling of being hopelessly out of control. There is often no cause or reason for the onset of such an attack, so the sufferer is essentially left to worry about if and when the next episode may occur.
Social anxiety disorder, previously known as social phobia, is a type of worry that is related to social situations and can be so severe that the sufferer avoids going out in public all together. This anxiety disorder can manifest in a fear of public speaking or stage fright and can also have symptoms of severe self consciousness or a general fear of being around others. Those with social anxiety disorder may find it difficult to speak when others are present, even if they are not addressing the crowd as a whole.
Obsessive compulsive disorder has two main components, obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are recurring and uncontrollable thoughts while compulsions are behaviours that are done in response to these obsessive thoughts. Obsessions can encompass everything from a severe fear of germs to the placement of things around the home. Compulsions, on the other hand, vary from ritual hand washing to arranging and rearranging certain objects. These thoughts and behaviors can very quickly become intrusive and disruptive to the sufferer’s daily life.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is the result of a very traumatic event (or a series of traumatic events) that leaves the sufferer with flashbacks and night terrors in which they feel like they are right back in the event again. Veterans and police officers have a higher rate of PTSD than other careers, but it can be diagnosed in anyone. Those with PTSD may also experience panic attacks and phobias, which are often associated with people, places, or sounds.