The signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders differ depending on the type. For generalized anxiety disorder, sufferers exhibit signs of excessive worry, fear, and anxiety. These feelings must occur more days than not over a 6-month period and are usually about everyday things, ranging from personal health and job responsibilities to social interactions and relationships. In terms of symptoms, those with generalized anxiety disorder experience feelings of restlessness and fatigue, they have a hard time concentrating and find that their mind often goes blank, they are irritable and have muscle tension, they struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, and they find it difficult to control their feelings of worry.
For social anxiety disorder, sufferers display a general fear or anxiety toward both social and performance situations. These worries stem from the belief that their actions or behaviors will be negatively evaluated by others and therefore lead to embarrassment. Psychological symptoms of social anxiety disorder include persistent fear of potentially embarrassing situations and of interacting with strangers, avoiding situations in which judgement may occur, and analyzing social situations long after they are over. As for physical symptoms, these include blushing, sweating, upset stomach, lightheadedness, muscle tension, and trembling.
For panic disorder, sufferers have recurrent panic attacks which are either brought on by a certain trigger or occur suddenly and unexpectedly. Triggers may include a feared object or an uncomfortable situation. The symptoms associated with panic attacks include heart palpitations, intense sweating, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath, smothering or choking, and feelings of impending doom or of being totally out of control. Due to the unexpected nature of panic attacks, people with panic disorder often worry about the next onset and will therefore avoid certain places, situations, or behaviors. Sometimes, this avoidance strategy can lead to the development of agoraphobia.
For agoraphobia, sufferers experience an intense fear of public transportation, open or enclosed spaces, standing in a crowd or a line, and being alone in public. When this fear becomes severe enough, individuals may find themselves housebound. This is because those with agoraphobia worry that a panic attack or another embarrassing symptom may occur while they are away from their home. Additional symptoms include sudden flushing or chills, trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, feeling shaky or numb, excessive sweating, and a fear of dying.
For obsessive compulsive disorder, sufferers may have obsessions, compulsions, or both. In addition, some will experience a tic disorder, defined as the presence of one or more tics, either motor or vocal. Motor tics are brief repetitive movements like eye blinking and shoulder shrugging, whereas vocal tics are sudden outbursts like throat clearing and grunting sounds. Obsessions may include a fear of germs or of losing something, the need to have things symmetrical or in perfect order, and unwanted thoughts about sex or religion. Compulsions may include excessively cleaning the body or the home, hoarding unnecessary objects or arranging items in a particular way, and repeatedly counting things or seeking reassurance.
For post-traumatic stress disorder, sufferers typically begin to exhibit symptoms within 3 months of the traumatic event. These include re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, arousal and reactivity symptoms, as well as cognition and mood symptoms. Re-experiencing symptoms are things such as flashbacks and nightmares, avoidance symptoms would be staying away from places and objects that are reminders of the event, arousal and reactivity symptoms are things like being easily startled or experiencing angry outbursts, and cognition and mood symptoms may include the loss of interest in activities or negative thoughts about the world.