What is Anxiety Disorder?

Asma Rehman, LPC

Anxiety Symptoms

Racing heart. Upset stomach. Sweaty palms. Difficulty breathing.

If you’ve experienced any of these, chances are, you were experiencing anxiety. Anxiety is inevitable and affects all of us: children, adolescents, adults and older adults. Children often experience anxiety when starting school. Moving towards adolescents, maybe you remember your first kiss. In adulthood, anxiety is often experienced as we go to job interviews or deliver a presentation. Many people think having anxiety is a bad thing or makes you different than others. But the reality is, it is normal and healthy to have some degree of anxiety.

Other common physical symptoms of anxiety include: Fast breathing or shortness of breath, dizziness, tight chest, hot/cold flashes, trouble sleeping, muscle tension, dry mouth. Like most experiences, not everyone is the same. Just because your family or friend experience dizziness or dry mouth, does not mean you will too. You may or may not – our bodies are unique and respond in so many different ways. However, it is important to know the various symptoms of anxiety so you can recognize it when it happens to you.

Types of Anxiety

Many clients have asked me if what their experiencing is “normal” anxiety or something more serious. Though anxiety is common, there are differences between anxiety and clinical anxiety. To help you understand, I want to review the four major types of anxiety disorders. This doesn’t encompass ALL of the types, however, it is a brief break-down of the major types. It’s also important to know that anxiety affects our physical being (the symptoms I mentioned above), thinking and behaviors.

If you’re looking for a community of people who understand what you’re going through, our anxiety support group in Houston is here for you. We offer a safe, non-judgmental space where you can share your experiences, connect with others who are also dealing with anxiety, and learn coping strategies.

The first is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). If you don’t have a specific trigger to your anxiety, but feel worried or anxious majority of the time throughout the day, you may have GAD. For example, you find yourself worrying about everyday things without good reason. This person will focus their energy on the worst case scenario and live in constant worry about various things such as work, family, health, career, and so on.

Another anxiety disorder is social anxiety, which is pretty much what it sounds like. This type of anxiety happens when a person is extremely self-conscious about social situations. This person may fear what others think or afraid of doing things that may embarrass them, so they refrain from talking or avoid being in situations that involve many people. To give you an example, a person may have extreme anxiety going to the grocery store because of the crowd and/or interactions. So they don’t go at all or choose to go during off-peak hours such as late night. Majority of people have general social anxiety, however, it is possible to have specific situations (going to the grocery store, speaking in public, attending parties, etc.) that trigger the social anxiety.

Read: Relief for Anxiety Disorder

The third common anxiety disorder is panic disorder. This type of disorder comes out of the blue, without a specific trigger. Many people describe it like having a heart attack or even feeling like their dying. A person may experience overwhelming fear, hyperventilation, sweating and a racing heart. I’ve heard a lot of people say they fear the attack will occur if they are alone or driving, which in itself can cause a lot of anxiety.

The last category of anxiety disorders is specific phobia. Do you know anyone that is afraid of flying? Or afraid of snakes? Or even afraid of clowns? If so, they may have specific phobia, fear of a certain situation or object that is little to no actual danger. People realize their fear may be unreasonable, however, are still distressed by even the thought of it. People generally avoid the situation all together because it raises extreme anxiety. But if the situation or object is unavoidable, the person will experience anticipatory anxiety. Other common examples are: fear of other animals, fear of driving or being in tight places like an elevator, afraid of needles.

Managing Anxiety

As I first mentioned, anxiety affects all of us. But, if you find your daily functioning or quality of life being affected by your anxiety, you may consider seeking anxiety treatment. Prescription medication, monitored by a physician, is a common way to decrease the anxiety, however, there are also natural ways to manage the anxiety. My next blog will focus on some of my favorite ways to manage anxiety.

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