Adult Anxiety Disorders
Everyone gets nervous at times, especially in reaction to stressful events, and some people with a negative temperament are “worry warts” by nature. Certain situations affect some people more than others:
- Public speaking or making a presentation (performance anxiety) is very hard for some people. Many actors get nervous before going on stage (stage fright)
- Very shy people get nervous and inhibited in new situations (social anxiety)
- Some individuals always fear the worst when thinking about the future (anticipatory anxiety).
If you recognize yourself in any of these examples, you may decide to seek some professional help, but you don’t have a true “psychiatric disorder.”
What Is an Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety disorders are the most common of all psychiatric conditions. They are caused by a combination of biological and hereditary (nature) and environmental (nurture) factors. The worry, tension and fears are extreme and very hard to control. They can make a person’s life miserable and interfere with functioning and relationships.
What Are the Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder?
You may recognize some of the following:
- You feel very worried and anxious most of the time
- You always expect the worst (“catastrophic thinking”)
- You have many unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches and palpitations
- Your muscles feel stiff and tense
- You are often restless and irritable
- You have trouble falling asleep because you cannot turn your mind off
- You have trouble concentrating.
Are There Different Kinds of Anxiety Disorders?
Yes. The anxiety may be present virtually all the time or be much more pronounced in some situations.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder. You feel anxious regardless of what you are doing. You worry about the future, your relationships and work situation. You feel tense and irritable, and have trouble keeping your thoughts focused. You feel tired, and your sleep is poor.
Social Anxiety Disorder. The fear and anxiety are much more severe than in people who are very shy. In social situations, you feel extremely awkward and embarrassed, as if you are being judged (mind reading) and others don’t want to be with you (rejection sensitivity).
Panic Disorder. If you have ever had a panic attack, you know how terrifying it can be. Out of the blue — and often for no obvious reason — your heart starts pounding, you can’t catch your breath and feel as if you are being smothered, you start trembling and sweating, and it seems as if you are about to pass out. You feel that you are losing control, going crazy or even dying. Sometimes you can have just one panic attack, but panic attacks can recur.
Agorophobia. If you suffer from this disorder, you know how hard it can be to leave your home. You are afraid that you will experience extreme anxiety, even a panic attack. You begin to avoid settings that may trigger your fear such as open spaces, crowds or public transportation. You always want an aisle seat so that you can get out quickly.
Specific Phobia. Flying, heights or crossing bridges is terrifying to some people.