Beyond Worry: Types of Anxiety Disorders

posted February 5th, 2018 by Brian Neese

Beyond Worry: Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders, affecting nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). However, anxiety disorders are treatable. There are a number of effective treatments available, which can help many people lead normal, productive lives.

 

The following sections explore what constitutes anxiety and anxiety disorders.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is often normal. The APA notes how anxiety is a “normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations.” It can “alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention.” The National Institute of Mental Health adds that “occasional anxiety is a normal part of life,” such as how “you might feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision.”

 

Anxiety disorders, however, involve more than temporary worry or fear. The anxiety doesn’t go away, and it can worsen over time. “Anxiety disorders differ from developmentally normative fear or anxiety by being excessive or persisting beyond developmentally appropriate periods,” according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). “They differ from transient fear or anxiety, often stress-induced, by being persistent (e.g., typically lasting six months or more).”

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Here are some examples of common anxiety disorders, along with diagnostic criteria from the DSM-5.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  • Excessive anxiety and worry, occurring more days than not for at least six months, about a number of events or activities.Generalized Anxiety Disorder - Types of Anxiety
  • The individual finds it difficult to control the worry.
  • The anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms:
    • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
    • Being easily fatigued
    • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
    • Irritability
    • Muscle tension
    • Sleep disturbance
  • The anxiety, worry or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
  • The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition.
  • The disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder.

Panic Disorder

  • Recurrent unexpected panic attacks, which is an abrupt surge of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and during which time four (or more) of the following symptoms occur:Panic Disorder - Types of Anxiety
    • Palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate
    • Sweating
    • Trembling or shaking
    • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
    • Feelings of choking
    • Chest pain or discomfort
    • Nausea or abdominal distress
    • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed or faint
    • Chills or heat sensations
    • Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)
    • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
    • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
    • Fear of dying
  • At least one of the attacks has been followed by one month (or more) of one or both of the following:
    • Persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks or their consequences (e.g., losing control, having a heart attack, “going crazy,” etc.)
    • A significant maladaptive change in behavior related to the attacks (e.g., behaviors designed to avoid having panic attacks, such as avoidance of exercise or unfamiliar situations)
  • The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition.
  • The disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder.

Social Anxiety Disorder

  • Marked fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible Social Anxiety Disorder - Types of Anxietyscrutiny by others. Examples include social interactions, being observed and performing in front of others.
  • The individual fears that he or she will act in a way or show anxiety symptoms that will be negatively evaluated.
  • The social situations almost always provoke fear or anxiety.
  • The social situations are avoided or endured with intense fear or anxiety.
  • The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual threat posed by the social situation and to the sociocultural context.
  • The fear, anxiety or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting for six months or more.
  • The fear, anxiety or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
  • The fear, anxiety or avoidance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition.
  • The fear, anxiety or avoidance is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder, such as panic disorder, body dysmorphic disorder or autism spectrum disorder.
  • If another medical condition is present, the fear, anxiety or avoidance is clearly unrelated or is excessive.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

  • Developmentally inappropriate and excessive fear or anxiety concerning separation from those to whom the individual is attached, as evidenced by at least three of the following:Separation Anxiety Disorder - Types of Anxiety
    • Recurrent excessive distress when anticipating or experiencing separation from home or major attachment figures
    • Persistent and excessive worry about losing major attachment figures or about possible harm to them, such as illness, injury, disasters or death
    • Persistent and excessive worry about experiencing an untoward event (e.g., getting lost, being kidnapped, having an accident, becoming ill, etc.) that causes separation from a major attachment figure
    • Persistent reluctance or refusal to go out, away from home, to school, to work or elsewhere because of fear of separation
    • Persistent and excessive fear of or reluctance about being alone or without major attachment figures at home or in other settings
    • Persistent reluctance or refusal to sleep away from home or to go to sleep without being near a major attachment figure
    • Repeated nightmares involving the theme of separation
    • Repeated complaints of physical symptoms when separation from major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated
  • The fear, anxiety or avoidance is persistent, lasting at least four weeks in children and adolescents and typically six months or more in adults.
  • The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, academic, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
  • The disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder, such as refusing to leave home because of excessive resistance to change in autism spectrum disorder; delusions or hallucinations concerning separation in psychotic disorders; refusal to go outside without a trusted companion in agoraphobia; worries about ill health or other harm befalling significant others in generalized anxiety disorder; or concerns about having an illness in illness anxiety disorder.

Pursuing a Career in Psychology

Southeastern University’s online B.S. in Psychology allows students to explore fields such as cognitive and experimental psychology. Graduates will gain a strong foundation in psychological methods needed to pursue graduate study in psychology or counseling. Graduates are also equipped to enter a number of service settings.


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