Have you ever wondered: Could I have an Anxiety Disorder?
Although we all experience anxiety from time to time, anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of anxiety, in that they consist of an excessive and uncontrollable response, which requires no specific external stimulus. An anxiety disorder presents with a wide range of symptoms, from physical and emotional, to behavioural and cognitive (2).
Anxiety disorders share features of excessive fear (the emotional response to real or perceived imminent threat) and anxiety (anticipation of future threat) with panic attacks being a common feature, although not always present (3). The different types of anxiety disorders differ from one another in the types of objects or situations that induce fear, anxiety, or avoidance behaviour (3).
Whilst anxiety is a natural response to real or perceived threat that we all experience from time to time, it is estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime (1).
Common Anxiety Disorders
The most common types of anxiety disorders are: Generalised Anxiety Disorder; Specific Phobias; Social Anxiety Disorder; and Panic Disorder.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder – Involves excessive and difficult to control worry about a number of everyday events and activities, ranging from work and finances, to health and family. Generalised Anxiety Disorder is also associated with restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances (3).
Panic Disorder – Individuals with panic disorder experience recurring and unexpected panic attacks, along with worry about having additional attacks and avoidance of situations in which this might occur. A panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes four (or more) of the following symptoms (3):
- Increased heart rate;
- Shortness of breath;
- Choking sensation;
- Chest pain;
- Feelings of unreality/detachment;
- Fear of dying or going crazy.
Social Anxiety – This is anxiety regarding one or more social situations. For example, social interactions (ie conversations, meeting new people), being observed (eating or drinking), or performing in front of others (giving a speech). People who experience social anxiety have a fear of embarrassing themselves and often worry about being rejected or offending others (3).
Specific Phobia – This involves a fear of a specific object or situation (eg flying, heights, animals etc) and almost always provokes immediate fear and anxiety. As with social anxiety and panic disorder, individuals with specific phobia actively avoid the situation or it is endured with intense fear or anxiety (3).
If you are experiencing anxiety, seeing a psychologist can help to determine if you are dealing with one of the above disorders and equip you with techniques based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness, to better manage your condition.
Author: Amanda Hansen, B Psych, MAPS.
Amanda Hansen is a psychologist with nearly a decade of experience in treating the various types of anxiety disorders. Amanda works with adults, adolescents, and couples, and is passionate about helping her clients develop therapeutic goals, and working together to achieve lasting change.
To make an appointment, freecall 1800 877 924 or you can book Amanda Hansen online now.
- Beyond Blue (2015). The Facts. Accessed online: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts
- Malone, D., Hermida, T., & Rowney, J. (2010). Anxiety Disorders. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Accessed online: http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/psychiatry-psychology/anxiety-disorder/Default.htm
- American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.