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What Are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety disorder is an umbrella term for a group of disorders that all share anxiety-related symptoms. Each individual anxiety disorder refers to a subset of anxiety symptoms and specific anxiety triggers. A person with social anxiety for example may experience blushing, increased heart-rate, and a sense of panic and inferiority when around other people. All anxiety disorders share a common symptom, which is an excessive worry about something that most people wouldn’t be that concerned about.
Anxiety itself is natural and actually quite helpful when experienced in appropriate contexts and intensities. Someone experiencing panic and anxiety is feeling the effects of the ‘fight or flight’ response. Which is our body’s natural response to a perceived danger. When it is activated, hormones are released into the body to enable us to either deal with or escape from the threat.
The actual cause of the anxiety itself can often be quite complex and unclear, as it usually arises from a combination of a persons’ psychological history, environmental factors, and genetic pre-disposition.
At an underlying neurological and physiological level, the various anxiety disorders function in much the same way. The real difference lies at the level of the thought processes, which are what trigger and maintain the anxiety. This is why psychotherapy, which aims to help a person alter their thought processes, is one of the most effective long-term solution.
People suffering from a variety of anxiety symptoms often think it is important to have a name or label for their condition, but this is often hard to achieve, as many people won’t fit neatly into the category of any one single anxiety disorder. There is a large spectrum of symptoms which anxiety sufferers can experience, with the cross over from one disorder to another, sometimes making it difficult to apply a single label to a patient presenting with a broad selection of anxiety-related symptoms. Fortunately a psychotherapist is trained to look beyond these simplistic ways of looking at anxiety, and instead treats the person as a whole, working flexibly with whatever symptoms, thoughts, behaviours and emotions the individual brings to the therapy process without the need to resort to labeling.
A List of Common Anxiety Disorders:
Is literally the fear of having a panic attack, and this fear can be so intense that it actually causes a panic attack. It is a good example of the cyclical nature of many anxieties in which the symptoms also become the cause. The panic attack can produce extremely unpleasant physical and mental symptoms with many people believing that they are having a heart attack and/or are going to die or are going insane.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
A persistent and excessive anxiety or worry about past, current or future events or activities which may or may not happen.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Can include repetitive behaviours such as cleaning, hand washing, checking, counting, or repeating words silently. The person will experience unwanted obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviours.
The experience of fear, anxiety or panic in social situations. People may fear embarrassing themselves or making a fool of themselves in some way.
Are an excessive fear about a specific thing (animals, heights, flying, blood etc.) The object or situation is avoided or provokes extreme anxiety. People with an anxiety disorder can also experience a number of different symptoms as a result of their disorder.
Often more commonly referred to as Hypochondria. It is an excessive worry about your health and in particular about having an undiagnosed health issue. Often accompanied by frequent checking of bodily sensations, and doubts relating to medical diagnosis and test results.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The experience, or witness of, or confrontation with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death, or serious injury, or threat of physical injury of self or others. The major feature of PTSD is the reliving of the event through dreams, nightmares or flashbacks.
Commonly treated examples of anxiety
People frequently seek help from counsellors and psychotherapists for the following anxieties:
•public speaking anxiety
•fear of flying
•financial and economic worries
What Are Anxiety Disorders?
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