Anxiety disorder is not a single condition but rather an umbrella term that’s used for a group of related conditions. According to the latest standards in psychological diagnosis, there are now less than one dozen types of anxiety disorder:
- Acute Stress Disorder
- Agoraphobia without history of panic attacks
- Anxiety Disorder due to a General Medical Condition
- Anxiety Disorder not Otherwise Specified
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia
- Panic Disorder without Agoraphobia
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Social Phobia
- Specific Phobia
- Substance Induced Anxiety Disorder
Each of these disorders expresses slightly different symptoms and calls for different treatments and diagnostic guidelines.
Common Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder
The common symptoms of anxiety can be divided into two main categories: physical and emotional.
|Emotional Symptoms of Anxiety||Physical Symptoms of Anxiety|
Some of these symptoms listed above may be caused by other medical conditions and in that case it would be wise to consult a physician or other health professional to rule out any scenarios of physical ailments whose symptoms overlap with those of anxiety.
Conversely, other anxiety symptoms in the following list (such as Vertigo and Dizziness) may appear somewhat inconsequential to healthy people; however, in anxiety sufferers, the same symptoms may escalade to a point where they severely limit the patient’s life quality. A medical doctor may even regard such manifestations of anxiety as inconsequential, but a good psychologist will certainly understand how intensely uncomfortable and scary these expressions of anxiety can make you feel.
All of the following symptoms are regarded broadly as ‘anxiety symptoms’ since they are common to most types of anxiety disorder. For specific symptoms that may facilitate the self-assessment of which disorder you may be suffering from, see the next section of this article.
Specific Symptoms of Different Anxiety Disorders
Panic Disorder Without Agoraphobia: The main symptom for this disorder is having unexpected and random panic attacks, coupled with increasing fear of having such attacks; increasing fear of having a heart attack, losing control, or going crazy; and behavioral changes on the aftermath of panic episodes.
Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia: This variant of panic disorder is aggravated with agoraphobia, meaning the patient starts developing irrational fears of social situations in which panic attacks may occur. Additionally to the symptoms listed in the previous topic, patients with this disorder experience a fear of crowds, fear of being in public spaces… and eventually, the apprehension could progress to being afraid of going outdoors.
Agoraphobia Without History of Panic Disorder: In this case, the patient will express symptoms such as fear of public spaces, fear of crowds, and fear of going outdoors – except these symptoms won’t stem from underlying panic attacks.
Specific Phobia: There are various documented phobia types, in which the patient experiences irrational fears of specific situations or things. Usually, simple phobias will fall in 5 groups or sub-types: fear of animals, fear of natural environments (such as storms, heights or water), fear of blood-injection-injury, fear of situations (flying, driving or using elevators) and other types (such as the irrational fear of loud sounds or contracting an illness).
Social Phobia: Common symptoms for this disorder include extreme self-consciousness, fear of being watched or judged in seemingly trivial situations, fear of being humiliated, low self-esteem, and zero confidence in one’s ability to perform normally on a social level.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Patients suffering from this disorder usually experience an obsessive idea that provokes compulsive actions. Typical obsessive thoughts include being fearful of germs and contamination, being afraid of receiving harm or causing harm, religious fanaticism, fear of losing things, obsession with order and symmetry, and being extremely superstitious. Typical reactions include compulsively cleaning / washing, arranging / re-arranging, hoarding, making check-up calls, and counting, tapping, repeating mantras and prayers. When repeated compulsively, any of these actions may qualify as a symptom of OCD.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: When suffering from this disorder, patients will express symptoms such as intrusive thoughts, memories and flashbacks (pertaining to the source of trauma), persistent nightmares, feelings of intense distress from reminiscing the trauma, and avoidance of anything that reminds of the trauma. Additionally, patients will often start growing detached and emotionally numb, losing interest in their lives and feeling as though they will have a limited future because something bad will probably happen.
Acute Stress Disorder: Common symptoms for this disorder hinge on avoidance. Patients will experience an increasing sense of numbing and detachment, emotional responsiveness will tend to be muted, the person may experience reduced awareness of physical surroundings, and the sense of self and reality may tend to weaken. Additionally, patients suffering from this disorder may experience dissociative amnesia, as their brains try to shut off remembrance of the source of acute stress.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: The differential diagnosis for this disorder is not experiencing symptoms which are specific to other anxiety disorders. Patients suffering from GAD will tend to experience the general anxiety symptoms listed in the previous sections, such as compulsive fear and worrying and inexplicable physical sensations such as tremors, chest pains and perspiration.
Anxiety Disorder Due to a General Medical Condition: Symptoms for this disorder can be analogous to those of people suffering from any of the other types of anxiety disorder. Except in this case, the anxiety symptoms are a direct psychological reaction to a medical condition experienced by the patient.
Substance-lnduced Anxiety Disorder: Likewise, symptoms for this disorder can be analogous to the symptoms in any of the other anxiety disorders, with one difference: for this diagnosis to be applicable, the experienced symptoms must clearly be the psychological effects of a substance, either through intoxication or withdrawal.
Anxiety Disorder Not Otherwise Specified: Here, the patient may express symptoms from any of the other anxiety disorders, as well as from depressive disorders. The main differential for this disorder is not being explicitly defined as one of the other anxiety disorder types, which means that people suffering from this can experience any of the previously mentioned anxiety symptoms.
What to do when you realize you may have anxiety disorder?
When you suspect you may have anxiety disorder, you should consult with a psychologist – in the same way that you should consult with a medical doctor when you feel you may have a physical sickness. That’s the only reliable way to get a proper diagnosis; everything else is guesswork.
However, if you can’t afford seeing a therapist or if for some reason are uncomfortable and don’t want to see one just yet, you will find extensive information in this website that will help you get started with your anxiety management program. Suffering from anxiety is not the end of the world! In fact, it’s one of the most common psychological conditions in this day and age, so there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
You should focus your energy towards understanding how anxiety works and learning how to cope with anxiety disorder.