Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 2 - Types of Anxiety

In the next 20 days a variety of topics will be covered. Part of what I write will come from personal experiences (detailed briefly in yesterday's post) as well as from research and what I have learned along the way in working with others. As each person is different, each post will affect each person differently. For some it will be most valuable to learn the facts and stats. Others will gain more from the interventions I'll outline to ease symptoms. Either way, I hope the next 20 days are helpful.

I found that the knowledge I had about anxiety disorders from my master's degree and my own research was very helpful in dealing with my own anxiety. As they say, "knowledge is power" and when it comes to anxiety, feeling as in control as possible is huge! So today I am going to briefly describe the different types of anxiety and provide resources for further reading.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • As the name states, general anxiety. A sense of worry or dread is with you the majority of the time.  You can still function but can't seem to shake the constant concern you feel. 
  • Some of the symptoms of GAD are: muscle tension, irritability, headaches, sweating, fatigue, restlessness etc. 
Panic Disorder
  • Out of the blue you may have intense fear or panic. These attacks don't last long but they are brutal while they are happening! They can also occur in waves over a period of a few hours.
  • During the panic attack, symptoms may include: shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, chest pain, or even fear of dying among others.
 Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Characterized by obsessions AND compulsions
    • Obsessions - recurring thoughts or impulses that continually intrude your mind, even if you know they are irrational.
    • Compulsions - things you do to calm the anxiety that comes up as a result of the obsessions.
  • Example: You may be so afraid of germs (obsession) that you wash your hands over and over to the point that your hands become dry and cracked (compulsion) just to avoid contamination.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Occurs after experiencing something traumatic. Symptoms can include:
    • Hyper-arousal symptoms - you become easily startled, have trouble sleeping, are easily agitated etc.
    • Avoidance symptoms - you feel numb or "detached" from others, lose interest in activities you used to enjoy etc.
    • Re-experiencing symptoms - nightmares or flashbacks of the traumatic event that took place
Specific Phobias
  • Fear of one specific thing and you attempt to avoid it at all costs.
  • Examples: fear of elevators (so you always take the stairs instead),  fear of doctors or dentists (this can be dangerous if you neglect to pursue medical treatment or necessary procedures) etc. I even saw on the Discovery Channel once that there was a woman who was afraid of her own tattoo.
Social Phobia
  • One of the more common forms of anxiety. 
  • Fear of being humiliated in public.
  • Examples: fear of using public toilets, fear of crowds, fear of speaking in public etc.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. However hopefully it gives you an idea of a few of the types of anxiety.

One more thing - As most medical students can attest to, reading about the body and various illnesses or disorders can suddenly make us feel like we have all of them. We all may experience traits of different disorders from time to time but that doesn't mean we have something diagnosable! I would say a good rule of thumb is: if whatever type of anxiety you are experiencing is interfering with your functioning on a daily basis, it would be wise to seek professional help.

One resource I suggest to learn more about mental health in general but specifically anxiety disorders is the National Institute of Mental Health.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to post them!

See you tomorrow for Day #3!

1 comment:

  1. Ooooh... less anxiety in life sounds like a GOOD thing. I love what you said about how after reading these, we all feel like we have them, because as I read through your list, I was like "Oh no! I have OCD! Oh no! I have...". It's good to know that's normal!