What is Anxiety?: More Than Just One Disorder
We talk about anxiety so much as a singular entity, it is easy to forget that this is just an umbrella term for lots of different mental health disorders which can affect people. Generalised anxiety disorder, PTSD and Phobias are just some of the types of anxiety disorders a person can suffer from. But what exactly are these disorders, and how do they affect the mental health of a person such as yourself?
Please keep reading as we take a look at some of the most common anxiety disorders and their symptoms and triggers which make them different from one another. Once you have been diagnosed, knowing more about your specific anxiety disorder can help you understand what you are facing, which, alongside therapeutic support, can help you gain control over your mental health again.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalised anxiety disorder, also known as GAD, is a long-term condition which causes you to feel anxious about several situations rather than about one thing. Unlike phobias, which are usually narrowed-down anxiety, GAD can cause you to feel anxiety around a range of things from situations to people, places and things. Often, when one anxious thought is resolved, another anxiety can appear about a different or related issue.
Because of this unique attack of anxiety, people who suffer from GAD often feel anxious most days, and find it hard to remember a time when they were truly relaxed. GAD can also cause both psychological and physical symptoms, including feeling restless or worried, having trouble concentrating or sleeping as well as dizziness or heart palpitations.
GAD is a common disorder and estimated to affect up to 5% of the UK population. It affects more women than men and is more populous in the age range of 35 to 59. However, this doesn’t mean that men or people outside this age bracket can’t suffer from this debilitating condition.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, most commonly known as PTSD, is an anxiety disorder caused by traumatic or stressful events. The intensity can vary over time, as your anxiety can increase when you run into triggers or reminders of the traumatic event you went through. One typical example is soldiers who experience PTSD may face symptoms when they hear a car backfire.
The symptoms of PTSD can vary for each person, and they may only last for a few weeks after the event or for years later. Some examples of symptoms include:
Increased anxiety and emotional arousal:
- Always being ‘on alert’
- Pounding heart, nausea, sweating
- Outbursts of anger
- Irrational or intense fear
- Reduced tolerance to noise
- Easily startled
- Panic attacks and mood swings
- Anger or aggressive behaviour
Avoidance and numbing:
- Work or relationship problems
- Loss of memory
- Loss of interest in life
- Feeling numb, empty and isolated
Re-experiencing the traumatic event:
- Flashbacks, nightmares and feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
Other common symptoms also include feelings of depression which can lead to self-harm or even suicidal thoughts. People who have PTSD can also become distrustful of others, or feel shame, guilt or embarrassment because of the event. They can turn to alcohol, drugs and gambling to forget about their trauma.
Even more recently, we are seeing Covid-19 related PTSD. It can occur in those working on the front line of this pandemic, as well as those disturbed emotionally by the events of Covid-19, whether they have faced the virus itself or watched the impact it is having on the world and their loved ones.
A phobia is another form of an anxiety disorder where a person feels an overwhelming fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal. They are more pronounced than fears and can develop when a person has an unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object. As phobias progress, they can limit a person’s quality of life as they avoid situations which can cause them to come in contact with something which brings them this intense fear.
Phobias can be sorted into two types: specific phobias and complex phobias. A specific phobia centres around a particular object, animal, situation or activity. They often develop during childhood and become less severe as we get older. Some examples include animal phobias, environmental phobias, situational phobias (e.g. visiting the dentist), bodily phobias and sexual phobias.
Complex phobias tend to be more disabling than simple phobias and usually develop during adulthood, where they are associated with fear or anxiety around a particular situation. Two of the most common complex phobias are agoraphobia (where people are anxious about being in situations where escape may be difficult) and social phobia (an overwhelming fear of social situations).
No matter the type of phobia you have, the symptoms can be very similar. You may not experience any symptoms until you come in contact with a trigger or the source of your phobia. However, in some cases, even thinking about the phobia can make a person feel anxious.
Common symptoms include:
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Increased heart rate/palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Trembling or shaking
How I Can Help
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, trying to live a normal life can be very difficult. With potential triggers around any corner, you can be fearful of leaving your home and coming into contact with things or situations which make you anxious. This can impact your quality of life, and leave you living each day in fear.
Therapeutic support is ideal for those wanting to break away from this life and look to a happier future where they aren’t held back by anxiety. With experience, knowledge and compassion behind me, I understand the complexities of each anxiety disorder and the impact they can have on a person’s life. Working together, we can understand the root cause of your anxiety and work from these to detach the anxiety and its symptoms from yourself, improving your mental health and happiness. By listening without judgement, providing advice and supporting throughout, you can approach this journey with much more confidence and determination.
Please take a look at my website to learn more about my services as a therapist and how I can support your mental health journey. Suppose you suffer from an anxiety disorder and are looking for quality guidance and advice. In that case, I can help you understand your condition, as well as ways you can overcome the symptoms and gain control of your mental health.