Anxiety can take many forms and is a natural part of life. However, when anxiety begins to cause significant distress or interference it may be time to seek a professional evaluation. The primary forms of anxiety disorders are briefly summarized below. For additional information regarding the types of anxiety disorders go to www.adaa.org.
Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder)
Social phobia is characterized by discomfort in one or more social situations. Typically, individuals fear the possibility of being embarrassed or humiliated. Feared situations can vary, but often include giving presentations, talking in meetings or classes, starting conversations, and interacting with strangers. The feared social situations are generally avoided or endured with significant distress.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Individuals with OCD suffer from distress resulting from intrusive thoughts called obsessions (e.g., germs are going to make me sick, the stove was left on) and repetitive behaviors thought to control these thoughts called compulsions (e.g., frequently washing hands, checking locks repetitively). OCD can take many forms. The intrusions can be thoughts, images or impulses that bother or scare the person. The compulsions are typically aimed at reducing the likelihood that something bad will happen, or are sometimes an attempt to get things "just right."
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD is characterized by excessive worry about a number of events or activities. This worry is hard to control for the individual and is accompanied by physical symptoms such as muscle tension and restlessness.
Panic Disorder (PD)
Panic attacks are characterized by a rush of intense physical symptoms (e.g., increased heart rate, sweating, dizziness) that come from out of the blue and peak rapidly (e.g., within 10 minutes). Panic disorder is a persistent concern about having a panic attack and the consequences of such an attack. Panic disorder is often accompanied by agoraphobia (fear of public places).
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The experience of a traumatic event is a necessary criterion for PTSD. Symptoms include re-experiencing symptoms (e.g., nightmares, flashbacks), avoiding reminders of the trauma, feelings of detachment and increased arousal (e.g., heightened startle response).
A specific phobia is an excessive fear of a certain object or situation. Exposure to this phobic stimulus (e.g., dogs, heights, driving) provokes an anxiety response. Although many people do not like the objects or situations that are feared in specific phobias, a clinical diagnosis is only given when the anxiety results in significant interference in daily life and/or substantial distress.