When we feel anxious it generally means we are worried about something bad happening. There are an infinite number of things that we can be anxious about; such as, spiders, being humiliated, germs or being hurt. In order to simplify things researchers have categorised the worries into six general areas. It is important to remember that everyone has worries and fears! However, when these worries start to impact on your happiness or prevent you from doing things that you enjoy – that’s when they start to become problematic and affect our day-to-day functioning.
1) Generalised Anxiety – This is when a person worries or feels anxious most days and for most of the day for a period of longer than six months. Often the person worries about the future (“what if I can’t get it all done”) or other areas of life such as finances (“what if we can’t pay the bills”). The person can become preoccupied with the worry and this can in turn prevent them from living the life that they want. For example, it’s hard to spend loving time with your family and friends when you are in a constant state of worry. Every person needs to take a rest from worrying too much.
2) Post-traumaticStress Disorder – This is an experience of stress lasting longer than a month following a traumatic incident. A wide range of events can trigger PTSD, including war, a car accident or an assault. Symptoms of this disorder can include nightmares, flashbacks, irritability, difficulty relaxing and avoidance of things that remind you about the trauma.
3) Social Phobia – Social phobia is a fear of being negatively evaluated by other people. Whilst most people can feel self-conscious at times, social anxiety is an intense fear of being humiliated or criticised by other people. Often this will prevent the person from meeting new people or socialising with friends. This in turn can result in the person feeling social isolated and lonely.
4) Specific Phobia – As the name suggests this is an intense fear associated with a specific thing. There are a huge number of fears that fall into this category (e.g., the dark, spiders, costume characters, vomiting and dogs). Whilst many people have a “fear of heights” this usually isn’t too problematic. However, if you were so afraid of heights that you refused to be higher than the second storey of a building – this could start to impact your life by creating obstacles to get through your life.
5) Panic Disorder – A panic attack is an intense, overwhelming and often uncontrollable feeling of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms. Typical Panic attack symptoms are shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and excessive perspiration. Sometimes, people experiencing a panic attack think they are having a heart attack or are about to die. Knowing the right techniques on how to stop a panic attack is very crucial, because if a person has recurrent panic attacks or persistently fears having one for more than a month, they’re said to have Panic Disorder. Sometimes the panic attacks become so frequent and severe, that people become too afraid to leave the safety of their home. This is known as Agorophobia.
6) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – OCD is an experience of having persistent distressing or silly thoughts that often motivate someone to engage in a ritualised habit to reduce their distress. One of the most well-known examples of this is when the distressing thought of having germs on your hands can prompt you to clean your hands repetitively. Other common OCD behaviours are checking, counting, and keeping things in order.
If you identify with one or more of these disorders, a good next step is to not make your anxiety last longer by learning to understand your anxiety more. You can download an infographic on these disorders, including statistics and causes of anxiety disorders here.
You may also like to read more about anxiety symptoms treatments, or even take a test that measures psychological distress, to get an estimate of how much your anxiety is impacting on your life. Psychologists have great knowledge and experience in treating anxiety disorders and it may be worth speaking to your GP about possible referral to a psychologist. Finding a reliable psychologist can help you cope and manage your anxiety.