When most people say that they have anxiety, they are using shorthand to say they have a condition that makes them experience anxiety more often or differently than other people.
Anxiety can be seen as prolonged stress, a healthy and natural human emotion. Constant and extreme feelings of anxiety, even when there isn’t anything obvious to be anxious about, is one of the most powerful symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
There are also a number of related conditions that are similar to anxiety conditions but have different causes or effects.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
A common form of anxiety disorder is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD for short. People with this condition feel stress and may even have anxiety attacks over any number of things that other people would consider mundane, or about things that they have no control over. They may constantly worry about their health, having their identity stolen, or losing their jobs.
In some cases, the anxiety suffered by people with GAD can be so severe that it interferes with the way they live their daily lives. The physical impacts of chronic stress may also make them more likely to develop other health conditions.
People with GAD may also be more likely to develop substance abuse problems.
It is unknown what causes GAD, but it can be treated with medication, as well as through a number of different kinds of therapy and lifestyle changes.
Phobias are just about as far as you can get from GAD while still having an anxiety disorder. People with phobias live largely normal lives but suffer crippling and irrational fears about a specific thing or event. Of course, the thing that a person is afraid of has a huge impact on the way that it affects them.
Phobias were once thought to develop because of experiences in childhood. While phobias can develop in childhood or grow out of childhood experiences, phobias also commonly develop during the teenage years or early adulthood.
Treatments for phobias often depend on the thing that the individual is afraid of but are generally based on therapies rather than on medications.
One common approach, called commitment therapy, aims at helping the individual to understand that they have their fears and that their fears may come true but that they need to deal with those emotions and possibilities. Of course, this is usually done for people who have irrational fears of rational things, like dogs.
People who are afraid of irrational things are more likely to undergo exposure therapy. In this well-known approach, the individual is placed in progressively closer proximity to the object of their fears until they become comfortable with them.
Other examples of phobias include agoraphobia (the fear of open places), arachnophobia (the fear of spiders), acrophobia (the fear of heights), and aerophobia (the fear of flying).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, can be similar to phobias but, is not always considered an anxiety disorder.
People who suffer from PTSD experience strong feelings of anxiety and/or depression following a high-stress event. It is commonly associated with combat veterans, but can also be experienced by people who suffer other high-stress events like traffic collisions, abuse, or violent crime.
While their anxiety/depression may be with them constantly, it can also usually be worsened by “triggers.” PTSD triggers can vary based on the person and traumatic event, but common examples include loud noises for combat veterans or victims of violent crime, yelling for victims of abuse, or being in a car for survivors of traffic collisions.
Treatments for PTSD are often similar to treatments for anxiety and depression, with some slight differences. For example, therapy for someone with PTSD may focus heavily on the traumatic event that caused their condition, while someone with GAD might focus on general ways to handle anxiety and stress.
Living with Anxiety Disorders and Related Conditions.
This post has only discussed some of the more common anxiety disorders and related condition. There are many more (too many to list here), but all of them are characterized by unusually strong feelings of anxiety or feelings of anxiety in unusual situations.
While many anxiety disorders are commonly treated with prescription medications, they are also treated with therapy. Treatment largely depends on the case and on the preferences of the patient.
If you think that you might have one of the conditions described above or a related condition, bring it up with your healthcare provider. While you may be nervous about treatment, people with anxiety can choose not to undergo treatment and try to manage their symptoms through lifestyle and diet changes and other alternatives. However, the only way to really understand your condition and your options is through talking to your healthcare provider.
Your healthcare provider may then refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other type of therapist. They might also recommend cognitive therapy ( a way to change your thinking of certain fears or behaviors).
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Medical advice should always be obtained from a qualified medical professional for any health conditions or symptoms associated with them. Every possible effort has been made in preparing and researching this material. We make no warranties concerning the accuracy, applicability of its contents, or any omissions.