Everyone feels anxiety to some throughout life - fear and anxiety are adaptive and helpful emotions that serve to alert an individual to dangerous or unsafe situations. Normal anxiety, however, tends to be limited in time and connected with some stressful situation or event, such as a move or a job interview. The type of anxiety experienced by people with an anxiety condition is more frequent or persistent, not always connected to an obvious life event, and impacts on the quality of life and day-to-day functioning. When anxiety causes significant distress, or impairs a person's ability to function in important areas of life such as work, school, or relationships, it may be indicative of an anxiety disorder.
Some common symptoms of an anxiety disorder include a racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, edginess, excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, obsessive thinking, and avoidance of situations that induce anxiety.
There are different types of anxiety. The most common are:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A person feels anxious on most days, worrying about lots of different things, for a period of six months or more.
Social Anxiety: A person has an intense fear of being criticised or + embarrassed or humiliated, even in everyday situations, such as speaking publicly, eating in public, or making small talk.
Specific Phobias: A person feels very fearful about a particular object or situation and may go to great lengths to avoid it (example: traveling on a plane). There are many different types of phobias.
Selective Mutism: A person shows consistent failure to speak in specific social situations in which there is an expectation for speaking (e.g., at school), despite having an ability to speak and speaking normally in other situations.
Panic Disorder: A person has panic attacks, which are intense, overwhelming and often uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms. Someone having a panic attack may experience 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.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A person has ongoing unwanted/intrusive thoughts and fears that cause anxiety. Although the person may acknowledge these thoughts as silly, they often try to relieve their anxiety by carrying out certain behaviours or rituals (Example: a fear of germs and contamination can lead to constant hand washing)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: this can happen after a person experiences a traumatic event (e.g. war, assault, accident, disaster). Symptoms can include difficulty relaxing, upsetting dreams or flashbacks of the event, and avoidance of anything related to the event.