Anxiety is a natural and helpful emotion that helps us to discern and react to real danger. Anxiety disorders happen when the emotional response is excessive and/or not appropriate to the situation. Patients with these disorders often magnify the level of danger in a situation, and worry excessively about these dangers while disqualifying their own ability to manage them. Cognitive behavioral therapy employs thought restructuring and exposure based techniques to facilitate accurate interpretations of stressful situations and to build one’s skills and beliefs in their ability to face difficult situations. These strategies encourage people to face fear and build a higher tolerance for anxiety and worrying, which then allows them to reach their longer-term goals.
Panic Disorder: Panic Disorder is characterized by seemingly "out of the blue" surges of fear, a sense of impending death, bodily injury, or doom. The sudden rush of fear occurs with a high degree of anxious arousal and physiological symptoms that may include: racing or pounding heart, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, a feeling of choking, chest pain or discomfort, nausea or abdominal discomfort, dizziness or lightheadedness, a sense of things being unreal, a fear of losing control or "going crazy", a fear of dying, tingling sensations and/or chills or hot flashes. Additionally, panic sufferers experience persistent concern about future panic attacks and may worry about behavioral or lifestyle changes made in attempts to cope with the attacks.Â As noted, many people with panic also begin to avoid places or situations where they have experienced panic attacks or situations where they anticipate feeling anxious. This avoidance sometimes leads to what is called Agoraphobia, or being trapped at home. Agoraphobia complicates panic because the person's world gradually becomes smaller and their panic worsens as they avoid more and more.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) : SAD involves intense fear of being scrutinized (looked at or examined closely) and negatively evaluated by others in social or performance situations. People who suffer from SAD are terrified that they will act in a way that will be embarrassing or humiliating. People with social anxiety often focus their attention on monitoring their own anxiety symptoms and behaviors in social situations instead of concentrating on the actual social interaction. Social anxiety can interfere significantly with daily routines, occupational performance or social life and limit a person's ability to be happy and thrive.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) : OCD is characterized by obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that people experience as intrusive and disturbing and that cause anxiety or distress. Obsessions are not just excessive worries about real life problems. People who suffer from OCD usually recognize their obsessions as internally generated (as opposed to hallucinations and delusions), irrational, and unwanted, but cannot resist them nonetheless. The person with OCD attempts to ignore, suppress, or neutralize these obsessive thoughts through the use of compulsions. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform according to rigid personal rules. Compulsions are aimed at neutralizing distress associated with obsessional thoughts, images or impulses or to prevent some dreaded event. For example a person who has an obsessive fear of contamination compulsively or repetitively washes his/her hands excessively.Â Obsessions or compulsions impair functioning, are time consuming and are recognized as excessive and/or unreasonable.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) : People with GAD experience recurrent and persistent worry. The worry is excessive and difficult to control and centers on multiple real life circumstances or concerns. Physical symptoms associated with GAD may include: muscle tension, fatigue, restlessness or feeling "keyed up" or feeling on edge, with difficulty concentrating, irritability, and sleep disturbances.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD can only occur upon exposure to a traumatic event where a person experienced, witnessed or otherwise confronted event involving threatened death or serious injury. The individual must have reacted with intense emotional arousal that is characterized by intense fear, helplessness or horror. Symptoms of PTSD fall under the three main categories of,
1) re-experiencing the traumatic event (e.g., intrusive thoughts or memories, flashbacks, nightmares etc...),
2) avoidance of stimuli which remind or signal aspects of trauma, and
3) hyperarousal (e.g., exaggerated startle response, sleep disturbance, irritability, etc...).
Phobias: A phobia is a fear that is unreasonable.Â Common phobias/fears include animals, environmental events (storms, thunder), blood or injections, heights, enclosed places, bridges, and vomiting.Â The person knows that the fear is excessive, but it still causes great distress and anxiety when the person sees or even thinks about the feared thing.Â Sometimes this fear can lead to avoidance of important events and places, and can have a negative impact on a person's quality of life.