Patients with this disorder experience intense anxiety in two or more of the following situations:
-Being in open spaces
-Being in enclosed spaces
-Using public transportation
-Being in a crowd or standing in line
-Being outside of one’s home alone
These situations are either avoided altogether, require the person to be with a companion, or have to be endured with intense anxiety. Patients with agoraphobia typically fear these situations due to feeling that escape may be difficult or that they may develop panic symptoms and help may not be available.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD is characterized by daily worry about a variety of different aspects of life such as work, school, finances, relationships, health, kids, their safety etc. The worry that patients with GAD experience is difficult to control. Common symptoms that people with GAD experience include: irritability, fatigue, muscle tension, trouble focusing, restlessness, feeling on edge, or troubles with sleep. The anxiety in GAD must cause significant distress or impairment in various aspects of patients' lives such as work, school, or social life.
Patients with this disorder have recurrent and unanticipated panic attacks. A panic attack is an intense surge of anxiety/fear that occurs out of the blue or for no apparent reason. Common symptoms experienced during panic attacks include: fast heart rate, shaking, sweating, difficulty breathing, chest pain, choking sensation, stomach pain, nausea, dizziness, hot or cold sensations, numbness or tingling, feeling detached from one’s self or one’s surroundings, fear of losing control, or a fear of dying. Patient’s with panic disorder will worry about having another panic attack or they may develop behaviors to avoid future panic attacks.
Specific phobias are characterized by anxiety, intense fear, or avoidance related to a specific situation or object. Some examples of phobias include fears of flying, heights, thunder/lightening, certain animals, needles, blood, and injections. The phobia must last for at least 6 months. It also must cause significant distress in the patient’s life.
Social Anxiety Disorder
In social anxiety disorder or social phobia, patients are anxious or avoidant of social interactions. Some examples include meeting new people, being observed by others, or performing/presenting in front of others. Patients often express fear of being judged negatively by others or offending others. Patients with this disorder will also fear showing anxiety symptoms in front of others, possibly leading to embarrassment, humiliation, or rejection. Patients with social anxiety disorder will often avoid social situations or have to endure them with intense anxiety, if unavoidable. The anxiety related to social situations also causes significant distress in multiple areas of the patient’s life, such as at work, school, or socially.
Future blog posts will discuss the management of anxiety disorders and ways to cope with anxiety and stress.