Anxiety is the mind and body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It’s the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event or when your thoughts bring about a memory that reminds you of things that have occurred in the past. A certain level of anxiety helps us stay alert and aware and is useful in everyday life. It enables us to be aware of things in our world that we need to adhere to such as road rules, going to work and making payment on time. For those suffering from an anxiety disorder, it feels far from normal – it can be completely debilitating and can render us unable to take part in things that we once enjoyed and/or everyday activities.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are many anxiety-related disorders, and they are divided into three main categories:
- Anxiety disorders: Anxiety disorders are characterised by a general feature of excessive fear (i.e. emotional response to perceived or real threat) and/or anxiety (i.e. worrying about a future threat) and can have negative behavioural and emotional consequences.
- Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders: Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders are characterised by repeated obsessive, and intrusive thoughts (e.g., constantly worrying about staying clean, or about one’s body size) that trigger related, compulsive behaviours (e.g. repeated hand-washing, or excessive exercise). These behaviours are performed to alleviate the anxiety associated with the obsessive thoughts.
- Trauma- and stressor- related disorders: Trauma- and stressor- related anxiety disorders are related to the experience of a trauma (e.g., unexpected death of a loved one, a car accident, near drowning, childhood abuse, a violent incident like war or sexual assault) or stressor (e.g., divorce, beginning college, moving). When a trauma occur’s it is as though the same experience is being relived over and over again. This may come about as a result of flashbacks or being reminded of the event by things that you see, hear, smell, taste or touch.
- Panic Disorder: reflects the experience of sudden panic symptoms (generally out of the blue, without specific triggers) in combination with persistent, lingering worry that panic symptoms will return and fear of those panic symptoms. Symptoms include recurrent expected or unexpected panic attacks that can last from a few minutes to up to an hour.
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