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Facts About Anxiety Disorders

Updated on August 21, 2016
Austinstar profile image

Lela earned a B.A. degree in Journalism from Sam Houston University in Huntsville, TX. She has been writing for the online world for years.

Anxiety and Fear

Anxiety disorders and fear.
Anxiety disorders and fear. | Source

What is Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety disorders have several mental health names. Some anxiety includes panic attacks, some do not. Anxiety is a form of fearfulness. Sufferers tend to be unable to come to quick decisions and do not have confidence in their abilities to adapt to strange situations.

The number one anxiety disorder is a fear of public speaking. It can be disabling if the speaker cannot overcome their anxiety of speaking to a group or a crowd. This may be part of their job duties.

Affecting around 40 million adult Americans, anxiety disorders are more than just the common 'butterflies' in the tummy. Anxiety gets worse over time feeding on itself. Without the proper treatment, these disorders can lead to drug abuse and a crippling form of social anorexia.

Some of the common names for anxiety disorders include, but are not limited to:

  • panic disorder
  • OCD - obsessive compulsive disorder
  • PTSD - post traumatic stress disorder
  • social anxiety disorder or phobias
  • specific phobias
  • GAD - generalized anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of anxiety disorder vary, but generally include excessive, irrational fear and dread of being in any social situation. Panic episodes occur when the sufferer accidentally encounters a situation they cannot control.

City life may be quite stressful
City life may be quite stressful | Source

Panic Attacks

Suffering from a panic attack is one of the most harmful manifestations of anxiety disorders. When a panic attack hits, the person may suffer lasting harmful effects. The feeling of being unable to breathe is common and people most often describe this symptom as part of the attack.

A feeling of terror brings on a pounding, rapid heart beat. The sufferer may sweat excessively, feel very weak and may actually become dizzy. If the panic attack continues, fainting may occur.

An unexpected panic attack may feel exactly like a heart attack. Experiencing flushing, feeling chilled, tingling or a feeling of numbness is common. Panic attack victims say they feel the most intense feeling of terror and uncontrollable urges to run away. Nausea, a smothered sensation, claustrophobia and chest pains often accompany a panic attack.

Panic attacks can happen at any time of day or night, even while sleeping. Some patients are unable to sleep fearing another attack. The patients feel impending doom and gloom. They fear going to places where a panic attack has happened to them.

Not everyone with anxiety disorders suffer panic attacks. Some may endure only one attack before seeking help. Others feel as though they are helpless against panic attacks. These people can even resort to depression and suicide to cope with their disorders.

Panic attacks are one of the easiest symptoms to treat of all anxiety disorders. Patients respond quickly and positively to medication and cognitive psychotherapy. Research has shown that a cure for panic attacks is even possible with one treatment. But that is not recommended. Gradual exposure to triggers along with self bio-feedback plus medication is the best solution.

The sooner a panic attack victim seeks help, the easier it is to treat. Recognize the symptoms of panic attack disorder and be honest with your psychologist or physician. Don't try to avoid the issue. If you feel you are having panic attacks, you probably are, so get help right away.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder can also lead to more serious anxiety issues such as:

  • Alcoholism
  • Agoraphobia (crippling fear of leaving home)
  • Drug addiction
  • Depression
  • Avoiding normal activities such as bathing
  • Specific phobias such as fear of elevators, stairs, unusual objects or even numbers

Panic Attack Video

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Thought control is impossible for OCD patients. They consistently repeat themselves in some sort of ritualized manner. If the ritual is interrupted, they may have to begin their ritual from the top until it is completed. They may even repeat the same ritual over and over and be unable to stop.

Sometimes the ritual thoughts are totally inside their head. They have an idea in their head that will not go away. It is similar to having some part of a familiar song repeating itself in your head until you feel as if you will do anything to get rid of that tune.

People performing rituals do not always have OCD. Mild cases exhibit mannerisms that are quite acceptable in social situations. If you spill a salt shaker and take a pinch of it and throw it over your shoulder, you are not exhibiting OCD.

OCD sufferers are compelled to repeat things. Some compelling rituals include, but are not limited to:

  • Fixation with germs and dirt compelling a person to wash their hands repeatedly and in a prescribed manner.
  • Locking and re-locking doors and windows show compulsion.
  • Sufferers may comb or brush their hair over and over and get 'caught' in the mirror.
  • Touching things in a pattern or counting things over and over may be compulsive.
  • Violent thoughts, especially of harming family members are grouped into the OCD disorder.
  • Hoarding is considered to be obsessive/compulsive.
  • Eating certain foods in a specific manner repetitively can indicate OCD.
  • Any ritual that doesn't make 'sense', such as setting an alarm clock to avoid certain numbers or counting letters in each word that is read is a danger signal for OCD.

When OCD affects a person's daily life, it is time to get professional help. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder responds fairly well with medication and exposure based psychotherapy. The patient needs to become desensitized to ritualistic behavior.

Compulsive Hoarding

Hoarding is a social anxiety called obsessive compulsive disorder.
Hoarding is a social anxiety called obsessive compulsive disorder. | Source

Specific Phobias

Specific phobias develop in people because of an irrational fear. Although it is seemingly rational to be afraid of heights, for instance, it is not rational to be so afraid of heights that you cannot enjoy the view from atop the Empire State Building or the view from the rim of the Grand Canyon.

While some people are mildly worried about flying in a plane, it becomes irrational to have a panic attack just thinking about getting on an airplane. Some people are deathly afraid of choking on peanut butter. Others present panic attacks when trying to enter elevators.

It is true that people who suffer from very specific phobias are seemingly calm in a different kind of situation that is similar to their phobia. People with a fear of the number 13 (triskaidekaphobia) are able to count to 12 with no problems.

Specific phobias are treated with bio-feedback relaxation techniques while learning to deal with their phobias. Some people never seek treatment unless the phobia interferes with their daily activities or severely limits them in some way.

Among social anxiety disorders, specific phobias are the easiest to treat of all. Once a person learns to control their feelings of panic via bio-feedback, the phobia pretty much goes away.

Banana Phobia

Some people have panic attacks from bunches of bananas.
Some people have panic attacks from bunches of bananas. | Source

Odd Phobias

  • Banana Phobia (fear of bananas)
  • Aulophobia - fear of flutes
  • Ergophobia - fear of work
  • Geniophobia - fear of chins (fear of Jay Leno?)
  • Hemophobia - fear of blood
  • Panophobia - fear of everything
  • Xanthophobia - fear of the color yellow

Social Anxiety Disorder

Does FaceBook scare you? Do you fear walking into a room full of strangers? Is giving a speech your worst nightmare? If so, you probably have social anxiety disorder.

Being self conscious is not rare, nor is it supposed to be disabling. Some people actually thrive on being the center of attention. We would never have politicians if social anxiety was common.

Social anxiety becomes crippling when a person is unable to face common social situations that they fear will embarrass them. The physical reaction is real. Sweating, fear of being watched, nervousness and feeling humiliated are all too real for people unable to cope with social situations. The fear may progress to agoraphobia which is being unable to leave the comfort of the home.

Social phobia can be restricted to one situation or it can be generalized anxiety. Worry about work, school, shopping and travel becomes constant and severe. About 15 million adults, both men and women suffer from social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety and phobia is treated with specific kinds of medications and therapy.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, affects nearly seven million people with women being more prone to experience this issue than men. In mild cases, the person will only have constant worry about things. They may become hypochondriacs or try to self-medicate. They appear to be able to handle most social situations, but are described as 'nervous Nellies'.

People that continuously worry about disasters and end of the world scenarios have GAD. There is usually no specific trigger for their anxiety and tenseness. Anything and everything causes worry and difficulty coping with life in general.

Since GAD patients worry about everything, they often look for the magic pill or elixir to make everything all right. Some turn to severe alcohol or drug abuse. Severe generalized anxiety disorder patients can even have trouble getting dressed for the day.

GAD rarely manifests itself alone. The disorder co-exists with other disorders like hypochondria, depression and helplessness. The underlying conditions must also be treated while dealing with GAD. Medication and cognitive behavior work best together to treat this anxiety.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Women most often suffer PTSD after being assaulted and/or raped. Men suffer if they have engaged in violent behaviors such as being in prison or combat. Terrifying ordeals, whether unnatural or natural, affect people for life. Stress is the body's way of dealing with uncontrolled situations. In some people that stress never goes away.

Post traumatic stress sufferers may have flashbacks to their trigger events. Any anniversary or specific reminder, such as noise or smell, may trigger a flashback. Some people eventually recover from PTSD, others never do. They re-live the trauma over and over in their minds.

Depression frequently develops during PTSD. The condition may have something to do with genetic encoding. Very specific medications and treatment should be initiated rapidly with PTSD sufferers or the condition will worsen and become chronic.

Medication for Anxiety Disorders

There is no magic pill or cure for social anxiety disorders. Some medications will help with the symptoms while the person is in psychotherapy or waiting for the right psychotherapy.

Some medications are needed to treat underlying depression or severe anxiety. These medications do not work right away and must be taken long term. Discontinuations of these types of medication should not be stopped cold turkey. They must be tapered off under the supervision of a doctor.

The medications most often prescribed for the various conditions include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Tricyclics
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Benzodiazepine
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin®)
  • Atavan® and Xanax®
  • Beta Blockers

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Changing thought patterns and response to triggers is the idea behind cognitive behavioral therapy. Some of the treatments include:

  • Learning to deal with panic attacks
  • Learning to deal with paranoia
  • Desensitization to specific phobias and fears
  • Recalling traumatic events in a safe situation
  • Group discussion therapy
  • Stress management techniques
  • Meditation
  • Specific support groups
  • Anti-stress exercise
  • Help from Clergy or spiritual leaders
  • Getting support from friends and family
  • Avoiding addictive substances like caffeine, OTC medications, drugs of abuse
  • Working with a specialist in anxiety disorders

Get Help for Anxiety Disorders

The first step for anxiety disorder patients is to see their primary doctor to rule out any physical causes for the symptoms.

Once the issue is diagnosed, get help as soon as possible. All of the anxiety disorders will be lessened, managed or cured with early intervention. There is hope no matter how hopeless one may feel inside.

Since so many people are affected by anxiety issues, there is plenty of help available. Insurance covers most health related psychotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy. Find a mental health professional that you feel comfortable with and don't neglect yourself.

Even if you cannot afford a psychotherapist, there are many organizations that offer discounted help for low income families. Clinical trials are available for anxiety disorders. Start your search here:

  1. The National Institute of Mental Health Clinical Trials
  2. Clinical

How do you feel?

Do you currently suffer from any of these anxiety issues?

See results

© 2012 Lela


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    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      It's an ongoing battle. I have heard that people with one anxiety disorder are likely to develop another one or two.

    • poshcoffeeco profile image

      Steve Mitchell 4 years ago from Cambridgeshire

      Great article. Panic attacks really are the pits and very difficult to control.

      Your article provides real information for anyone unfortunate to suffer with this debilitating illness.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Stairs are indeed scary. Falling down a flight of stairs can't be good for you.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      Good question, m'dear. Actually, Climacophobia is the fear of stairs, fear of climbing stairs and fear of falling down stairs. It usually develops when someone has a traumatic event occur in their life involving stairs.

      Another interesting phobia is Bathmophobia where the sight of stairs could cause someone to panic because of a fear of stairs, stairways or steep slopes. As you can see, there is a phobia for everyone. :)

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      That's the ticket, drbj, always look at the silver lining on any cloud! Does acrophobia also apply to going downstairs?

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      Excellent and easy-to-understand treatment of a difficult disorder, Lela. Thanks for your research and well-written useful information.

      I once worked with a colleague who had a full-blown case of acrophobia. He refused to work anywhere that he would have to go upstairs beyond the bottom floor. Good for me though since I got to take over all his coaching assignments for large corporations almost all of which had offices in skyscrapers.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      It's good to know that there are cures for some of these disorders. They really cripple some peoples lives. Thanks for a great article. Many will read it and bless you.

    • tiffany delite profile image

      tiffany delite 5 years ago from united states

      great article. very informative and interesting. i have first hand experience with several of the disorders you talk about, and they can most definitely be disabling. thanks for the great article...blessings!

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Actually, you are correct :-) The best photographers take thousands of photos (probably every week). I take about 5 a week maybe. I just think I know it all. Hahaha

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 5 years ago from Washington

      Ha ha Lela---are you spying on me again? I definitely need to never cast the first stone, eh? Bob calmly shoots 30 pictures--and that's for an entire day...Audrey's total---900--I kid you NOT! He just shakes his head...he keeps asking WHY do you take so many pictures especially knowing YOU are the one who has to go through them--because he is computer impaired....I say mildly "I don't know Bob--I'm trying to quit but it's an addiction....." I think it's because I'm so paranoid I'm going to have a blurry one so I take "one more" to be sure, which leads to one more, to one more--no--that's not OCD AT ALL! I'm right on this eh?? Sigh...I'll keep going to the counselors......

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Hi Audrey - I think you may be obsessive about photography, but I only think that because your photos are so much better and more prolific than mine. I'm a tad jealous. And of course, you keep those dogs squeaky clean although I have no idea how you find the time!

      All of us hoard things and I think that's genetic going back to cavemen days. It's definitely a coping mechanism.

      Hi Eddie - I do hope this article helps someone in some small way. I wish someone had been around when I had panic attacks over bananas. Instead everyone laughed at me. Now that I have conquered that phobia, I look back and laugh. It wasn't quite so funny at the time.

      Hi d. - I do think everything is inside of us. We have the power to control how we behave and to some extent, how we think. Compulsions make our brains very fuzzy, but I think most people can learn to deal with their anxiety. Some can do it without help, most cannot. So we need to do whatever it takes to cope with our physiology, mentality and limitations.

    • d.william profile image

      d.william 5 years ago from Somewhere in the south

      Great article and generalized description of Anxiety disorders. Although there are triggers as you mention, they are are not specific enough to be a root cause for all who suffer from this disorder, and treatment is specific to the individual for that very reason.

      And as mentioned that some may possibly be related to physiology, the vast majority is related to psychological problems, either real or imagined. Very informative hub.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      A very interesting and well informed article which I am sure will help many readers.


    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 5 years ago from Washington

      Great info, Lela and definitely therapies can help. I think though the key as in all things is admitting Houston--we have a problem. I personally know these behaviors exist in my mom for example but getting help--not gonna happen. It's really kind of sad actually because I think it would have helped her lead a more happy and contented life but alas, we can only heal ourselves.

      She has the hoarding gig going on though I have to say for someone who hoards, it is neatly arranged!! She also has the germ phobia going on and countless social phobias not to mention paranoia about everyone and everything including the government and the environment killing her---Bob's only stipulation in our marriage of almost 40 years---she will NOT be coming to live with us, Audrey or I'm gone! I do unfortunately totally agree. There are not enough drugs on the planet or wine in the supermarkets to help me through that kind of scenario me thinks. It is tough just talking to her once a week on the phone these days--ah well.

      My point is though you have to recognize your weaknesses and actually seek actively to fix them or at least keep them at bay to ever truly be healed--and even then, just like so many other things, it's a day to day gig. I should know as I suffer from several of these myself but even if you can't completely cure it all, you can live a more meaningful life. Great article as always Lela. I have to go disinfect something now...ha ha--that is one thing I don't have---yet~

    • Marsei profile image

      Sue Pratt 5 years ago from New Orleans

      I thought this was a very informative hub. I think I sort of knew all these things, but seeing them all together like this gave me new insight. My mom used to go back several times and count each burner on our gas kitchen stove to be sure they were off. At one point, I realized she did it seven times. I only recently realized she was obsessive compulsive.

      Thanks! Voted up.


    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      You got that right, brother.

    • Manna in the wild profile image

      Manna in the wild 5 years ago from Australia

      Yeah. Facebook scares me. But for rational reasons. :-)

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      I know that your friend's daughter needs professional help. The phenomena known as "cutting" is a form of OCD and depression. It can be treated successfully with meds and cognitive therapy.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Topical subject. Several people I know are suffering from depression, etc. One friend's daughter has been significantly self-harming and crippled herself with a deep razor slash on her foot a few days ago. Do you know much about that 'Star?? (It was the last of several incidents).

      Voted accordingly


    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      I agree with your statement, blissful. Should have put that into the hub. I recently got myself off of a couple of meds by taking supplements. I went to a nutritionist who clued me in.

      Thanks Carol! This is a subject near and dear to my heart.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      I do believe that hoarding, phobias, and anxiety is related -- it has a lot to do with the health of the brain. Although there are many causes and it should be looked at by a professional, there are some evidence that this can occur if one is deficient in certain minerals and nutrients -- in particular, magnesium, B vitamins, omega-3 fats, and healthy animal products. And I've even heard of cases where long-term vegetarianism had increased anxiety.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      I know a little bit about most of what you have written, but you have clarified a lot of what I did not know. This is a truly great and well written hub. I am voting up+++ and sharing.