Anxiety Types

Published: February 2, 2012

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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

People with OCD experience extreme anxiety and will dwell upon particular thoughts, fears, and irrational beliefs for extended periods of time. Many people with OCD will engage in routine, repetitive, or impulsive behavior such as excessive organizing, cleaning, or washing hands. OCD patients experience constant, endless, and intrusive thoughts that stem from sources including religion, paranoia, phobias, and other strong convictions.

OCD causes people to experience persistent and intrusive thoughts that cause long-lasting anxiety. This type of anxiety is called an obsession-resulting in thoughts and preoccupations that constantly bother you and never leave your mind. People with OCD will try to relieve the anxieties of obsession with compulsive actions. Even though the compulsion brings some relief, the obsessive thought will almost always return.

For example, the obsession might be an overwhelming fear of germs. As a result, the compulsive response will be hand washing, cleaning surfaces, and refusing to shake hands with others. A person with OCD might also have a strong aversion to messiness and will constantly clean until drawers and shelves are neat and perfect. OCD patients might be obsessed with certain sexual acts, especially when confused about their sexual identities.

OCD can damage a person's quality of life by affecting work, social relationships, and general levels of happiness. People with OCD may realize that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational; however, the thoughts are out of control and cannot stop.

Panic Disorder

This condition causes people to feel sudden fear with accompanying physical symptoms of sweating, chest pain, problems breathing, and extremely rapid heartbeat. These panic attacks are unpredictable and produce feelings of extreme anxiety. Panic attacks may have an identifiable cause, but oftentimes, they are unprovoked.

Panic attacks can range from one minute to 30 minutes. They can occur as a result from a mental stimulus such as stress or fear or from a physical cause. Some substances such as caffeine can cause severe anxiety and panic attacks. Legal and illegal drugs can also make the symptoms of anxiety worse. Smoking, alcohol use, and drug withdrawal and cause a panic attack.

Experiencing a panic attack does not mean that you have a panic disorder. Panic attacks become a true disorder when you experience repeated attacks over a period of weeks for no identifiable reason.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a condition triggered by a specific event such as death of a friend, accident, and abuse. Memories of the event will trigger extreme distress and anxiety. Eventually, people with PTSD start to feel emotionally numb after experiencing repeated flashbacks, nightmares, and hallucinations. People might experience insomnia, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, problems breathing, and trouble interacting with peers and loved ones.

PTSD can last for a period of weeks, months, and years, depending on the triggering event and emotional response. Children with PTSD may cry, cling excessively to one or both parents, or become angry. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

SAD is a condition that creates fear in social situations. People might have intense difficulty interacting with others out of fear of judgment and embarrassment. Daily social activities can cause a person to feel worried or self-conscious to an irrational extent. People with social anxiety experience extreme distress and can cause panic attacks.

Many people can fear certain social situations before the event takes place. People with social anxiety disorder generally have trouble eating in front of other people, using public facilities, interacting with each other on dates or during group activities, talking on the telephone, and asking questions in front of others.

Other Types of Anxiety

  • Phobias are irrational fears that can include heights, closed spaces, open spaces, spiders, and more. These types of fears trigger extreme anxiety.
  • Existential anxiety is the fear associated with freedom of choice. People might feel extreme moral and spiritual guilt when making tough choices between life and death, for example.
  • With test and performance anxiety, people feel fear in competitive situations. People might feel extreme pressure to avoid the potential for failure and alienation. Adults, adolescents, and children all report symptoms of test and social anxiety. Fear of failure can lead to a diminished sense of self worth. While a small amount of anxiety is necessary to push people to succeed in the event of a challenge, test and performance anxiety can cause people to perform below capacity.
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