The Different Types Of Anxiety Disorders

Anxietyon June 21st, 2014No Comments

Anxiety disorders include a range of disorders such as generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, panic disorder and even post natal anxiety. While the presentation of anxiety is the same for all anxiety disorders; namely the consistent, yet vague feeling of nervousness and apprehension coupled with physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, trembling and dizziness (to name only a few), each anxiety disorder has a specific pattern of presentation that allows it to be distinguished from the others.

Generalised anxiety disorder is a common anxiety disorder in which the person experiences uncontrolled and unfocussed worry that is not necessarily rationally related to any recent stressful events.

The person struggles with a persistent feeling of nervousness and threat and experiences restlessness, sleep disturbance, muscle tension along with the common presentation of anxiety Tyrer & Baldwin, 2006).

Social anxiety differs from generalised anxiety disorder as it becomes more situation specific. In this sense, people struggling with social anxiety experience a persistent fear of drawing any attention to themselves when they are in social situations. They believe that others will see their negative attributes and judge them negatively, leading to rejection (Morrison & Heimberg, 2013). Their anxiety, thus, is situation specific and experienced only when in social situations.

Panic disorder, on the other hand is less situation specific and is characterised by spontaneous and unpredictable panic attacks, which are episodes of acute anxiety coupled with a fear of dying as well as physical symptoms of heart palpitations, shortness of breath, racing heart, sweating, dizziness, numbness and disorientation (Sadock & Sadock, 2003). These attacks can occur at anytime and anywhere and, as such, they exacerbate general anxiety as the person is often feeling apprehensive about the next possible attack, especially as the person can have several attacks one day and then only one attack every few days or weeks.

Essentially, they are unpredictable and therefore result in a general feeling of anxiety. As a result, panic disorder sufferers may become agoraphobic and fear going out into public lest they experience another panic attack (Sadock & Sadock, 2003).

Separation anxiety is more commonly experienced during childhood and is an expected part of childhood when the child learns that it can be separated from the mother. A separation anxiety disorder, however, is diagnosed when there is excessive and inappropriate anxiety relating to the possible separation from a significant care-giver (Sadock & Sadock, 2003).

Adult separation anxiety disorder is a relatively recent term that has symptoms paralleling those of childhood separation anxiety, but with onset after age 18 (Silone, Momartine, Marnane, Steel & Manicavasagar, 2010). In this sense, those struggling with separation anxiety disorder will experience persistent and excessive anxiety about separating from significant people in their lives. They may also struggle with excessive worry about harm befalling those they love (Silone et al, 2010).

Post natal anxiety is anxiety experience after childhood and in relation to mothering and parenting in general. The adjustment to becoming a parent is a frequent source of stress and the anxiety experienced by new parents is quite common. A significant percentage of women, however, struggle with pathological anxiety and depression (Giakoumaki, Vasilaki, Lili, Skouroliakou & Liosis, 2009).

In the past symptoms of anxiety were associalted with post natal depression, but recently, post natal anxiety has been given more attention as a disorder on its own. Mothers struggling with post natal anxiety will experience the common presentation of anxiety in relation to their mothering and nurturing skills resulting in frequent self-doubt about their parenting skills and anxiety around whether they are harming the child and doing a good enough job of mothering.

All anxiety disorders present with the common symptoms of nervousness and apprehensiveness that is bigger than and inappropriate to the given situation. This sensation is coupled with physiological symptoms such as heart palpitations and shortness of breath. There are a variety of specific anxiety disorders ranging from panic disorder, to social anxiety and even post natal anxiety. While they all have a general experience of anxiety common to them, they each present in a very specific way.

Giakoumaki, O. O., Vasilaki, K. K., Lili, L. L., Skouroliakou, M. M., & Liosis, G. G. (2009). The role of maternal anxiety in the early postpartum period: Screening for anxiety and depressive symptomatology in Greece. Journal Of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology30(1), 21-28

Morrison, A. S., & Heimberg, R. G. (2013). Social anxiety and social anxiety disorder. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 9, 249 –274

Sadock, B. J. & Sadock, V. A. (2003): Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences / Clinical Psychiatry. Philedelphia Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

Silove, D., Momartin, S., Marnane, C., Steel, Z., & Manicavasagar, V. (2010). Adult separation anxiety disorder among war-affected Bosnian refugees: Comorbidity with PTSD and associations with dimensions of trauma. Journal Of Traumatic Stress23(1), 169-172.

Tyrer, P., & Baldwin, D. (2006). Generalised anxiety disorder. The Lancet368(9553), 2156-2166

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