Taking a look into generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and phobias.
We all have anxiety — it’s meant to keep us alive. Anxiety does serve a purpose to some degree, but that should come sparingly. There are many people out there, around 40 million, who are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, to be exact.
In fact, anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders.
So, more often than not, those who live with an anxiety disorder are experiencing daily anxiety symptoms. We get that rapid heartbeat and worry that settles on our chest. While we all have experienced anxiety, there is more to it.
Being anxious about an upcoming final exam is normal.
Having anxiety over lab results coming in from your doctor is normal.
Anxiety is normal.
What is not normal is having anxiety constantly, obsessive thinking, and all-consuming worry.
Generalized anxiety disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder that is generalized to every part of life. Someone with GAD always has anxiety, more often than not. There can always be a cause or trigger to anxiety, but sometimes anxiety just seemingly appears.
Not having anxiety tied to just one situation means that the anxiety is generalized. It can be challenging for many to experience a day without anxiety, especially they have not sought treatment from a mental health professional.
But, specifically, someone must have excessive worry for most days for at least 6 months on various facets of life. This includes experiencing anxiety at work, home, out with friends, or any other situation where anxiety may be present.
GAD can be looked at as chronic anxiety with exaggerated worry and tension. The worry and tension that someone living with GAD will experience are high, more often than not.
The symptoms of GAD are:
Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
Being easily fatigued
Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
Having muscle tension
Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep
Source: National Institute of Mental Health
Stepping away from generalized anxiety, we can focus more on a specific trigger for anxiety. Social anxiety is an anxiety disorder that is specific to social settings. Social activities or interaction causes a great deal of anxiety for someone.
In any social setting, someone with social anxiety will experience debilitating symptoms. Unlike GAD, social anxiety is probably one of the better general anxieties that I have seen.
Anxiety is not just tied to worry; instead, it can focus on that mind/body connection. There are physical and psychological symptoms from social anxiety that somebody will experience.
Some psychological symptoms of social anxiety can be:
worrying intensely about social situations
worrying for days or weeks before an event
avoiding social situations or trying to blend into the background if you must attend
worrying about embarrassing yourself in a social situation
worrying that other people will notice you are stressed or nervous
needing alcohol to face a social situation
missing school or work because of anxiety
Phobias are panic attacks or anxiety that are specific to that person. Where anxiety is triggered from a set point that has been identified.
There are different anxiety disorders, from generalized anxiety to social anxiety with a specific focus. With phobias, someone can be fearful and irrational over their trigger, even if it poses little to no threat.
A professor in my undergraduate days simply explained phobias. We all are naturally scared of some things like heights. Whatever you’re fearful of is keeping you safe. But when a phobia has little basis in reality, especially matched with the reaction from the person is the key.
Avoidance is a critical factor with phobias.
Symptoms of a phobia to certain stimuli or situations are:
Panic and fear
Shortness of breath
A solid desire to getaway
Anxiety can look different for everyone; no two people will have the exact same anxiety. With that being said, there is vast set of what anxiety can look like. From agoraphobia, to generalized anxiety there is the same feeling of consistent anxiety.
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