Major Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • There are many different types of anxiety disorders and each one produces unique symptoms. In addition, each person may experience different symptoms and varying degrees of symptoms. Learning to understand the major symptoms of each type of anxiety can help to determine if it is time to seek professional help.

     

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

     

    Generalized anxiety disorder is most often associated with chronic and exaggerated worry. Although everyone worries to a certain degree, people suffering from GAD have excessive and unrealistic worries that interfere with daily activities. For example, while money and finances can be a cause of concern, people with GAD may worry about money unnecessarily. It may cause tension and they may feel something terrible or financial ruin will happen if they do not address the situation. Even when worrying interferes with their relationships or stops them from enjoying activities, they feel powerless to stop.

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    GAD can also cause physical symptoms, such as: 

    • Headaches and muscle tension
    • Tiredness
    • Insomnia
    • Irritability
    • Restlessness
    • Stomach problems 

    Panic Disorder

     

     Panic disorder is characterized by a sudden onset of an intense fear, usually for no apparent reason. The panic attacks can occur while awake or while sleeping. People with panic disorder often become fearful of having another attack and may stop activities such as social events. Leaving the home and being in a public place can cause an intense worry of having another attack, they may avoid all situations outside of the home.

     

    Some of the symptoms of panic disorder can resemble symptoms of physical illnesses, such as heart attack or heart disease, thyroid problems and breathing disorders. Many times someone will be diagnosed with panic disorder after seeking medical help for what they believe is a physical illness, for example, going to the emergency room after a panic attack because the person may believe he or she is experiencing a heart attack.

     

    Additional symptoms of panic disorder include: 

    • Feeling of danger
    • Feeling the need to escape
    • Feeling as if you are going crazy
    • Fearing you are going to die
    • Heart palpitations or chest pains
    • Sweating
    • Shaking or trembling
    • Shortness of breath
    • Feeling of not being able to breathe or feeling as if you are choking
    • Stomach problems, such as nausea
    • Dizziness
    • Chills or heat flashes
    • Tingling sensations 

    Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

     

    Social anxiety disorder is an intense fear of being judged by other people. It can sometimes be selective, in that a person may fear speaking or eating in public but may not be afraid to speak to someone on a one-on-one basis. Most people with SAD understand their fear is irrational but feel helpless and powerless to stop. Social anxiety disorder can be extremely debilitating and can interfere with a person's ability to attend social events or even work outside the home. Children and adolescents with SAD may become extremely anxious attending school each day.

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    Some of the physical symptoms associated with SAD include: 

    • Headaches and muscle tension
    • Stomach problems such as nausea
    • Heart palpitations
    • Sweating
    • Dizziness
    • Shortness of breath 

    Young children with SAD may also have tantrums or cling to caregivers during times of anxiety.

     

    Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

     

    Obsessive-compulsive disorder includes both obsessive (and unwanted) thoughts that someone is unable to control. Thoughts can include worry about germs and being contaminated or the need to have something in a particular order. Compulsive actions are those ritualistic behaviors that must be completed in an attempt to relieve anxiety. Examples include repeatedly washing hands or checking and rechecking to make sure doors are locked.

     

    Some additional examples of obsessive-compulsive behavior: 

    • Inability to throw anything away for fear of throwing away something of importance
    • Intense need to have things in correct order or have things in symmetry
    • Continually repeating a word or phrase or an activity
    • Continually reviewing a conversation
    • Checking and rechecking to be sure something has been completed, such as turning off the stove 

    Phobias

     

    Phobias are intense, irrational fears of specific objects, situations or places that should not cause worry or anxiety. For example, receiving a needle at a doctor's office may cause many people to be nervous but for those with a needle phobia, the intense reaction, sometimes brought on only by thinking of the situation, can include symptoms such as fainting, hyperventilating and other symptoms.

     

    Some common phobias include fear of flying, fear of animals, and fear of needles but phobias can occur because of any object, situation or place.

     

    Some of the physical symptoms that can occur because of a phobia include: 

    • Heart palpitations or chest pains
    • Sweating
    • Shaking or trembling
    • Shortness of breath
    • Feeling of not being able to breathe or feeling as if you are choking
    • Stomach problems, such as nausea
    • Dizziness 

    Remember, not all people with anxiety will experience all of the symptoms and people may experience varying degrees of symptoms. If any of the symptoms begin to interfere with your ability to carry out daily tasks, interfere with your success at work or school, interfere with your relationships, then it is probably time to seek professional help.

     

     

     

    Sources:

     

    "Anxiety Disorders", Reviewed 2009, March 9, National Institute of Mental Health

     

    "Anxiety Attacks and Disorders", Modified 2008, June, Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, PhD, Helpguide.org

Published On: April 07, 2009