Causes

Most Common Anxiety Disorders Explained

The HealthCentral Editorial Team Aug 1st, 2012 (updated Sep 25th, 2014)
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Anxiety or anxiety disorder?
Anxiety or anxiety disorder?

Everyone feels nervous or anxious from time to time. This is a normal reaction to stress and can actually help you complete tasks or protect yourself from risky situations. So how can you tell when your anxiety has become an actual anxiety disorder? Here we look at five of the most common anxiety disorders and how they affect people who suffer from them.

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after a person has been exposed to a terrifying ordeal in which his or her life or safety was threatened. Military combat, physical or sexual assaults, accidents, and natural or human-caused disasters can cause PTSD. PTSD sufferers experience insomnia, nightmares, persistent memories of events, and emotional detachment. They are also often easily startled.

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Panic disorder
Panic disorder

Panic disorder is characterized by sudden, uncontrollable attacks of terror. These "panic attacks" are often accompanied by sweating, dizziness, faintness, and a pounding heartbeat. People who suffer from panic disorder often believe they are having a heart attack, going crazy, or in mortal danger. Fortunately, it is one of the most treatable of the anxiety disorders, responding well to medications and/or cognitive behavioral therapy.

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

People who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) have recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). The disorder manifests itself in behaviors such as handwashing, checking locks or appliances, counting objects or tasks, or cleaning excessively. But performing these "rituals" only provides temporary relief from the anxiety that's driving them and will eventually increase the person's distress.

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Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder

People who have Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) suffer overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in social situations. This can be limited to one kind of social situation (such as speaking in public), or it can extend to all situations that involve other people. Social anxiety sufferers experience a chronic, intense fear of being watched or judged by others, and they can have a hard time working, attending school, or going out socially.

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Generalized anxiety disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by exagerrated worry or tension and chronic anxiety, even when there is no event to cause it. They can be overly concerned about finances, work issues, and health issues. People who have this condition will also suffer from physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, irritability, sweating, and hot flashes.