There are several types of Anxiety Disorders:
- specific phobias, and
- generalized anxiety disorder - also called "free--floating anxiety" (GAD).
NOTE: "Free-floating" is misleading, though; everything is connected to some thing
- in this case it simply means that the connection isn't yet clear.
Each anxiety disorder has different symptoms, but all the symptoms involve excessive,
irrational fear and dread.
Specific Phobias Generalized Anxiety Disorder(s)
Panic Attacks/Disorder Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Agoraphobia Social Phobia
Acute & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) - also known as the "free-floating anxiety disorder":
these people go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though
there is little or nothing to provoke it. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned
about health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work. Sometimes just the
thought of getting through the day produces anxiety.
Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is a condition that can be successfully treated. Panic attacks usually produce
a sense of unreality, a fear of impending doom, or a fear of losing control.
A panic attack is a specific period of intense fear, terror, or discomfort that is associated
with numerous somatic (bodily), and cognitive symptoms.
- The symptoms include palpitations, and the pounding of the heart, sweating,
trembling, weakness, shortness of breath, sensations of choking or smothering, chest
pain, nausea or gastrointestinal distress, dizziness, faintness, or light-headedness,
chills or blushing (flushing) and “hot flashes.”
- Extremities (hands and feet) may tingle, or feel numb.
- The attack typically has an abrupt onset, building to maximum intensity within 10 to
- Most people report a fear of dying, “going crazy,” or losing control of emotions or
- The experiences generally provoke a strong urge to escape or flee the place where
the attack begins (The "Fight, Flight -or sometimes- Freeze response. When it is
associated with chest pain or shortness of breath, it frequently results in seeking aid
from a hospital emergency room or other type of urgent assistance. Yet an attack
rarely lasts longer than 30 minutes.
The general current diagnostic practice is that a panic attack must be characterized by at
least four of the associated somatic and cognitive symptoms described above. The panic
attack is distinguished from other forms of anxiety by its intensity and its sudden, episodic
nature. Panic attacks may be further characterized by the relationship between the onset
of the attack and the presence or absence of situational factors. For example, a panic
attack may be described as unexpected, situationally bound, or situationally predisposed
(usually, but not invariably occurring in a particular situation).
Panic disorder is diagnosed when a person has experienced at least two unexpected panic
attacks and develops persistent concern or worry about having further attacks or changes
his or her behavior to avoid or minimize such attacks.
- It is about twice as common among women as men. Age of onset is most common
between late adolescence and mid-adult life, with onset relatively uncommon past
age 50. There is developmental continuity between the anxiety syndromes of youth,
such as separation anxiety disorder.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessions are persistent, recurrent, intrusive and upsetting thoughts, impulses, or images
(obsessions) that are perceived as inappropriate, grotesque, or forbidden. Obsessions are
perceived as uncontrollable, and the sufferer often fears that he or she will lose control
and act upon such thoughts or impulses.
- Common themes include contamination with germs or body fluids, doubts (i.e., the
worry that something important has been overlooked or that the sufferer has
unknowingly inflicted harm on someone), order or symmetry, or loss of control of
violent or sexual impulses.
They use rituals (compulsions) to attempt to control the anxiety these thoughts produce.
Instead, most of the time, the rituals end up controlling them. Healthy people also have
rituals; the difference is that people with OCD perform their rituals even though doing so
interferes with daily life, and they find the repetition distressing.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that reduce the anxiety that
accompanies an obsession or “prevent” some dreaded event from happening. Compulsions
include both overt behaviors, such as hand washing or checking, and mental acts including
counting or praying. Not uncommonly, compulsive rituals take up long periods of time,
even hours, to complete. For example, repeated hand washing, intended to remedy
anxiety about contamination, is a common cause of contact dermatitis.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder typically begins in adolescence to young adult life (males)
or in young adult life (females). For most, the course is fluctuating and, like generalized
anxiety disorder, symptom exacerbations are usually associated with life stress.
Commonly major depressive disorder and other anxiety disorders accompany this disorder
The anxiety disorders are the most common, or frequently occurring, mental disorders.
They consist of a group of conditions that share extreme or pathological anxiety as the
main mood or emotional tone disturbance. Anxiety, which may be understood as the
extreme form of normal fear, consists of mood, thinking, behavior, and physiological
- These include panic disorder (with and without a history of agoraphobia),
agoraphobia (with and without a history of panic disorder), generalized anxiety
disorder, specific phobia, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, acute stress
disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder
Agoraphobia: fear of crowds, and going out in public. The ancient term “agoraphobia” is
translated from Greek as fear of an open marketplace. Agoraphobia today describes
severe, ongoing anxiety about being in situations that escaping from might be difficult; or
avoidance of situations such as being alone outside of the home, traveling in a car, bus, or
airplane, or being in a crowded area.
- These common conditions are characterized by marked fear of specific objects or
situations. Exposure to the object of the phobia, either in real life or via imagination
or video, always results in intense anxiety, which may include a (situationally-bound)
panic attack. Adults generally recognize that this intense fear is irrational.
Nevertheless, they will avoid the phobic stimulus or endure exposure with great
difficulty. The most common specific phobias include the following feared stimuli or
situations: animals (especially snakes, rodents, birds, and dogs); insects (especially
spiders and bees or hornets); heights; elevators; flying; automobile driving; water;
storms; and blood or injections. Most phobias persist for years or even decades, and
relatively few remit spontaneously or without treatment.
Social Phobia: also known as the social anxiety disorder, it describes people who become
overwhelmingly anxious and excessively self-conscious in everyday social situations.
People with social phobia have an intense, persistent, and chronic fear of being watched
and judged by others and of doing things that will embarrass them. They can worry for
days or weeks before a dreaded situation.
- The critical element of the fearfulness is the possibility of embarrassment or ridicule.
Like specific phobias, the fear is recognized by adults as excessive or unreasonable,
but the dreaded social situation is avoided, or is tolerated with great discomfort.
- Many people with social phobia are preoccupied with concerns that others will see
their anxiety symptoms (i.e., trembling, sweating, or blushing); or notice their halting
or rapid speech; or judge them to be weak, stupid, or “crazy.”
- Fears of fainting, losing control of bowel or bladder function, or having one’s mind
going blank are also not uncommon. Social phobias generally are associated with
significant anticipatory anxiety for days or weeks before the dreaded event, which in
turn may further handicap performance and heighten embarrassment.
Social phobia typically begins in childhood or adolescence and, for many, it is associated
with the traits of shyness and social inhibition. A public humiliation, severe embarrassment,
or other stressful experience may provoke an intensification of difficulties. Once the
disorder is established, complete remissions are uncommon without treatment. More
commonly, the severity of symptoms and impairments tends to fluctuate in relation to
vocational demands and the stability of social relationships.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: disorder is defined by a protracted (6 months or so,
duration) period of anxiety and worry, accompanied by multiple associated symptoms.
These symptoms include muscle tension, easy fatiguability, poor concentration, insomnia,
and irritability. In youth, the condition is known as overanxious disorder of childhood.
An essential feature of generalized anxiety disorder is that the anxiety and worry can’t be
connected to the more focal distress of panic disorder, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive
disorder, or other conditions. Instead,the excessive worries often pertain to many areas,
including work, relationships, finances, the well-being of one’s family, potential
misfortunes, and impending deadlines. Somatic anxiety symptoms are common, as are
sporadic panic attacks.
Generalized anxiety disorder occurs more often in women, with a sex ratio of about 2
women to 1 man.
Acute and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD):
Acute stress disorder refers to the anxiety and behavioral disturbances that develop within
the first month after exposure to an extreme trauma, such as a terrifying ordeal that
involved physical harm, or the threat of physical harm, including physical assault and rape.
- It is common among first responders in the medical field, homicide investigators, and
military personnel, etc.
- The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm
may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful
event that happened to loved ones, or strangers.
- Generally, the symptoms of an acute stress disorder begin during or shortly following
the trauma. Such extreme traumatic events include rape or other severe physical
assault, near-death experiences in accidents, witnessing a murder, and combat.
- The symptom of dissociation, which reflects a perceived detachment of the mind
from the emotional state or even the body, is a critical feature.
- Dissociation also is characterized by a sense of the world as a dreamlike or unreal
place and may be accompanied by poor memory of the specific events, which in
severe form is known as dissociative amnesia.
- Other features of an acute stress disorder include symptoms of generalized anxiety
and hyperarousal, avoidance of situations or stimuli that elicit memories of the
trauma, and persistent, intrusive recollections of the event via flashbacks, dreams, or
recurrent thoughts or visual images.
If the symptoms and behavioral disturbances of the acute stress disorder persist for more
than 1 month, and if these features are associated with functional impairment or
significant distress to the sufferer, the diagnosis is changed to post-traumatic stress
- Results of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: a number of changes, including decreased
self-esteem, loss of sustained beliefs about people or society, hopelessness, a sense
of being permanently damaged, and difficulties in previously established relationships,
are typically observed. Substance abuse often develops, especially involving alcohol,
marijuana, and sedative-hypnotic drugs.
About 50 percent of cases of post-traumatic stress disorder remit within 6 months. For the
remainder, the disorder typically persists for years and can dominate the sufferer’s life.
The highest rates of post-traumatic stress disorder are found among women who are
victims of crime, especially rape.
Klaas Tuinman MA
Dawn Cove Abbey
Deerfield, (Yarmouth County) Nova Scotia, Canada - 2008 rev: 2017
Dawn Cove Abbey
Roadside Assistance For Your Journey Through Life
- Dedicated to helping people return (and maintain) sanity and decency to life -
From the eBook: "One! The Journey hOMe", by Klaas Tuinman MA, © 2007-2017
Questions and comments welcomed.
- An Overview
Specific Phobia: this is an
intense fear of something
that poses little or no actual
danger, such as closed-in
places, heights, escalators,
tunnels, highway driving,
water, flying, dogs, and
injuries involving blood.
These phobias aren't just
extreme fear; they are
irrational fear of a particular