Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Five Anxieties (and specific phobias) week 1

Last week Oriana did an excellent job of introducing you to signs and symptoms common across the board in people suffering from anxiety (the umbrella for 5 separate types of anxiety disorders, as well as specific phobias). Now let's look more closely at each type of anxiety disorder individually. Because there is a lot of ground to cover I will focus this week on Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia.
Next week I will post a third part to our series on Anxiety, in which we will look more closely at Social Anxiety Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Specific Phobias.

(My main source for these definitions is the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. For more on each type of anxiety you can click through the title links to the adaa website section on each illness.)
People with GAD live with constant, unrealistic worry about everyday things (like health, family, money etc.) They often feel these exaggerated worries and fears are out of their control, even though they recognize that the fears are irrational.

GAD often comes on gradually, and can materialize at any age, though most people first experience symptoms between childhood and middle age.

So if you often worry about money in the midst of a recession, or feel concern for the health of a sick loved one, does it mean you have GAD? Not necessarily. Keep in mind that worries characteristic of GAD are not usually triggered by actual events or situations, and tend to be excessive and irrational. Click through to the above link to learn more.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD)

People with OCD develop unwanted intrusive thoughts that cause them fear and anxiety. This is the obsessive component of OCD. To try and ease the anxiety and fear around these obsessive thoughts they engage in rituals and routines that become more and more intrusive over time. These are the compulsions. While compulsive behaviours are an attempt to control and subdue the obsessive thoughts, they have the opposite effect, intensifying the obsessions which in turn intensify the compulsions. To be considered OCD these behaviours must typically consume at least 2-3 hours of time a day.

For more information on OCD check out our previous posts about OCD and OCD treatment, click through the above link, and visit OCD Chicago, an excellent resource for OCD advice and support in the midwest.

People with Panic Disorder experience spontaneous unpredictable panic or anxiety attacks. They also tend to have a lot of fear of having recurring attacks. These attacks can happen without warning or apparent provocation, and can even occur while a person is sleeping.

People usually develop panic disorder in early adulthood, and it affects women three times more often than men. Panic Disorder often co-occurs with other mental or physical illnesses, such as depression or asthma, which can complicate the job of accurately diagnosing it.

About 1 in 3 people with Panic disorder will develop Agoraphobia, the fear of public places and open spaces. This is because people sometimes begin to fear and avoid places where they have previously experienced a panic attack. According to adaa "Their world may become smaller as they are constantly on guard, waiting for the next panic attack. Some people develop a fixed route or territory, and it may become impossible for them to travel beyond their safety zones without suffering severe anxiety."

It is important to know that panic disorder is highly treatable, so if you think you may have it speak to your doctor! For more information on panic attacks, treatment, symptoms, and research click through the above link to adaa's website.

Next week I will talk about the three remaining branches of anxiety disorders. In the meantime, if any of the above information rings a bell please visit the adaa website, where you can take online screening tests, learn more about the different types of anxiety, get connected with effective treatment (for many forms of anxiety one of the best treatment options is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which helps patients break cycles of worry and replace unproductive coping mechanisms with positive ones), and find support and a community who knows what you are going through.


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