What is an Anxiety Disorder?

Stress and anxiety are a normal part of life for everyone. Sometimes however anxiety becomes much more than that. Anxiety can become a constant feeling within people with anxiety disorders. Not all anxiety disorders involve panic attacks, however in some such as agoraphobia and panic disorder the panic attack is a very large issue within the disorder. A panic attack isn't just a bad case of nerves. It isn't feeling really nervous before an interview. When a panic attack occurs it's not just a psychological response, the symptoms involved are physical as well. There isn't a sure cause of panic attacks. Sometimes it seems that genetics are involved other times environmental factors and /or life events. It is not uncommon for panic attacks to start after periods of stress or trauma. Panic attacks can be very scary. They can leave a person worrying about what is wrong with them. Especially when they first arise and a person has no idea what the attacks are.

Below are some psychological and physical symptoms of a panic attack. No one will get all of these symptoms but a panic attack does involve some of them:

Physical Symptoms of panic attacks are:

- Heart palpitations

- Sweating

- Feeling as though you are choking or can't swallow

- Dizziness

- Numbness

- Shortness of breath

- Feeling out of the body (unreality feeling)

- Hold cold flushes

- Shakiness 

Psychological Symptoms of panic attacks are:

- Fear of going crazy
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
- Fear of heart attack

There are different kinds of anxiety disorders. They differ in the behaviour, fear and circumstances surrounding the anxiety or panic attacks. Below is a brief description of some of the anxiety disorders.


Panic Disorder.
Panic disorder is defined by the sudden onset of intense fear.The panic attacks seem to have no cause. They hit when ever and where ever. This turns into a disorder when you have had more than two panic attacks and when you are persistently worried about another occurring. (Bourne 1995)


Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety is constant anxiety for a specific time. Panic attacks, obsessions nor phobias are part of this disorder. It can include constant worry.


Although the word agoraphobia means fear of open spaces, this is not actually the fear here. It is more accurate to see it as fear of panic attacks. Agoraphobia usually follows panic disorder. It does not occur to everyone. It is formed by particular behaviour. The behaviour being avoidance. For example. If one was to have a panic attack in the local supermarket. One then may then fear going there the next time. If panic occurs again. One might begin to avoid going to the supermarket due to fear of having another panic attack there. In a sense, agoraphobia is a way of trying to control panic attacks. Unfortunately the avoidance can do more harm than good. People can avoid more and more things and eventually become housebound, or have very little 'safe area' in which to move in. 


Social Phobia
Social phobia involves fear of humiliation or embarrassment in public places. A person who is social phobic will often avoid certain situations. The fear is often that you will do or say something in which others will judge you badly. Social phobias can be a general fear of social situations or more specific; such as fear of public speaking.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post traumatic stress disorder is the development of disabling psychological symptoms after a traumatic event. Some of these psychological symptoms are flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance of thoughts or activities any way associated with the event, irritability and difficulty concentrating.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. (OCD)

Obsessive compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder which involves reaccurring unwanted ideas and thoughts (obsessions) and a need or impulse to do something to releive the discomfort brought on by these thoughts (compulsions) The obsessions that a person with OCD has cause the person marked anxiety. It is in the person attempts to lesson the anxiety that the compulsions occue. For example someone with OCD may have an obsession with cleanliness for example, may clean methodically everything in sight, possibly even themselves, to lesson their anxiety caused by thoughts of germs and uncleanliness.