The most common type of anxiety disorder is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which affects approximately 3.1% of the U.S. population. GAD is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about worst-case scenario situations, even in relation to everyday issues. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, GAD symptoms last for longer than 6 months. In addition to feeling worried, individuals with GAD may experience restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. Sleep disturbances are common, and individuals with GAD often have concurrent depressive symptoms. The anxiety experienced in GAD triggers the autonomic nervous system (ANS), resulting in symptoms such as a rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, and sweating.
The second part
Another anxiety disorder that often appears in movies or TV shows is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which affects approximately 2.5 million adults in the U.S. population. OCD occurs when a person has uncontrollable, repetitive thoughts (obsessions) that result in repetitive behaviors (compulsions). For example, if you are scared of germs or contamination (obsessions), you may excessively clean and wash your hands to make yourself feel comfortable and clean. Or you may repeatedly check things, such as whether the door is locked. While it's common for everyone to double-check things, people with OCD can't control these thoughts or behaviors and spend at least 1 hour a day on them, which dramatically affects their daily lives. Symptoms can vary and may ease or worsen over time. Although the causes of OCD remain unknown, there are a few risk factors that may contribute to its development. The first risk factor is genetics, as family and twin studies have discovered a higher risk among individuals with first-degree relatives who experience OCD. Another risk factor that may play a key role in OCD is brain structure and functioning, as there are some differences in the frontal cortex and subcortical structures in individuals with OCD. Research on the etiology of OCD is still ongoing, but understanding these factors may help in the development of further treatments and therapies.
The third part
Phobias are often misunderstood, and there are misconceptions about their characteristics. Some believe that any fear of a specific object or organism can be defined as a phobia, but this is not accurate and differs from what phobias truly are. Phobias are defined as irrational and intense fears that can interfere with certain activities. There are three main types of phobias: specific phobias, social phobia, and agoraphobia. Specific phobia involves an intense and irrational fear of things that pose little or no danger. Common specific phobias include fear of animals (zoophobia), fear of thunderstorms (astraphobia or brontophobia), and fear of heights (acrophobia). Individuals with specific phobias tend to avoid situations that trigger their distress and fear. Sometimes, these anxieties can lead to panic attacks, which are brief periods of extreme distress, anxiety, or fear that occur suddenly and are accompanied by physical or emotional symptoms such as chest pain, a choking sensation, dizziness, and nausea, among others. The diagnosis of specific phobias is based on specific criteria. The fear and distress experienced must be intense and lasting for at least six months, occurring immediately upon encountering the feared situation or object. The avoidance behavior exhibited should be disproportionate to the actual danger and can significantly impair functioning and cause significant distress.
The last part
Finally, I would like to introduce panic disorder to you. As mentioned previously, panic attacks are sudden waves of fear or distress, even when there is no clear danger that triggers the individual. Panic disorder is characterized by frequent and unexpected panic attacks, which can be very frightening due to the sudden loss of control, the feeling of having a heart attack, or even the fear of dying. Although many people may experience panic attacks at some point in their lives, individuals with panic disorder frequently experience recurrent, unexpected panic attacks. After discussing with a healthcare provider to determine the most suitable treatment, patients with panic disorder are typically treated with psychotherapy, also known as "talk therapy," medication, or a combination of both. In general, if you are experiencing an anxiety disorder or you know someone who is experiencing anxiety disorders, there are a few useful steps that may help them in their treatment. The first step is to learn to recognize the signs of anxiety, such as shortness of breath, lightheadedness, anxious thoughts, and behaviors, among others. It is important to know what not to do, for example, avoiding forcing confrontation with the things they are scared of. Instead, providing validation, allowing them to express their concerns, and creating a warm and positive environment can all be helpful in coping with their anxiety.
Finally, if someone's anxiety begins to significantly interfere with their ability to enjoy life, it is time to seek professional help and encourage them to make an appointment with a mental health provider.
Barnhill, J. W. (n.d.). Specific Phobic Disorders - Mental Health Disorders. Merck Manuals. Retrieved June 17, 2023, from https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/mental-health-disorders/anxiety-and-stress-related-disorders/specific-phobic-disorders
Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved June 17, 2023, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/generalized-anxiety-disorder
McGuire, J. (n.d.). How to Help Someone with Anxiety. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved June 17, 2023, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/how-to-help-someone-with-anxiety
NIMH » Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. (n.d.). NIMH. Retrieved June 17, 2023, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd
NIMH » Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms. (n.d.). NIMH. Retrieved June 17, 2023, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/panic-disorder-when-fear-overwhelms
Panic attacks and panic disorder - Symptoms and causes. (2018, May 4). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved June 17, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021