We all feel anxiety in our lives. Maybe you feel anxious about an exam, when called into your supervisor’s office, or when you trip or say something foolish in front of your much-adored crush. But, there is a significant difference between feeling a bit anxious and struggling with anxiety disorder.
Differences Between Anxiety Disorders and Ordinary Anxiety
Anxiety is an ordinary part of life, as long as it only occurs sporadically. In fact it is an essential part of our lives. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states, “Anxiety helps us get out of harm’s way and prepare for important events, and it warns us when we need to take action.” Anxiety disorders involve much more than this. These disorders cause extreme unease, anxiety, distress, and/or fear. If you have an anxiety disorder, the anxiety is not temporary and it can get worse as time goes by. Your daily life may be affected, including work, school, and your relationships with others.
Some of the general anxiety-related symptoms you may experience with an anxiety disorder may include:
- An inability to let go of your worries
- Suffering from diarrhea or nausea
- An inability to relax or having trouble sleeping
- A difficulty with your concentration, or having your mind go blank
- Worrying about everything, whether the issue is small or large
- Being fatigued, even when there’s no apparent reason
- Being irritated
- Uncontrollable sweating
- Withdrawing socially
- Having muscle tension
- Having a twitch, being unable to sit still, or being “jumpy”
- Inability to make decisions (“Will I make the wrong decision?”)
- Suffering from headaches, or even migraines
Many of the above symptoms are common. You may have all of them, you may have some of them, or you may have none of them. The list is not all inclusive, you may experience a completely different set of symptoms not mentioned above.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are numerous anxiety disorders, and many of them have additional conditions related to the disorder. Three of the most common anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
If you have generalized anxiety disorder, you may have extreme and excessive unease, distress, anxiety, worry, and/or fear for several months. If you have generalized anxiety disorder you may also suffer from several of the general symptoms mentioned above.
With panic disorder, you will have recurring panic attacks occurring at unforeseen times. You will suddenly have an extreme fear, you may have the feeling of an impending doom, or like you’re “going to die.” You will have palpitations, a shortness of breath, a feeling of being smothered, and you may have excessive sweating.
Social Anxiety Disorder
If you have social anxiety disorder you will have an extreme fear of being social or in social situations. You may pull away from family and friends and avoid anywhere other people may be. This anxiety may be related to the expectations or fear of rejection, being judged, speaking with others, or the inability to control your diarrhea or nauseous feelings, sweating, or jumpiness.
Do You Have an Anxiety Disorder?
To find out for sure if you have an anxiety disorder you need to see your doctor. Your family doctor is a good place to start out. She or he may be able to diagnosis you; and if necessary refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for further treatment. There are many treatment options for anxiety disorders, and it can take some trial and error. Just remember to stick with it—it may take time to find relief.