What are the most common anxiety disorders?
• Panic Disorder – Characterized by “panic attacks,” panic disorder results in sudden
feelings of terror that can strike repeatedly and sometimes without warning. Physical
symptoms of a panic attack include chest pain, heart palpitations, upset stomach,
feelings of being disconnected, and fear of dying.
• Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD) – OCD is characterized by repetitive, intrusive,
irrational and unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or rituals that seem impossible
to control (compulsions). Some people with OCD have specific compulsions (e.g.,
counting, arranging, cleaning) that they “must perform” multiple times each day in
order to momentarily release their anxiety that something bad might happen to
themselves or to someone they love.
• Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – When people experience or witness a
traumatic event such as abuse, a natural disaster, or extreme violence, it is normal to
be distressed and to feel “on edge” for some time after this experience. Some people
who experience traumatic events have severe symptoms such as nightmares,
flashbacks, being very easily startled or scared, or feeling numb/angry/irritable, that
last for weeks or even months after the event and are so severe that they make it
difficult for a person to work, have loving relationships, or “return to normal.”
• Phobias – A phobia is a disabling and irrational fear of something that really poses
little or no actual danger for most people. This fear can be very disabling when it
leads to avoidance of objects or situations that may cause extreme feelings of terror,
dread and panic.
• Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – A severe, chronic, exaggerated worrying about
everyday events is the most common symptom in people with GAD. This is a worrying that lasts for at least six months, makes it difficult to concentrate and to carry out
routine activities, and happens for many hours each day in some people.
• Social Anxiety Disorder – An intense fear of social situations that leads to difficulties
with personal relationships and at the workplace or in school is most common in
people with social anxiety disorder. Individuals with social anxiety disorder often have
an irrational fear of being humiliated in public for “saying something stupid,” or “not
knowing what to say.”
People with anxiety disorders are more likely to use or abuse alcohol and other drugs
including benzodiazepines, opiates (e.g., pain-killers, heroin) or cigarettes. This is known as
self-medication. Some people use drugs and alcohol to try and reduce their anxiety. This is
very dangerous because even though some drugs make people feel less anxious when they
are high, anxiety becomes even worse when the drugs wear off.