Anxiety Disorders: Warning Signs, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. A person may feel anxious about performing in a competition, presenting a project at work, or before taking a flight, but–for some people–anxiety is something they experience on a daily or regular basis even in seemingly low-stress situations.

Anxiety disorders are common: according to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in three adults in the U.S. will have an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. If you think you or a loved one may be struggling with anxiety, you should speak with a mental health professional who can provide a diagnosis and create a treatment plan. With help, living with anxiety will get better!


Types of Anxiety

There are many types of anxiety disorders, including phobia-related disorders–when a person experiences anxiety when encountering a particular trigger like flying, spiders, or heights. A mental health professional can provide a diagnosis, after an assessment, to better treat the anxiety disorder and offer relief from anxiety symptoms.

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common type of anxiety in which a person frequently feels anxious and worries excessively, making it difficult to function in daily life. People with GAD may experience a range of anxiety symptoms and may struggle to concentrate, sleep, work, or maintain relationships with friends, family, and co-workers because of their anxiety.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is technically a phobia-related anxiety disorder in which people fear and worry about social interactions or situations in which they could be judged by others. This can cause them to feel intense fear and concern about embarrassing themselves in front of others and could lead to them avoiding those situations altogether. Blushing, racing pulse, shaking, sweating, nausea, blanking, hyperventilation (or trouble breathing), and tense muscles are all physical signs of social anxiety disorder which people may experience.

Panic Attacks/Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is when anxiety causes panic attacks–episodes in which a person experiences acute anxiety symptoms suddenly like increased heart rate, trouble breathing, shaking, sweating, disorientation or confusion, a sense of doom, or a strong fear of dying. Panic attacks can happen unexpectedly, since triggers may be unknown. Constantly worrying about the onset of a panic attack can cause people to feel anxious when they are out in public or away from home.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

With OCD, a person becomes obsessed by uncontrollable disturbing and distressing thoughts or visions that cause them to engage in compulsive behaviors in an attempt to prevent the outcome they fear. The obsessive thought and compulsive behaviors can make it difficult–and sometimes impossible–to function normally and can cause intense anxiety and stress. It is common for people with OCD to be concerned about germs or that they will harm themselves or others.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops after a person experiences a traumatic event or is exposed to trauma repeatedly. Traumas could include experiencing or witnessing violence, abuse, sexual abuse, or surviving a disaster like a flood or fire. The sudden death of a loved one can also trigger PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks to the trauma, intrusive memories or thoughts, nightmares, sleep issues, and other symptoms of anxiety.

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