Anxiety 101 – Types of Anxiety Part 1
by Amanda Ollier | on September 19, 2012
In the previous post in this series, we looked at causes of anxiety from an instinctual and chemical perspective. Today I’ll discuss some of the most common types of anxiety disorder that I have come across in my work as therapist and counsellor
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
General Anxiety Disorder is probably the most common of all. Sufferers tend to worry about lots of different things and may feel anxious without really being sure what the cause of the feeling is. There is often no obvious trigger.
If this is you, you will be worrying about something or other much of the time, have a tendency to expect the worse from situations with usually a disproportionate fear. You’ll literally ‘blow things out of proportion. Perhaps you’ll be known as a ‘worrier’ and feel it is ‘just in your nature’ to be concerned. You may find that you often feel a bit overwhelmed and helpless.
If you suffer from this, you may well find that your fears become self fulfilling prophecies because you will spend a lot of time focusing on them. Your ability to think positively and clearly will be affected, as will your outlook and behaviour and this can impact on your relationships and interactions with others that will infringe on all areas of your life.
Panic attacks are short bursts of terror, or acute anxiety, which sometimes come on after a spell of prolonged anxiety or a particularly stressful period in your life.
Although they tend only to last around 10 to 15 minutes per episode, the after effects can last longer and the actual attack can be extremely frightening.
Shaking, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, chest pain and nausea are just some of the symptoms which may lead the sufferer to believe they are having a heart attack.
Sufferers also expect the attacks to reoccur, which can in itself be restrictive and cause further anxiety.
After being caught up in the bombing of the City of London in 1993, I suffered from panic attacks for some time. A particularly memorable one happened when I was working in a bar and someone burst a balloon behind me. I went down like a sack of potatoes onto a very wet and beery floor! The attacks sometimes came on with no apparent trigger at all, my vision and hearing were affected and I found it impossible to breathe properly, so I know first hand how horrible panic attacks can be!
Phobias are another very common type of anxiety disorder. Phobias are exaggerated or disproportionate fear responses to a subject and can lead to panic attacks.
Simple or specific phobias are focused on one particular thing or environment – like spiders or buttons, water or darkness – a specific situation – flying or going to the dentist – a body based phobia – vomiting or injections – or sexual phobias.
They tend to be triggered when you come face to face with the thing you fear, or in the case of a strong phobia a reaction can occur when you just think about it.
Complex phobias, such as agoraphobia and social phobia tend to have wider repercussions and can literally emprison their sufferers.
Agoraphobia is often described as being a fear of open spaces, but it is more to do with a fear of being anywhere that it might be difficult or embarrassing to get out of if a panic attack should occur.
Social phobia sufferers will fear and thus often try to avoid situations involving contact with other people. This may be limited to activities such as making presentations but can include any social activity and therefore make life very difficult.
If you suffer from a simple phobia you may find you avoid certain occupations or places to reduce the risk of coming up against the thing you fear. Avoiding outdoor activities in Summer for example is very common for those who fear insects.
If you suffer from a complex phobia, you may well end up organising your life around this thing and it can be very damaging.
The great thing about phobias…
Sounds like an odd concept perhaps, but the great thing about phobias is that because they are triggered by or focused on something specific, they are much easier to cure than more generalised anxiety. You are not born with a phobia, it is a response you have learned at some point in your life and literally practised it until you are really good at it! This means that with the right help, you can learn a whole new reaction and banish that fear for good!
It’s amazing to think that there are so many types of anxiety don’t you think? and their symptoms and effects can be so varied. Fortunately there are quite a range of treatments for them too and anxiety or being anxious, no longer has to be ‘just the way you are’.
In the next post we’ll look at some other major types of anxiety disorders.
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