An occasional feeling of anxiousness can be a very normal emotion – . anxiety is what alerts you to danger, is common before you give a big work presentation, or is a temporary and fleeting feeling when you’re faced with a big decision. But, prolonged worry or fear can be a sign of something more serious. For people with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety can become more severe over time, if not treated.
But how do you know if what you’re experiencing is “normal” or if you should seek help? How do you know which anxiety disorder you have? Or what next steps should you take? Finding a professional you trust can help you get the diagnosis and treatment you need and help you live a well-balanced and healthier life.
Below we’ve compiled a list of the five most common anxiety disorders and how each may present itself along with next steps if you think it’s time to get the help you deserve.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, affects approximately 6.8 million adults (3.1% of the population) in the United States. Unfortunately, due to many factors like inaccessible healthcare or the stigma associated with mental health, only 43.2% of people suffering from GAD are receiving treatment.
GAD includes chronic anxiety or stress, exaggerated worry and tension. It commonly co-occurs with major depression. Women are twice as likely to be affected as men are. Some people with GAD can have physical symptoms: fatigue, concentration difficulty, insomnia, feeling on edge, or restlessness to name a few. The ongoing worries often hone in on daily activities like work responsibilities, family issues or even minor issues like appointments or chores.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OC, affects approximately 2.5 million adults (1.2% of the population) in the United States. The average age of onset is 19, with ⅓ of adults experiencing symptoms in their childhood. Women are 3 times more likely to be affected than men.
OCD includes recurrent, unwanted and obsessive thoughts and is often paired with repetitive, compulsive behaviors. These behaviors can include counting, eating rituals, checking, cleaning or hand washing. Performing these behaviors only provides temporary relief and if someone with OCD can’t complete them, it induces anxiety.
Social Anxiety Disorder
One of the most common anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorder (SAD), affects approximately 15 million adults (7.1% of the population) in the United States. It affects men and women equally and symptoms often start occurring around age 13, but it can occur before for some children. According to a survey by the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, 36% of people with SAD experience symptoms for a decade or more before seeking professional help.
SAD includes avoiding social interactions, an intense fear of being judged, and a fear of rejection or humiliation. Common examples of social anxiety are an extreme fear of meeting new people, eating in public or public speaking.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTS, affects approximately 7.7 million adults (3.6% of the population) in the United States. Women are 5x more likely to be affected by PTSD compared to men. One of the highest predictors for PTSD is childhood sexual abuse. Sexual assault is the most likely trigger of PTSD (65% of men and 45.9% of women who are sexually assaulted will go on to develop the disorder).
PTSD can occur in response to any terrifying event: physical assault, domestic abuse, military combat, terrorist attack, a car accident, a natural disaster, and more.
Panic Disorder, or PD, affects approximately 6 million adults (2.7% of the population) in the United States. Women are twice as likely to be affected compared to men. Panic disorder includes a sudden, intense fear that brings on a panic attack. The average age for panic disorder is 20 to 24 years old. They can co-occur with other disorders, like depression or PTSD.
Panic attacks can cause a person to break out in sweat, experience chest pain, dizziness, abdominal pains, shortness of breath, and have pounding heart palpitations. Some have compared it to the feeling of a heart attack in severe instances. Not everyone who has a panic attack has panic disorder. Panic disorder often entails a constant fear of a recurring attack.
Other Types of Anxiety Disorders
While the five disorders above are most common, there are other anxiety disorders that can occur:
- Specific Phobia Disorder: an intense fear of a specific object or situation (flying, heights, animals, needles, blood, etc.)
- Agoraphobia: an intense fear of being in a place where it’s hard to escape (airplane, public transit, crowds, etc.)
- Separation Anxiety: an anxious or fearful feeling when a person you’re close to leaves your sight
- Selective Mutism: a type of social anxiety that limits a person’s speech in public.
When Anxiety Is Normal and When It’s Time to Seek Help
Do any of the above anxiety disorders sound like something you’re experiencing? No matter what type of anxiety disorder you may have, it can sometimes feel like a prison you’ve created for yourself in your mind. Anxiety every now and then is normal - everyone experiences stress and anxiety to some degree. When you feel constant irrational fear, void of hope and a sense of impending doom, it’s time to seek help for managing your anxiety.
If you find your anxiety:
- Interfering with your personal or professional relationships
- Creating persistent sleep issues (either sleeping too much or not enough)
- Affecting your ability to concentrate more often than not
- Stopping you from doing the things you used to enjoy
- Isolating yourself from people you love
- Creating feelings of deep self-loathing or worthlessness
- Digestive issues, chronic headaches or chronic aches/pains
- Causing suicidal thoughts
It may be time to seek professional help. If you feel anxious for more than half the week for six months or longer, it’s probably time to seek help. Don’t worry, there are a lot of resources out there to help you manage your anxiety disorder.
Learning How to Manage Your Anxiety Disorder
Natural ways you can help manage your anxiety and steps you can take right now include:
- Creating daily routines
- Taking time to rest and recharge when you start to feel burnt out
- Incorporating a healthier diet and daily exercise
- Learning meditation and grounding skills
If you’ve taken some of these steps and still find yourself struggling, therapy might be the right route for you. Getting the psychiatric care you need should be easy, stress-free, and uncomplicated. The Couch was created to ensure that happens. If you find yourself dealing with anxiety and you’re looking for a diagnosis, therapy or help with medication management, The Couch can help match you with a psychiatrist, offer easy scheduling and work with your insurance and pharmacy of your choice, all electronically with our advanced telemedicine system.