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What Is an Anxiety Disorder?
Reviewed by our psychologist : Silvija Licina
We all get scared sometimes. It’s a healthy, human response to a dangerous or threatening situation. Most of us have also experienced anxiety. You get clammy palms, your breathing accelerates, you experience shortness of breath, you sweat, there’s tension in your muscles, you get butterflies in your stomach, your body starts to shake and you feel a general urge to run away.
Anxiety very much serves a purpose. For example, it makes you run away from dangerous situations. But when anxiety becomes increasingly prevalent in harmless situations, it can start to interfere with your daily life. As you feel increasingly anxious, you’ll find it harder to engage with your daily activities. You’ll want to avoid any social interactions that might make you feel more anxious. If you’re experiencing long-term anxiety and it’s interfering with your quality of life, then you may have an anxiety disorder.
In this article:
- What are the symptoms of an anxiety disorder?
- What are the different types of anxiety disorders?
- The difference between an anxiety disorder and a phobia
- What are the causes and effects of an anxiety disorder?
- How can you treat and manage an anxiety disorder?
- Help for anxiety disorders
What Are the Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder?
An anxiety disorder is a combination of various symptoms in which you experience at least the following:
- A clear feeling of anxiety or dread relating to a specific object or (social) situation, or fear of a panic attack.
- Despite feeling this fear very strongly, on some level you’re aware that it’s disproportionate to the actual degree of danger.
Anxiety also causes a number of physical symptoms. These include heart palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea and a choking sensation. These symptoms will flare up in certain situations when you’re feeling afraid. You may experience several symptoms at once, but this isn’t always the case.
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What Are the Different Types of Anxiety Disorders?
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Learn more about specific anxiety disorders.
The Difference Between an Anxiety Disorder and a Phobia
There is a difference between an anxiety disorder and a phobia. A phobia relates to a specific fear. Anxiety disorder is more of an umbrella term. There’s a range of different anxiety disorders and phobias fall into this category.
What are the causes and effects of an anxiety disorder?
There are various things that can cause an anxiety disorder, it’s partially genetic, but it can also be reinforced during your upbringing as a result of how you process things in your environment, or a major life event, such as a car crash.
Anxiety disorders can have profound consequences. They might cause you to have low self-esteem and affect your physical and mental health, as well as your social life and work/academic performance. You might also develop symptoms of depression as a result.
How Can You Treat and Manage an Anxiety Disorder?
The most widely used evidence-based treatment method for anxiety disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy centers around your thoughts related to a particular event or situation. Your thoughts play a major role in terms of your behavior and how you feel in a particular moment. Focusing on your thoughts and learning different approaches will help you to take steps forward.
When treating an anxiety disorder, your psychologist will help you to develop different and more helpful thought patterns. You’ll learn to look at situations differently and change the way you handle them so that, for example, you’re able to go to the grocery store again.
Help for Anxiety Disorders
If your anxiety-related symptoms persist, it’s a good idea to speak to a psychologist. At iPractice, we use blended care. This is a combination of online and offline therapy. You’ll have face-to-face conversations with a consulting psychologist and you’ll also have access to an online psychologist in between. This means that you can ask questions and share your thoughts whenever you want to.