An overview on anxiety disorders

by admin

The development of anxiety disorders is, generally, chronic. However, varies according to each person, depending on their gender and the specific disorder. Anxiety can develop in many ways, what has been known as different disorders. A person handling high levels of anxiety, it’s very likely going to have to deal one with or more of these disorders. There are many known types: panic disorder, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

For people who suffer from panic disorder, panic attacks are recurrent and unexpected, characterized by physical symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, disorientation, among others. All these symptoms are closely related to the nature of a panic attack, which is the primary reflex we have when perceiving a threat, trying to prepare for fight or flight. These seizures may have a defined trigger or may arise suddenly.

As for phobias, all are, in some way, related with anxiety, however, there are two of them closely related and usually accompanying the complete picture of many anxiety disorders. In this respect we speak of social phobia or social anxiety disorder (SAD), which is defined as an extreme fear of feeling exposed to others, because they are afraid of being humiliated or judged. This phobia is developed, in most cases, during childhood and adolescence and is often misunderstood as shyness.

Another phobia that is very related with anxiety disorders, particularly panic attacks, is the agoraphobia, the intense fear of being trapped in a situation where is not going to be possible to find help. This leads sufferers to avoid crowds or large and solitary places; causing them to feel isolated, and  making it hard for them to leave their “safe place”.

On the other hand, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by persistent thoughts or images and repetitive behaviors or rituals,  precisely known as compulsions. There are some obsessions common for those who have this disorder, such as fear of contamination and germs, fixation with numbers, extreme need for order. This disorder progresses chronically and affects equally  men and women, but usually appears earlier in men.

Regarding post-traumatic stress disorder, this arises, as its name implies, when a person faces a tragic or violent event, such as an accident. In these case what happens is that those affected relive, in their mind, the traumatic moments over and over again. They also try to avoid everything associated with the incident. This disorder usually occurs, with some exceptions, sometime in the three months after the event, and because of its nature, can occur at any age.

Finally, there is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Which has as a trademark, an  excessive anxiety and worry about events or activities of the day. People with this disorder, often held in a constant state of alert. Freud, in “Neurasthenia and Anxiety Neurosis”* recognized a very important element, which he called “anxious expectation”, an anguish hanging over catastrophic expectations about any everyday event. This type of disorder, usually appears at an early age.

Although anxiety has been part of us from the very beginning, there is clearly much to explore and learn about the possible effects, particularly in people who are sensitized or susceptible to any of these disorders. Much remains to be discovered, too, about how to treat and help people overcome each of them.

For more information about these disorders and other anxiety – related disorders you can check the following websites:

National alliance of mental illness.
Anxiety Disorders Association of America,
National Institute of Mental Health,
National Mental Health Association,


* Freud, S. (1894). On The Grounds for Detaching a Particular Syndrome From Neurasthenia Under The Description ‘Anxiety Neurosis’. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume III (1893-1899): Early Psycho-Analytic Publications, 85-115.


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