Types of anxiety disorders
Panic Disorder is when you experience recurrent panic attacks which lead to distress and affect your life.
Panic attacks, which happen once or twice, are found in almost 40 per cent of the population.
Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear or extreme anxiety that happen suddenly ‘out of the blue’ or when there is no sign of danger.
The effects of a panic attack vary from person to person, but may include:
- feeling short of breath
- pounding heart
- dry mouth
- thinking that you’re dying
- thinking you’re losing control
- thinking you’re about to collapse (or similar).
The attacks may last for a few minutes or up to half an hour.
Some people develop a fear of going into situations where they worry, that if they have a panic attack, they couldn’t escape or get rescued. They may avoid a range of things like leaving the house or going to the shops – this is Agoraphobia. Panic attacks can also occur in the other anxiety disorders.
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) involves bursts of anxiety anytime from one month after experiencing a seriously traumatic event like:
- an accident
- sexual assault
- or a natural disaster such a bushfire or flood.
You may be experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder if you:
- have difficulty relaxing
- have upsetting dreams or flashbacks of the event
- avoid activities that remind you of the event.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involves unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) that cause anxiety and behaviours or rituals (compulsions) carried out to reduce the anxiety. For example, a fear of germs can lead to repeated washing of hands or clothes. You realise that these thoughts are irrational, but the obsessions return all the time and the compulsions are hard to resist.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves uncontrollable and unrealistic worry about everyday situations such as school, work, relationships or health. This worrying has to occur on most days for at least six months for a diagnosis of GAD.
Specific Phobias are disproportionately fearful feelings about a particular object or situation, like:
- going near an animal
- going to a social event
- receiving an injection.
You may have a phobia if you avoid situations that involve the phobia (e.g. taking a different route to avoid a dog) and this causes you excessive distress or disables you.