Anxiety Disorders

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Some symptoms, such as fear and worry, are present in all types of anxiety disorders. But each disorder also has unique symptoms as well.

Symptoms of GAD

People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) often worry about everything, even if there is no reason to worry. They can't control their worries and can't relax. They may be easily startled, and have trouble falling or staying asleep.

They may also have physical symptoms such as feeling tired, having headaches and muscle aches, having a hard time concentrating, trembling or twitching, sweating, having hot flashes, and having to go to the bathroom a lot. They may also be irritable.

Symptoms of Social Phobia

People with social phobia are very anxious about being with other people. They feel very self-conscious around other people, have a hard time talking to others, and worry about being embarrassed.

They may worry for days or weeks before an event where they will meet other people. They may have a hard time making friends, and may isolate themselves. They may also have physical symptoms such as blushing, heavy sweating, trembling, and nausea.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder

People with panic disorder experience marked attacks of fear. During an attack, they may sweat a lot, feel weak or faint, or feel dizzy. They may feel flush or chilled, and their hands may tingle or feel numb. They may also feel nauseous, have chest pain, or have difficulty breathing.

People with panic disorder also sometimes fear they are having a heart attack, losing their minds, or are about to die. They can't predict when an attack will occur, so they often worry intensely in between episodes and dread the next attack, causing even more anxiety.

Symptoms of PTSD

People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) constantly re-live the trauma they experienced while awake, and in nightmares while asleep. These are called flashbacks and may include images, sounds, smells, or feelings. They may be triggered by ordinary events, such as a door slamming or a car backfiring.

People with PTSD may startle easily, become emotionally distant especially with loved ones, lose interest in things they once enjoyed, be irritable, become aggressive, or even become violent. They may avoid situations that remind them of the traumatic incident. People with PTSD often have depression, too.

Symptoms of OCD

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have repeated and unwanted thoughts or images about things such as fear of germs, dirt, or intruders; violent or sexual acts; hurting loved ones; or being overly tidy.

They conduct the same rituals over and over, such as washing hands, locking and unlocking doors, counting, keeping unneeded items, or repeating the same actions again and again. They do not get pleasure from these rituals, but performing the rituals may give them brief relief from the anxiety the thoughts cause.

People with OCD have these thoughts and do these rituals for at least an hour, often longer, on most days. People with OCD can't stop the thoughts or rituals, so they sometimes miss work or meetings with friends.

Symptoms of Specific Phobia

People with a specific phobia have an irrational, extreme fear of a particular thing. Although they may realize the fear is irrational, they often find that facing, or even thinking about facing, the feared object or situation brings on a panic attack or severe anxiety.

If you think you have an anxiety disorder, the first person you should see is your family doctor. A physician can determine whether the symptoms that alarm you are due to an anxiety disorder, another medical condition, or both.

If an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, the next step is usually seeing a mental health professional. The practitioners who are most helpful with anxiety disorders are those who have training in cognitive behavioral therapy and/or behavioral therapy, and who are open to using medication if it is needed.

You should feel comfortable talking with the mental health professional you choose. If you do not, you should seek help elsewhere. Once you find a mental health professional with whom you are comfortable, the two of you should work as a team and make a plan to treat your anxiety disorder together.