When humans encounter a frightening, stressful, or even unfamiliar situation, the mind and body often react with anxiety symptoms. This may manifest as a general sense of uneasiness o may escalate to distress or dread. While an appropriate level of anxiety is our mind’s method of staying alert and aware, those living with anxiety disorders can become debilitated and unable to function.
- Anxiety disorders are identified by excessive fear of a perceived or real threat or worry about a future threat. Both of these scenarios can result in adverse behavioral and emotional consequences.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders are characterized by intrusive (obsessive) thoughts that trigger related, compulsive behaviors. The compulsive behaviors are performed in an effort to ease the anxiety associated with the obsessive thoughts. Individuals fear that failing to do things in a specific way – such as repeatedly washing their hands or checking that the door is locked – will cause harm to themselves or others and result in bad outcomes.
- Trauma/stressor-related disorders are triggered by traumatic events, such as the unexpected death of a spouse or child; or being the victim of a crime. Stressor-related disorders manifest when a specific event contributes additional stress to one’s life, such as the loss of a job, a divorce, or a significant move.
Specific Anxiety Disorders
Within these categories, there are specific disorders an individual may be experiencing. Some of the more common conditions are:
Phobias: Phobias are characterized by an excessive fear of a specific object or situation, such as fear of heights, fear of flying, or fear of spiders. Feelings of dread are triggered by the presence or anticipation of the situation, while exposure to the situation can result in a fear response or panic attack. The fear experienced by the individual is considered to be disproportionate to the actual danger represented. Interestingly, adults with phobias typically recognize the fear is unfounded – yet still cannot control their emotions.
Social Anxiety: Some people experience an overwhelming fear of becoming embarrassed in social settings, known as Social Anxiety Disorder. SAD generally results in significant or elaborate avoidance behaviors.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is the most recognized trauma-related disorder, primarily due to its association with returning military veterans. PTSD occurs when the individual has experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Those with PTSD may feel frightened o agitated in the absence of any danger.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Those living with GAD experience uncontrollable anxiety over events and activities. Their mind begins to imagine potential negative outcomes, causing significant distress that can interfere with everyday life and activities.
Panic Disorder: This disorder is characterized by the sudden onset of panic symptoms seemingly “out of nowhere.” These panic attacks, which can last for a few minutes or hours, are combined with an insistent, lingering worry that symptoms can and will return at any time without warning.
How An Anxiety Disorder Can Harm You Physically
Anxiety is not just a mental condition – experts believe these disorders increase the potential for developing physical illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. Higher BMI, abdominal fat, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and glucose have all been associated with anxiety. Research suggests that changes in stress hormones, autonomic responses, and heightened systemic inflammation are all linked with anxiety disorders and adverse health outcomes. Therefore, recognizing and treating anxiety is essential for holistic wellness and quality of life.
If you suffer from anxiety or an anxiety disorder, compassionate and competent help is available. If you live in the Sarasota area and are looking for an experienced coach who understands mental health’s medical, emotional, and spiritual aspects, call Denise Schonwald at (941) 541-1250 or visit us online.