Characterized by sudden attacks of terror, usually accompanied by a pounding heart, sweatiness, weakness, faintness, or dizziness. During these attacks, people with panic disorder may flush or feel chilled; their hands may tingle or feel numb; and they may experience nausea, chest pain, or smothering sensations. Panic attacks usually produce a sense of unreality, a fear of impending doom, or a fear of losing control. People having panic attacks sometimes believe they are having heart attacks, losing their minds, or on the verge of death. They can’t predict when or where an attack will occur, and between episodes many worry intensely and dread the next attack.
Panic disorder affects about 6 million American adults and is twice as common in women as men. Panic attacks often begin in late adolescence or early adulthood, but not everyone who experiences panic attacks will develop panic disorder. Many people have just one attack and never have another. The tendency to develop panic attacks appears to be inherited.
Obsessive-Compulsive disorder (OCD)
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have persistent, upsetting thoughts (obsessions) and use rituals (compulsions) to control the anxiety these thoughts produce. For example, if people are obsessed with germs or dirt, they may develop a compulsion to wash their hands over and over again. OCD affects about 2.2 million American adults and usually appears in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood.
Healthy people also have rituals, such as checking to see if the stove is off several times before leaving the house. The difference is that people with OCD perform their rituals even though doing so interferes with daily life and they find the repetition distressing. Although most adults with OCD recognize that what they are doing is senseless, some adults and most children may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary.
Post-traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers.
People with PTSD may startle easily, become emotionally numb (especially in relation to people with whom they used to be close), lose interest in things they used to enjoy, have trouble feeling affectionate, be irritable, become more aggressive, or even become violent. They avoid situations that remind them of the original incident, and anniversaries of the incident are often very difficult. They also experience flashbacks that may consist of images, sounds, smells, or feelings of the traumatic experience in their thoughts during the day and in nightmares when they sleep.
PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults, but it can occur at any age, including childhood. It is also often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or one or more of the other anxiety disorders.
Social Phobia (or social anxiety disorder)
Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, is diagnosed when people become overwhelmingly anxious and excessively self-conscious in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have an intense, persistent, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of doing things that will embarrass them. They can worry for days or weeks before a dreaded situation.
Physical symptoms that often accompany social phobia include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, and difficulty talking. When these symptoms occur, people with PTSD feel as though all eyes are focused on them. While many people with social phobia realize that their fears about being with people are excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome them.
Social phobia affects about 15 million American adults. Women and men are equally likely to develop the disorder, which usually begins in childhood or early adolescence.
A specific phobia is an intense, extreme and irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. Some of the more common specific phobias are centered around closed-in places, heights, escalators, tunnels, highway driving, water, flying, dogs, and injuries involving blood.
People with specific phobias often find that facing, or even thinking about facing, the feared object or situation brings on a panic attack or severe anxiety. The causes of specific phobias are not well understood, but there is some evidence that the tendency to develop them may run in families.
Specific phobias affect an estimated 19.2 million adult Americans and usually appear in childhood or adolescence and tend to persist into adulthood. If treatment is not pursued, The Phobia can interfere with careers or their personal lives, and it can also become disabling to the point that normal functioning such as going outside the house or crossing the street would be impossible.
Generalized Anxiety disorder (GAD)
GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about a variety of everyday problems even though there is little or nothing to provoke it. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work. Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety.
People with GAD cannot relax, startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating. Often they have trouble falling or staying asleep. Physical symptoms that often accompany the anxiety include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, having to go to the bathroom frequently, feeling out of breath, and hot flashes. Because of these symptoms, people with GAD can have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities if their anxiety is severe.
GAD affects about 6.8 million adult Americans and the disorder comes on gradually and can begin across the life cycle, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age.