types of anxiety disorders

panic disorder + agoraphobia

Panic disorder is diagnosed when a person experiences spontaneous, unexpected and recurring panic attacks.  A panic attack, also known as an anxiety attack, is a sudden onset of intense fear and apprehension that can include physical sensations such as heart palpitations, chest pain, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath or a choking sensation, nausea, dizziness or a sense of things being unreal (also known as depersonalization).  Typical thoughts during a panic attack include, "I am going to faint or die" or "I am going to lose control or go crazy".  Although the actual panic attack only lasts a few minutes, the experience is so disturbing that people with panic disorder become increasingly nervous, apprehensive and preoccupied about when and where they will have another panic attack. It is this preoccupation with having panic attacks that is the central feature of panic disorder. Panic disorder with agoraphobia is diagnosed when the fear of having a panic attack makes someone afraid of being alone, venturing far from home or being in crowded public places, particularly where "escape" may be difficult. In children, panic disorder is manifested as separation anxiety.

separation anxiety

All small children enjoy having their parents around, but children with separation anxiety experience a developmentally inappropriate degree of anxiety that causes them to become very upset or interferes with their everyday activities when they are not with their parents or daily caregivers.

specific phobic disorder

A specific phobia is an intense fear that is out of proportion to any real threat and leads to extreme distress and/or interferes with a person's ability to carry out normal activities. But whereas the attacks in panic disorder seem to come out of nowhere, clients with phobic disorder have very specific triggers that cause them to panic. These triggers can be divided into five categories:

Animal: dogs, spiders, mice, roaches, snakes, etc.
Natural Environment: heights, storms, water, lightening, dark, etc.
Injury: blood, injections, dental, etc.
Situational: airplanes, subways, elevators and other enclosed situations
(otherwise known as claustrophobia)
Other: choking, loud noises, etc.

A person with a specific phobia can experience extreme anxiety when just thinking about the feared object or situation and often comes to believe that the only recourse is to avoid the trigger or any situation in which it might possibly arise.

generalized anxiety disorder (gad)

Often known as the "worry" disorder, GAD is characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry over a variety of things such as health, family, work or money. Unlike panic disorder and specific phobic disorder, someone with GAD does not experience panic attacks, but rather a constant and persistent sense of uneasiness that includes symptoms such as muscle tension, trouble concentrating, restlessness, fatigue, irritability, edginess, difficulty sleeping and gastrointestinal discomfort.

social anxiety disorder (sad)

Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, occurs when a person has an excessive fear that unfamiliar people will negatively scrutinize and judge him/her in social or performance situations. The most prevalent fears include speaking or performing in public, attending social functions, or participating in group activities. Less-known fears include signing one's name while being observed, being watched while eating, or urinating in a public bathroom (also known as paruresis). As with the other anxiety disorders, avoidance is the key coping mechanism and can lead to significant social isolation and make it difficult to complete school or hold down a job.

obsessive-compulsive disorder (ocd)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is marked by the presence of uncontrollable, intrusive and unwanted thoughts and actions. Obsessions are uncontrollable thoughts that are perceived as inappropriate by the person having them and that cause considerable anxiety and distress. Such obsessions include thoughts of violence (poisoning one's spouse, stabbing or killing a child, or accidentally/purposefully injuring someone), committing an immoral religious or sexual act, doubting whether one has performed some action (such as turning off the kitchen stove or locking the door), and contamination. Compulsions are ritualistic acts performed by the person to relieve themselves of the anxiety and distress caused by the obsessive thoughts. Compulsions can include cleaning, checking, repeating, hoarding, sorting and mental rituals. People with OCD are often compelled to perform these ritualistic behaviors for hours at a time, wreaking havoc on their normal routine, schoolwork, job, family or social activities.

posttraumatic stress disorder (ptsd)

PTSD is the only anxiety disorder that requires a precipitating event. In PTSD the anxious symptoms always develop after exposure to a traumatic occurrence. Traumatic experiences include witnessing a serious accident or natural disaster, the sudden death of a loved one or a violent personal assault. The experience must have been perceived by the person as posing a serious threat to his/her or someone else's physical integrity. After the event, the person with PTSD relives the trauma over and over again, often in the form of flashbacks or nightmares. Symptoms include heightened arousal, difficulty sleeping, irritability, exaggerated responses when startled and constant vigilance. As with so many of the other anxiety disorders, avoidance of "triggers" becomes the main coping mechanism and can greatly interfere with a person's ability to function.

related illnesses

Related illnesses that can also be treated with CBT include eating disorders, sleep disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, complicated grief and body dysmorphic disorder.