Anxiety is part of the normal range of human emotions and is very common. It can range from mild, low level anxiousness about certain situations, which may be appropriate given the situation, or it may be excessive. When anxiety begins to rule your happiness, however, and you now avoid certain situations, this is known as an anxiety disorder. There are several types of anxiety disorders including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and generalised anxiety disorder.
Panic disorder – people with this condition experience feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning, which is commonly known as a panic attack. Other symptoms of a panic attack include sweating, chest pain, palpitations (unusually strong or irregular heartbeats), and a feeling of choking, which may make the person feel like he or she is having a heart attack or ‘going crazy’.
Social anxiety disorder – also called social phobia, social anxiety disorder involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. The worry often centers on a fear of being judged by others, or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or lead to ridicule.
Specific phobias – a specific phobia is an intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as snakes, heights or flying. The level of fear is usually inappropriate to the situation and may cause the person to avoid common, everyday situations.
Generalised anxiety disorder – this disorder involves excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to provoke the anxiety. As part of the above anxiety disorders the overall general symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feelings of panic, fear and uneasiness
- Problems sleeping
- Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- An inability to be still and calm
- Dry mouth
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Muscle tension
It is quite common to see patients who are unaware that they are suffering specifically from anxiety but have a number of the symptoms above. They often present wanting help with not being able to fall asleep or waking in the middle of the night not being able to go back to sleep. This is often the first sign that anxiety is starting to affect your mental well-being.