People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) worry excessively about a number of different areas of life, such as family, health, finances, and work difficulties. People with GAD are plagued by these worries most days, for several months or more, and are also bothered by symptoms like:
- Feeling constantly ‘on edge’ and unable to relax;
- Muscle tension;
- Difficulty falling and staying asleep;
- Feeling tired or easily exhausted;
- Increased irritability;
- Trouble concentrating and focussing on a task;
Generalized anxiety can be triggered by a stressful life event such as losing a job, relationship breakdowns, and other periods of prolonged stress, but it’s often caused by a combination of factors and not just one thing. Other factors such as a family history of mental health problems, chronic physical health issues, and certain personality types – such as being a perfectionist or having low self-esteem – can make it more likely that someone will develop GAD.
Feeling uncomfortable or nervous in social situations is something that everyone might experience at some time in their life. However, some people feel so much fear and anxiety that they avoid social situations altogether. When severe anxiety begins to affect your everyday social life (such as not participating in social events that you previously enjoyed), you may be suffering from social anxiety disorder.
For someone with social anxiety disorder, almost anything that involves social interaction is extremely stressful. Everyday activities, such as making small talk, eating or drinking in public, meeting people, or even going to school or work, all become overwhelming.
Signs of social anxiety disorder include:
- Feeling anxious in social situations (physical symptoms include racing heart, sweating, queasy stomach, dizziness, shortness of breath);
- Feeling pressure to do things ‘right’ in social situations;
- Feeling self-conscious around others;
- Worrying that others will notice your anxiety;
- Replaying how you acted in a social situation over and over again in your mind afterwards;
- Not doing things you want to do because of feeling anxious;
If you experience recurrent panic attacks, and at least one of the attacks leads to a month of increased anxiety or avoidant behaviour, then you may have a panic disorder. You may also qualify for the diagnosis if you have recurrent or constant fears of having a panic attack even if you’ve only had a handful of attacks.
To be officially diagnosed with a panic disorder you must experience at least four of the following symptoms while having a panic attack:
- Pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate;
- Trembling or shaking;
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering;
- Feeling of choking;
- Chest pain or discomfort;
- Nausea or abdominal distress;
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint;
- Feelings of unreality or being detached from oneself;
- Fear of losing control or going crazy;
- Fear of dying;
- Numbness or tingling sensations;
- Chills or hot flashes;
Panic attacks may last for about ten minutes, but while you’re having one it seems to last forever. Try to remind yourself that it will pass. Panic and anxiety always pass. However, the attack can linger with you for a while afterwards, leaving you feeling jittery and anxious.