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Faces of Anxiety: Identifying and Understanding Different Anxiety Disorders



Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear that everyone experiences in life. However, for some people, this feeling can happen more often and become hard to handle. This is called an anxiety disorder. There are different types of anxiety disorders, and each one can affect people in different ways. 


These disorders can be overwhelming and impact someone’s daily life. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, it is important to seek help from a doctor or a mental health professional. Remember, you are not alone in this and there are effective treatments available to help you feel better! 


Today, we will learn about the different kinds of anxiety disorders and how they can make people feel.


 

Specific Phobia


A specific phobia is a strong fear of an object, animal, situation, or experience. Sometimes, this fear can be so intense that it stops people from doing important things at work, in social activities, in relationships, or for their physical health. Common phobias include a fear of animals, heights, needles, and blood. Some of these things might be a little bit dangerous, but the fear felt with a phobia is much greater than the actual threat. This fear or anxiety can be caused by someone just thinking about or looking at pictures of the thing that they are scared of. Someone with a specific phobia might try very hard to avoid the thing that they are afraid of. 



Social Anxiety


Social anxiety is a strong feeling of fear or worry in social situations. Someone with social anxiety might be very worried about what other people think of them. Even people who are confident can feel nervous before giving a presentation or meeting new people. However, for someone with a social anxiety disorder, this worry can be so strong that it feels hard to handle. Someone can feel this way just by thinking about or remembering a social situation. Also, someone with a social anxiety disorder might feel very anxious only in some situations. For example, someone might be afraid to speak in front of a group, so this might make them avoid social situations altogether. If they cannot avoid social situations, they might have other ways to get through them. For example, someone might practice what they are going to say in a social situation before it happens or they might bring a friend with them for support. 



Generalized Anxiety/Worry


Generalized anxiety is when someone constantly feels worried, nervous, or overwhelmed, even when there is little or no reason to worry. People can worry about many things. For example, someone might worry about school, friends, family, and health. This can start because of things happening around someone or from thoughts that come into someone’s mind. Worry often includes a lot of “what if” questions, like “What if I fail my test?” Everyone worries sometimes, and it is okay if it does not last long and if it helps you solve problems. However, worry becomes a problem when it happens a lot and it is hard to stop. Some people think worry is useful for solving problems or planning, but actually, worry can create more anxiety. Further, this can make it harder to think and act positively. 



Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia


Panic disorder is when someone has panic attacks that happen surprisingly. A panic attack is more extreme than normal feelings of anxiety. It also includes strong physical symptoms and scary thoughts. It peaks in about 10 minutes and can be very terrifying. The person may feel a strong need to escape or get help. In addition, someone with panic disorder is usually very afraid of having another attack and they worry about what might happen. Someone might change their behaviour to try and avoid panic attacks. Also, some people also avoid places where it might be hard to get help or escape from. If this avoidance becomes very serious, it is called agoraphobia. 



Health Anxiety


Health anxiety is when someone always worries about their health and thinks that something might be wrong. This worry can be about specific illnesses like cancer or heart attacks, or it can be a general feeling that something is not right. Health anxiety becomes a problem when these fears are too much, when they happen a lot, and when they lead to unhelpful behaviours. These unhelpful behaviours can include checking their health too much, seeking constant reassurance (from doctors, family, or friends), and avoidance (of going to check-ups or reading health-related information). It does not matter if they have real symptoms or not and the problem is more about how they handle these worries about their health. 



Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is when someone has thoughts or fears that keep coming back (obsessions) and feels like they have to do the same things over and over (compulsions). These thoughts or fears can cause a lot of anxiety. Some common obsessions include fear of germs, harm to themselves/others, or thoughts that feel inappropriate. Some common compulsions include cleaning/washing a lot, checking things over and over, or doing things in a certain way. For someone with OCD, these thoughts and actions cause a lot of worry and make it hard to do daily tasks.


 

Other Problems and What Can Be Done


Anxiety can be a part of many other problems. These problems can include stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trouble sleeping, eating disorders, and depression. Anxiety disorders can be treated in many different ways. Usually, anxiety does not go away on its own and it can get worse over time.  If you are feeling anxious, it is important to talk to a doctor or a mental health professional. They can help you figure out what is happening and help you find the right support!


All in all, anxiety disorders are when people feel very worried or scared in different situations. There are many types of anxiety disorders, including the ones listed above, and more. It is important to remember that help is available for these disorders and that talking to a doctor or a mental health professional can be the first step in feeling better! 

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