The term “anxiety” is becoming more commonly used, but is often misunderstood. Individuals will use the term when referring to feelings of nervousness, stress, or anxiousness, but anxiety is much more than that.
Anxiety is an intense worry about future events that can even result in physical symptoms. There are various anxiety disorders, each characterized by different causes and resulting symptoms.
Even though you may not neatly fit into one of these ‘boxes’, Some types of anxiety disorders include: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
GAD is believed to have a few risk factors that increase one’s chances of having the disorder. These risk factors are: genetics (it runs in the family), being female (substantially more common amongst women) and having a timid or negative personality.
General symptoms include:
- Obsession over small concerns
- Inability to relax
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty handling uncertainty
Physical symptoms include:
- Muscle tension and tension headaches
- Trouble sleeping
- Nausea and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The first type of treatment available is psychotherapy (psychological counseling). Aside from this, the other treatment options are various medications, typically anti-depressants.
Lifestyle changes can also make a difference. Try eating healthier, exercising, making sleep a priority, and quitting smoking and drinking.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Some factors that may play a role in causing social anxiety are: inherited traits (if it runs in the family), one’s brain structure (the portion responsible for fear may be overactive), and one’s environment (it may arise after an embarrassing or unpleasant social situation).
Emotional symptoms include:
- Fear of being judged
- Fear of interacting with strangers
- Fear of physical symptoms that may be noticeable or embarrassing
- Expecting the worst possible outcomes during a social situation
- Avoiding common social situations all together (work, school, gatherings, outings)
Physical Symptoms include:
- Increased heart rate
Similarly to GAD, psychotherapy is a popular treatment option. Medication-wise, Paxil and Zoloft are the most common prescriptions.
The same lifestyle changes listed for GAD can also aid in reducing the symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation Anxiety Disorder is most common amongst children. The causes can include: a new child-care situation (day-care, preschool, etc.), a new sibling, a new home, or family stress/tension.
Your child may display these symptoms:
- Recurrent excessive distress about being away from home or from their parents.
- Constant worry that something bad will happen
- Refusing to be away from home
- Repeated nightmares about separation
- Excessive worry about losing a parent (IE: to illness)
Some practices you can implement in your home to reduce the symptoms of separation anxiety in your child include:
- Practicing saying good-byes
- Refraining from prolonging good-byes
- Timing good-byes appropriately (IE: not when your child is hungry, tired, or upset already).
- Give your child something to look forward to while you’re gone.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Separation Anxiety Disorder each embody unique causes, triggers, emotions, and symptoms.
Regardless whether it’s one time occurrence or a lifelong disorder, 1 in 4 Canadians will have an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. With those statistics, it is important that society has an understanding of what anxiety disorders are, what they encompass, and how to deal with them.
This can refer to handling your own anxiety, or providing support for someone in your life who is suffering from anxiety in one form or another.