Anxiety itself is a general word to describe several subtle but different anxiety disorders. Each has its own characteristics however they can all cause fear, apprehension, nervousness, shortness of breath, insomnia, nausea, trembling, dizziness etc.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
People with this disorder will generally feel afraid and worry about everyday things such as health, money, family, work or school. Despite the causes being common issues, they will have a very hard time identifying exactly what is causing them angst, however this does not stop the effects of the fear and worry being very real.
Panic disorders are brief periods of sudden, intense and feelings of terror and dread. These "attacks" can last for only a few minutes, or in more extreme situations may occur for hours. In addition to these initial attacks, often as a result the sufferer becomes acutely aware of everything which is happening to them and can over-react (e.g. believing every bodily ailment may be a life threatening illness). In addition they frequently change their behaviour in due to fear of when and where future attacks may occur, which can be isolating and effect quality of life.
Phobias are driven by specific situations and/or objects. Typically these can be things such as fear of certain animals (e.g. snakes), small spaces, flying in planes, open space etc. This disorder is quite different from a Generalized Anxiety disorder in that the sufferer is able to identify exactly what is causing the anxiety. Typically sufferers are frequently aware of the irrationality of their fear, yet they cannot control or change their response. Suffers typically change their behaviour to avoid their phobia (e.g. using alternative transport to avoid flying).
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by actions that are persistent, repetitive and uncontrollable. These are accompanied with unwanted feelings which are distressing and intrusive. Sufferers engage in these repetitive actions/rituals/compulsions as a mechanism to try to alleviate their anxiety, despite usually knowing the compulsions are irrational and unreasonable. Common compulsions can be simple things like checking a door is locked, checking stoves to ensure off, constant cleaning owing to fear of germs etc.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is caused by severe physical and/or emotional trauma, and is typically associated with soldiers returning from combat, however it can be caused by by many events such as natural disasters, serious accidents, hostage situations, rape, home invasion etc. PTSD can last for months or even years after the triggering event.
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