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Anxiety: Types, Symptoms and Treatment

Anxiety is the most common mental disorder, affecting about 18% of the US population every year. Anxiety disorders can take many forms, from generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more. 

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Symptoms of Anxiety

Here are some common symptoms of anxiety disorder. You don’t need to experience all of these symptoms to meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder:

  • Excessive worry occurring most days of the week

  • Difficulty controlling the worry

  • Restlessness or feeling on edge

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking straight

  • Irritability

  • Muscle tension

  • Sleep disturbance

  • Avoidance of situations that may cause anxiety

  • Perceived need for reassurance to curb anxiety

Please note that this is not intended for self-diagnosis. If you believe you have an anxiety disorder, it’s important that you seek the help of a mental health professional for a proper diagnosis.

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Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a specific type of anxiety disorder that results in panic attacks, which are acute experiences of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and typically subsides in an hour or less. 


Here are some common symptoms of panic disorder. You don’t need to experience all of these symptoms to meet the criteria for panic disorder:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate

  • Sweating

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering

  • Feelings of choking

  • Chest pain or discomfort

  • Nausea or abdominal distress

  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint

  • Chills or heat sensations

  • Numbness or tingling sensations, particularly in the extremities

  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)

  • Fear of losing control or going crazy

  • Fear of dying

  • Persistent worry about having a panic attack

  • Avoidance of activities or situations that may cause a panic attack

Please note that this is not intended for self-diagnosis. If you believe you have panic disorder, it is important that you seek the help of a mental health professional for a proper diagnosis.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a specific type of anxiety that results in “obsessive” (persistent, intense) thinking paired with compulsions aimed at preventing or reducing anxious thoughts or feared outcomes.

 

Here are some common symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. You don’t need to experience all of these symptoms to meet the criteria for obsessive-compulsive disorder:

Obsessions

 

  • Unwanted or intrusive thoughts, urges, or images that cause severe psychological distress

  • Attempts to neutralize or suppress these thoughts, urges, or images with some other thought or an action (compulsion)

 

Compulsions

 

  • Repetitive behaviors or mental acts which are responses to obsessions, applied rigidly

  • Repetitive behaviors or mental acts not connected realistically to what they’re intended to neutralize or suppress, or they’re clearly excessive

 

Please note that this is not intended for self-diagnosis. If you believe you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, it is important that you seek the help of a mental health professional for a proper diagnosis.

Types of OCD:

Contamination OCD

Fear of contact with bacteria or another (biological or social) contaminant or becoming ill.

Harm OCD

Fear that one may cause harm to self or others in the future or that one has already caused harm to others.

Pedophilia OCD

Fear that one is a pedophile (absent of any criteria for pedophilic disorder) or that one may cause harm to children.

“Just Right” OCD

A strong sense of discomfort with things just not feeling right and a need to repeat actions until they feel “right.”

Sexual Orientation OCD

Recurrent thoughts and doubts about one’s sexual preferences.

Relationship OCD

Persistent doubt and uncertainty about the legitimacy and stability of one’s relationships.

Pure Obsessional OCD

Sometimes referred to as Existential OCD, distress caused by certain thoughts (often unanswerable questions) or uncertainty.

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Treatment for Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal human emotion, just like anger, sadness, disgust, etc. However, anxiety becomes a disorder when it significantly impacts your life and your functioning. 


My approach to treatment focuses on your relationship to anxiety rather than your anxiety itself. We cannot make your anxiety go away, just like we cannot make other emotions go away. However, we can modify how you respond to and think about anxiety.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is considered “the gold standard” for treatment of anxiety disorders. CBT incorporates thought-based (cognitive) and action-based (behavioral) interventions. 


Thought-based interventions include identifying and modifying unhelpful, unfair, or unrealistic thoughts. These thoughts, called cognitive distortions, exacerbate and reinforce worries. An example is all-or-nothing thinking (“I can’t do anything right”) which is both untrue and unfair. Identifying and modifying these thoughts can yield great improvements in emotional health. 


Action-based interventions include identifying and modifying unhealthy behaviors that can exacerbate or reinforce anxiety (such as reassurance-seeking or avoidance).

 

Action-based interventions also include implementing behaviors (coping skills) that help one manage their anxiety symptoms. CBT can be augmented by other treatment modalities, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness, and more.