Anxiety disorder is not:
- Anxiety is an emotion that many people typically experience. An anxiety disorder makes someone experience anxiety beyond normal levels. However, someone diagnosed with an anxiety disorder may say they “have anxiety” for convenience.
- Someone with anxiety disorder usually experiences anxiety at much greater levels compared to a neurotypical person in the same situation.
- People with anxiety disorders can feel anxious even for no particular reason, in a situation with no stressors at all.
- Anxiety disorders do not go away on their own without professional treatment, and may in fact worsen.
- It’s not always obvious if someone has an anxiety disorder, because they may have their stress episodes in private, or they have learned ways to manage their anxiety levels, or they have coped by hiding their emotions well.
Anxiety disorder is:
- Depending on the person, anti-anxiety medication, effective coping strategies, or psychotherapeutic methods like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help them manage their anxiety effectively. This can be complemented with healthy eating and regular exercise to further reduce anxiety levels.
- Anyone can be potentially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder regardless of age.
Types of anxiety disorder
Someone with GAD experiences long-lasting anxiety not focused on any specific situation or thing.
Someone with a specific phobia experiences intense fear and anxiety towards a specific stimulus or situation, often anticipating terrifying consequences from such encounters. Unlike rational fear responses, the phobia-induced fear is much greater in proportion compared to the actual potential danger.
Someone with SAD feels intense fear and avoidance of social interactions, including negative public scrutiny, public speaking, or humiliation.
Someone with SepAD feels excessive or inappropriate levels of anxiety over being separated from a person or place.
Someone with agoraphobia feels specific anxiety about being in a place or situation where escape is difficult or embarrassing or where help may be unavailable.
Someone with panic disorder experiences panic attacks, i.e. brief episodes of intense terror and apprehension accompanied with physical symptoms. These panic attacks may or may not have obvious triggers.
Someone with selective mutism loses their ability to speak in specific situations or to specific people, staying silent even with negative consequences like shame or punishment.
The following are some common symptoms for people with some form of anxiety disorder. They do not apply to all people, as the condition is individual and varies from person to person.
Because people with anxiety are stressed, the person's heart rate increases. This can cause even more stress on them and cause the other symptoms to be worse.
Because people with anxiety are under stress, and also because their heart rate may be higher, they can start to sweat. No matter where they are, the temperature, or other outside influences, they may start sweating.
Also affected by the increased heart rate, but not only because of it, people with anxiety can start trembling. They may have a shaky voice, shaky hands, or some other parts of their body shake.
Due to the amount of stress the person with anxiety disorder has, whether it be due to one big thing or several smaller things, they cannot help but focus on whatever is causing their anxiety. This makes it harder to focus on important day-to-day things, which then may cause more anxiety.
Anxiety can cause a loss of appetite or repulsion to eating. To distinguish this from anorexia, this is largely caused by feelings of fear triggered within a person undergoing anxiety.
A person who has anxiety may start having rapid or deep breathing. This can be caused from anxiety or panic, but is more likely to happen to a person who has an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety can actually affect the gut negatively, leading to indigestion or acid reflux. Hyperventilation from anxiety may also lead to swallowing of air, causing bloating in the stomach.
Someone experiencing immense anxiety may involuntarily clench their fists, feet, jaws, or any muscles for longer periods than normal, leading to tension and aches.
A person with an anxiety disorder may feel immense dread or panic even when there is nothing present that is genuinely life-threatening.
A person with an anxiety disorder may experience sleep deprivation, as their anxiety may cause problems with trying to fall asleep or stay asleep.
An underdiscussed symptom of anxiety is suicidal ideation. In cases of severe anxiety, symptoms can reach a tipping point in which suicidal thoughts or ideation occur. This can also be caused by a comorbidity with depression.
What can I do?
Stop joking about anxiety disorders. These jokes and memes are often insensitive and hurtful to people with the condition. By joking, you’re spreading misinformation and disrespecting people with anxiety disorders.
Spread awareness. Next time you hear a person misusing the word “anxiety”, conflating “anxiety” with “anxiety disorder”, or having a stereotypical view of people with anxiety disorders, send them this page.
Support groups for anxiety. There are many organizations that raise money to support people with anxiety disorders and their families. Even if you can’t support yourself, you can help share these groups with others, so they can support these groups.