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Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can, at the very least, take away an individual’s enjoyment of and pleasure in life. They also have the potential to keep people from sleeping, concentrating, talking to others, or even leaving their home.

Anxiety is simply the body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations – the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event. Worrying about a job interview or stressing out over a test is healthy, normal anxiety – this kind of anxiety encourages us to properly prepare for situations we’re uneasy about, and helps us stay alert and aware.

However, for those suffering from an anxiety disorder, anxiety feels far from normal. It can be completely debilitating. Anxiety that may need treatment is often irrational, overwhelming, and disproportionate to the situation. It makes sufferers feel as though they have no control of their feelings, and it can involve serious physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, or trembling. When normal anxiety becomes irrational and begins to recur and interfere with daily life, it’s classified as an anxiety  disorder.

Common symptoms include: Excessive, irrational, or uncontrollable feelings of worry and dread, sensations of panic, obsessive thoughts, trouble sleeping, pounding heart, tense muscles, nausea, headaches, tiredness, trouble concentrating, rapid breathing, sweating, dry mouth, dizziness, cold or sweaty hands and feet, trembling or shaking, upset or pains in stomach.

Anxiety is sometimes categorised into different “disorders” such as generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic attacks, OCD, PTSD and phobias but it is important to know that there is significant overlap between these categories:

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (or GAD)

Generalised Anxiety Disorder or GAD is the kind of chronic worry that goes on for months, even years and which interferes with our enjoyment of daily life. It is fairly common – studies show that just under 10 % of us have it and some studies show it being as high as 24%. Worries are usually about a combination of things including quite often the fact that you are worrying too much!

GAD commonly results in muscle tension, difficulty with digestion, aches and pains, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Disturbed sleep, loss of appetite or binge eating or excessive smoking and drinking can also result from it. Depression is also commonly found in those who suffer from GAD. Though many people with GAD realise that their worry is unrealistic or unwarranted, their feelings of anxiety persist and seem unmanageable, leaving sufferers feeling out of control.

Social Anxiety Disorder (or SAD)

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is sometimes known as Social Phobia. While most of us feel some anxiety in some social situations, those afflicted by social anxiety disorder experience intense distress, self-consciousness, and fear of judgement in everyday social interactions. It often prevents people from having normal friendships, even casual interactions, or intimate relationships, and can keep sufferers from functioning in daily life, at work, or at school and college. Additionally, people with SAD sometimes experience intense worry, fear, or dread about a social situation days or weeks in advance.

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are short (usually less than 15 minute) episodes of intense fear that are often accompanied by physical symptoms and uncontrollable feelings of dread and doom. Unlike a normal fear response,  a panic attack strikes without the presence of a threat or dangerous situation.  A person who experiences several panic attacks may develop a panic disorder, where the individual begins to spend a significant amount of their time worrying about having another attack, worrying that they are losing their mind, or changing their daily routine because of the panic attacks.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (or OCD)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterised by intrusive obsessive thoughts that result in compulsive ritualistic behaviours and routines which can significantly interfere with everyday life. Sufferers experience uncontrollable, distressing thoughts or fears about certain things such as dirt, germs, or order, which then lead to compulsive behaviours performed as an attempt to alleviate their worry or anxiety.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that may develop after witnessing a deeply distressing or disturbing experience, or after experiencing a serious injury or accident. It can also develop after a threat of death or serious injury, even if no one was physically harmed. While most people experience anxious reactions after a serious traumatic effect, PTSD develops when these symptoms and negative reactions remain for long periods of time and begin to disrupt daily life and functioning.


A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder where there is an excessive and irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation. Phobias are different from common fears in that the anxiety associated with the object or situation is so strong that it interferes with daily life and the ability to function normally. People with phobias may go to great lengths to avoid encountering their feared object or situation.

See also my Stress, Anxiety and Panic Attacks page and my Anxiety Counselling Cork page.

Counselling for Anxiety Disorders

It is important to know that all the anxiety disorders described above are treatable. Counselling can help the majority of those suffering with an anxiety disorder recover and resume normal life. If you would like some help in order to deal with your anxiety disorder, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.

Other related articles:  Managing Anxiety, Social Anxiety Disorder, Anxiety Symptoms, Anxiety Counselling, Stress and Sensitivity, Sleep Well, Panic Attacks


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