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Which anxiety disorder do I have?

Updated: May 4

Anxiety is a mental health disorder that can manifest differently for each individual, so it can be difficult to accurately identify your particular disorder. Learning how to identify your anxiety disorder can be a powerful step in getting the help you need to better manage your mental health. In this post, we’ll explore the different types of anxiety, their symptoms, and the steps you can take to identify your disorder to get the help you need.


Types of Anxiety


There are 5 main types of anxiety disorder. You may find that you have more than one of these, or that they are connected.

Anxiety disorders may manifest in different ways, causing different symptoms and this can be extremely confusing and overwhelming at times, but they tend to have one running theme fear. The more you know about your disorder/s the clearer and more manageable they become.

If you have two or more anxiety disorders, be mindful that they may not have the same source. Anxiety disorders can originate at different times and be triggered differently, which is why they should be approached individually.


Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than 1 specific event. People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. Anxiety is an ongoing presence and can cause severe disruption to their daily lives. GAD often feels chaotic and intrusive, those who live with the disorder may find themselves avoiding places, people and situations in anticipation of anxiety, becoming increasingly isolated and at times lonely.


Common symptoms:

  • Fatigue

  • Increased heart rate/ heart palpitations

  • Sweating or hot flushes

  • Shaking

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Depression


Treatment:

A diagnosis of GAD is not required to seek effective treatment. Cognitive behavioural therapy, psychodynamic therapy and NLP practitioners are all privately available for the treatment of GAD.

A diagnosis can be obtained by a GP and by doing so you have access to NHS-funded therapy although wait lists can be long the sooner you move through this process the better.

You could choose to seek guidance from online resources or local charities that specialise in the management and treatment of GAD. Medication is available to manage anxiety and for some, it can be a responsible action. Medication for mental illnesses is usually controlled and distributed via prescription and can take time to have an effect. Some medication needs to be closely monitored as they can be addictive or have serious side effects. To have access to medication to manage mental illness an individual must have a referral from their GP and/or have a diagnosis of mental illness.



Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder is a destructive and debilitating mental illness in which an individual goes through processes of intrusive thoughts followed by compulsive actions. This cycle can cause extreme anxiety and interrupt daily life. OCD is a complex condition in which the individual has full knowledge that their behaviour is unconventional and yet they are unable to break the cycle. OCD is also a condition that usually involves suppression. Individuals may feel as though they need to hide their compulsions or rituals to not seem “odd” This behaviour can continue for years and lead to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and difficulty maintaining relationships.




Common Symptoms:

  • Repeated actions and compulsions (individual dependant) can include Hand washing, hoarding, checking, and repeating words or numbers.

  • Unwanted negative thoughts

  • Need for control

  • Avoidance of uncertain situations or changes in circumstance


Treatment:

Any mental illness is better managed when you can understand it in more detail and how it might have originated. Psychodynamic therapy or counselling will assist through a process of volunteering memories, and childhood experiences to discover the roots of the illness. CBT therapy and ERP are more recovery-focused. CBT concentrates on the types of thinking leading to OCD tendencies and reinforces a different method of thinking throughout sessions. ERP is an exposure-based therapy where the individual is required to “face their fears” without the need for their compulsions. These treatments can be accessed privately or through an NHS referral if you have a diagnosis of OCD.


Panic Disorder


Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent, sudden episodes of intense fear or discomfort that reach and peak within minutes. Panic attacks are known to mimic the symptoms of a heart attack, which can be very distressing for the individual as well as their loved ones. These panic attacks can come on unexpectedly, or they can be triggered by specific events or situations. It's extremely important to work on identifying these triggers to reduce the attacks and the physical consequences on the body.

The attacks can have a lasting physical and emotional impact, leaving those suffering from panic disorder feeling overwhelmed and confused.


Common symptoms:

  • Dizziness or feeling faint

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Fidgeting or muscle spasms

  • Difficulty catching breath

  • Sweating or hot flushes


Treatment:


The first choice of treatment for panic disorder is psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy is available on the NHS or privately, and psychodynamic therapy or NLP practice can also be beneficial for panic disorder. As previously mentioned, it’s important to discover the triggers for the attacks as soon as possible. Keeping a journal and noting down when and where the attacks occur could assist in this. If the cause is rooted in childhood or suppressed, hypnotherapy could also be an effective treatment option.

Medication is carefully administered for panic disorder but it can take an extended period before the medication takes effect.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder causes long-term emotional and physical stress which occurs after a traumatic event, injury or psychological shock. PTSD is seen more frequently in individuals that are more likely to have been exposed to traumatic events or experiences such as military personnel, police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

PTSD was formally known as shell shock (coined by soldiers in WW1). PTSD can manifest after a significant change or moment in a person’s life but it is not always immediate. If an individual is triggered by something they associate with the experience it can bring on symptoms.


Common symptoms:

  • Easily startled

  • Nightmares or insomnia

  • Anger or aggression

  • Self-destructive or addictive behaviours

  • Depression and feelings of guilt or shame

Treatment:


A GP may refer an individual to an NHS-related PTSD specialist after diagnosis but the wait times can be significant in some cases. Private practitioners who are trained in CBT (the practice of resetting negative thought processes), psychodynamic psychotherapy (looking into childhood trauma and memories) as well as mindfulness cognitive therapy (encouraging mindfulness practices and preventing the recurrence of illness) are available locally.

Charities both online and in the local area can offer ongoing support 24/7 as well as practical resources and advice on PTSD and other related mental illnesses. Charities may be able to provide information about virtual and in-person support groups where individuals can come together to discuss experiences and learn from each other about how to cope with PTSD and manage its symptoms.



Phobia Disorder


A phobia is an irrational and uncontrollable fear of a specific thing, person or situation which affects an individual’s quality of life.

There are two main types of phobias. Specific phobias are a fear of one thing. A specific phobia is referred to as a simple phobia and they usually develop in childhood or adolescence; they can often be easily avoided or treated with gradual exposure. A complex phobia often develops during or after adolescence and is much more debilitating than a specific phobia. A complex phobia can become very serious as just the thought of the phobia can cause anxiety or panic. An example of a complex phobia is Social phobia or “social anxiety”.Social phobia involves fear in any social setting, activity or environment.

Any phobia can impact the quality of life. Often avoidance techniques will be put in place and the outcome can be very isolating for the person. Confusion and misunderstanding from others can be distressing and impact confidence and self-esteem so treatment as soon as possible is required


Common symptoms:

  • Chest pains or tightness

  • Struggle to catch a breath

  • Heart palpitations or increased heart rate

  • Sweating or hot and cold flushes



Treatment:

Local charities and organisations can assist in managing phobias, by creating an environment that feels safe and encourages communication. These charities will also help individuals build a support network of like-minded people, assist in finding methods of treatment and organise activities that will increase personal confidence.

Talking therapies can be beneficial and reduce the feelings of anxiety associated with phobias. A therapist may try and implement a form of exposure therapy depending on the individual and help reduce the associated fear over time. If you are unsure of the type of phobia you have or if you have more than one, then a GP can diagnose you and has access to resources they feel will suitably treat specific types of phobias. They will take into consideration your treatment preferences as well as what they feel is most appropriate and likely to succeed.



Anxiety is a complex disorder that can manifest differently for each individual. It's important to understand the types of anxiety, their symptoms, and the different treatment options available. With the proper diagnosis and treatment, you can more easily manage your mental health and lead a happier, healthier life.

If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, it’s important to seek professional help. Reach out to a mental health professional or healthcare provider to get an accurate diagnosis and receive the help you need.


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