Generalised Anxiety Disorder
Excessive worry over both big and small issues, whether imagined or real for a period of at least six months. The person feels uncomfortable physical symptoms throughout most of the day and will typically avoid or limit exposure to any situation where an increase in symptoms is likely to occur. People with Generalised Anxiety Disorder often have a history of being a ‘worrier’.
A fear of being judged or evaluated negatively and of embarrassing oneself in some way in social or performance situations. A feeling of anxiety in the presence of others, attending social events, or eating/drinking, or writing while someone is watching, walking down the street or being in a crowd. The diagnosis is made when such fears significantly disrupt normal day-to-day functioning.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive and unproductive repetitive thoughts or rituals in order to relieve anxiety or prevent the occurrence of a feared event. Typical behaviours are hoarding, counting, checking or compulsive hand-washing and cleaning.
A panic attack followed by at least one month of intense fear of having another attack. Because of the intensity of the attack most people feel they are having a heart attack or stroke, going to die, go insane or lose control in some way. This can lead to secondary fears about being misdiagnosed or being alone or unable to get help should another attack occur. A lower tolerance to medications seems common. Panic Disorder is often seen in combination with other Anxiety Disorders such as Social Anxiety: 15-30%, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 8-10%, Specific Phobia: 10-20% and Generalised Anxiety Disorder: 25%. Separation Anxiety in children has been associated with Panic Disorder. (DSM IV)
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Follows a major life-threatening event such as armed robbery, natural disaster, traffic accident, sexual assault/rape or war experience. Often accompanied by visual flash-backs where the person feels as if he/she is re-living the original trauma; nightmares, hyper-vigilance and an exaggerated startle response. The person may have panic attacks in situations which remind them of the original trauma.
Other Types of Mental Disorders
Specific Phobia (Simple Phobia)
Where a person has a persistent, unreasonable fear of a specific object or situation to a point where it causes marked distress. Examples: a fear of dogs which may prevent the person from walking in the street; a fear of blood resulting in avoidance of invasive medical procedures or injections; a fear of illness which restricts social contact.
Typically found in young children where fear and clinging is displayed in anticipation of being separated from the major caregiver or a person perceived as the ‘protector’. (See Childhood Anxieties)
Similar to agoraphobia, where avoidance is practiced as a means of limiting exposure to a situation likely to produce increased anxiety. Common causes are bullying or a fear of not meeting either their own or other people’s expectations. (See Childhood Anxieties)
Agoraphobia, once interpreted as a ‘fear of the market place or open spaces’ is now recognised as avoidance behaviour due to fear of having anxiety symptoms or a panic attack. Avoidance is the most common practice used to prevent the re-experiencing of distressing symptoms. While avoidance may bring short-term benefits, it can lead to the development of Agoraphobia, as a secondary condition to the anxiety disorder.