Picture this: It's five minutes before you go on stage to deliver a speech. Your class was given the task to present the morning assembly this time and you volunteered to participate. Your name will get called any moment now, and you can hear your heart beating faster than usual. Your palms are sweaty, there is a slight ringing in your ears, and you feel nervous.
Does this situation sound familiar? I’m sure it does. This uneasy feeling is what we call anxiety.
Anxiety is something that all of us have experienced at some point in our life. But the question is, how much anxiety is too much anxiety? After all, anxiety is our body’s natural response to stressful situations, and it is an important feeling because without it, we wouldn’t be able to function as effectively as we do.
Everyday anxiety is different from the kind of anxiety a person with an anxiety disorder would feel. It involves an excessive amount of worry and fear, and the person feeling this anxiety often feels extremely overwhelmed. Anxiety disorders can make people suffering from anxiety try to avoid all situations that may cause them anxiety, such as going to work, walking in a crowded place, or any situation which triggers their anxiety. It adversely affects their relationships with others too. The bottom line is, the anxiety which was supposed to help you function better actually ends up inhibiting you from functioning at all.
Anxiety disorders are of many types. These are mentioned below.
1.Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalised anxiety, as the name suggests, is a disorder where the individual feels a general sense of worry which interferes with their overall functioning. The anxiety cannot be attributed to any particular object or event, but is caused by the daily stresses of life.
Phobias are the fear of specific objects. People with phobias experience extreme amounts of fear which causes them to completely avoid the source of their anxiety. For example, a person with a phobia of heights (called acrophobia) would completely avoid going to terraces, or looking over a cliff. Some very common phobias include pyrophobia (fear of fire), claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces), and zoophobia (fear of animals).
In panic disorder, the person experiences panic attacks, which are sudden surges of anxiety, which cause shortness of breath, increased heartbeat, nausea, and chest pain. These attacks are so severe at times that the person experiencing them may mistake it for a heart attack.
Agoraphobia is often a response to panic attacks. It is the fear of outside situations which develops because an individual is too scared of losing control and having another panic attack or extreme anxiety response triggered by a stimulus present in their surroundings.
5.Social Anxiety Disorder
Previously known as social phobia, social anxiety is the anxiety caused by social situations. People with social anxiety feel like others are constantly noticing them which makes them feel extremely anxious. They find it difficult to speak in front of crowds, or even to place an order at a restaurant.
6.Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Separation anxiety disorder is a disorder where the individual is too fearful of letting someone close to them go away, to an extent which has effects on their daily activities. This disorder is generally seen in young kids who don't want to let go of their parents, but it can persist into adulthood
Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder where the individual is unable to speak in social situations. It isn’t that the person refuses to speak, but they are literally unable to speak in front of new people or people they aren’t very familiar with. People with selective mutism can usually talk freely with people they are close to.
Other anxiety disorders are substance-induced anxiety and anxiety due to other medical conditions. Anxiety is also closely related to obsessive compulsive and related disorders, like OCD, trauma and stress related disorders, like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and acute stress disorder.
It is important to remember that everyone feels some amount of anxiety because we need it to function. A self diagnosis for any mental illness only causes unnecessary panic and worry. However, if you feel like you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, you can reach out to a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis and subsequent treatment.