Having an anxiety disorder can lead to serious complications in the life of a person, it can; increase the risk of depression, take away time and focus from other activities, impair the ability to perform tasks quickly and efficiently due to difficulty in concentration. It can also lead to or worsen some physical health conditions like headaches and migraines, heart-health issues, sleep problems and insomnia, chronic pain, and illness. Anxiety disorder often occurs along with other mental health problems like phobias, depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, panic disorder involves “repeated unexpected panic attacks (e.g. heart palpitations, sweating, trembling) followed by at least one month of persistent concern about having another panic attack.” A panic attack is a sudden surge of fear or anxiety which triggers severe physical reactions in situations where others would not be afraid, for no obvious or particular reason.
Recurrent panic attacks are usually manifested by these symptoms, fear of inability to escape from fearful situations, fear of losing control or dying, dizziness, tachycardia, nausea, chest pain or discomfort, sweating, tremors, palpitation, chills, shortness of breath, abdominal cramps, sense of impending doom or danger. One of the worst things about the panic disorder is the debilitating fear that another one will occur.
The exact cause for panic disorder is not known, but certain factors may play a role like major stress and genetics. Panic attacks may begin suddenly but over time they may be discovered that they are triggered by certain situations. Eventually, panic attacks may cause or lead to complications like avoidance of social situations, alcohol or substance misuse, problems at work or school, financial problems, development of specific phobias, and increased risk of suicide or suicidal thoughts. A person with panic disorder may feel ashamed or discouraged because he or she is unable to perform the required everyday activities.
Acute stress disorder
Acute stress disorder (ASD) can occur after someone has witnessed, experienced, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others. This disorder habitually occurs within one month of the traumatic event, disturbing memories of the event cause an emotional reaction and a sense of reliving the event.
It is usually characterized by restlessness, difficulty concentrating or sleeping, feelings of tension and numbness, exaggerated startle response, leading the person to avoid situations or instances that may cause recollections of the traumatic event, and intense emotional reaction or absence of emotional responsiveness.
Acute stress disorder is very similar to posttraumatic stress disorder, having the following psychological symptoms, hypervigilance, irritable mood, a sense of physical displacement, recurrent involuntary flashback or nightmares of the event, and generalized low mood. Many people with ASD recover without any treatment, there are however a variety of methods for combating this situation including psychotherapy and medication.
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes an individual to experience extreme and irrational fear about a situation, place, object, or living creature. Phobias involve a persistent fear of clearly discernible and circumscribed objects or situations. A phobia is essentially an irrational, unrealistic, or exaggerated fear of a specific activity, object, or situation that actually presents little to no danger. The individual will experience intense distress when faced with the source of their phobia, this can easily prevent them from functioning normally and may even lead to panic attacks.
The word “phobia” is often used to refer to a particular fear with a specific trigger, there are however three types of phobia recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, these are
- Specific phobia: This is an intense and irrational fear of a specific trigger, specific phobias are also known as simple phobias as they can be linked to an identifiable cause that may not occur in the everyday life of an individual, such as spiders, snakes, heights, etc. these may be easily avoided and are therefore not likely to affect day to day living in a significant way;
- Agoraphobia: This is a fear of situations that it would be difficult to escape from if the person in question were to experience extreme panic, such as being in an elevator or on public transport. It is commonly misunderstood to be a fear of open spaces but the term may also apply to being confined in a small space. Individuals with agoraphobia have an increased risk of susceptibility to panic disorder;
- Social phobia or social anxiety: this is a profound fear of public humiliation or being judged by others in a social situation.
There are 5 subtypes of specific phobia; the natural environment type, such as fear of heights or storms; the situational type, such as fear of elevators or enclosed places, public transportation; animal types such as fear of spiders, mice, or cockroaches; blood-injection-injury type, such as fear of seeing blood or receiving an injection; and another type, such as fear of vomiting or choking.
In instances of an extreme phobia the person goes out of his way to avoid the object of his fear, unfortunately, avoidance only serves to strengthen the phobia. Phobias are characterized by sweating, dizziness, muscle tension, a need to escape, and avoidance of the object of fear.
A person affected by a phobia will experience symptoms like uncontrollable anxiety when exposed to the source of fear, inability to function properly when exposed to the trigger, avoidance of the source of fear at all costs, an acknowledgment that the fear is irrational, exaggerated, and unreasonable, combined with an inability to control these feelings. The above symptoms may result in the following physical effects; accelerated heartbeat, trembling, chest pains or tightness, dry mouth, confusion and disorientation, dizziness, sweating, nausea, or headaches, and a feeling of anxiety can be produced merely by thinking about the subject of the phobia.