Anxiety Disorders share in common the presence of anxiety as a prominent feature. There are 11 different conditions that are classified as Anxiety Disorders. Each will be briefly described below.
Panic Disorder involves the presence of recurrent, unexpected Panic Attacks. A Panic Attack is a sudden unexpected intense period of intense fear or discomfort accompanied by some of the following symptoms: pounding heart, sweating, trembling, trouble catching breath or feeling smothered, choking sensations, chest pain, nausea or abdominal discomfort, dizzy or faint feelings, feelings of unreality, fear of losing control or going crazy, fear of dying, numbness or tingling in hands, feet, or other areas of the body, and chills or hot flashes. To make the diagnosis of Panic Disorder, the patient has to experience recurrent Panic Attacks within one month which result in fear and worry about having the attacks or a change in behavior because of the attacks. Panic Disorder is diagnosed as With our Without Agoraphobia, as described below.
Agoraphobia is a condition in which the patient experiences anxiety about being in places or situations where help might not be possible and from which escape may be difficult or embarrassing. Examples might be going to the market or a restaurant, crowded places, or driving over a bridge. The patient avoids these situations when possible or endures them with great difficulty. Agoraphobia is diagnosed as a separate condition if it occurs in the absence of Panic Disorder.
Specific Phobias are characterized by persistent, unreasonable, intense fear of specific objects or situations. Examples might be fear of flying, fear of spiders, fear of heights, or fear of seeing blood. To make the diagnosis, the patient must experience intense anxiety whenever he or she is exposed to the phobic object or situation. Although the patient realizes that the fear is excessive and irrational, he or she nonetheless avoids the phobic object or situation whenever possible, or experiences intense distress when forced to endure exposure to the phobic object or situation. Furthermore, the avoidance or distress caused by the phobia significantly interferes with the patient’s daily routine, work or school performance, or social activities and relationships.
Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder is a condition in which the patient experience intense fear when in social or performance situations with unfamiliar people or possible judgment by others. The patient fears that he or she will act in some way that will cause embarrassment or humiliation. To make the diagnosis, the patient must almost always experience intense anxiety when exposed to these situations, and they are avoided whenever possible or endured with intense discomfort, even though the patient realizes that the fear is excessive or irrational. Furthermore, the avoidance or distress of social or performance situations significantly interferes with the patient’s daily routine, work or school performance, or social activities and relationships.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a condition in which the patient experiences recurring obsessions or compulsions. Obsessions are repetitive unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses that are experienced as intrusive and upsetting. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or thoughts which are done to reduce anxiety rather than for pleasure. An example of an obsession is the belief that one’s hands are dirty a minute or two after washing hands for a fourth or fifth time, and a compulsion would be the urge to wash one’s hands yet again. In order to make the diagnosis, the patient must engage in obsessions or compulsions an hour or more a day or have significant distress or impairment, and the patient recognizes that the obsessions or compulsions are unreasonable.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is a disorder in which the patient develops severe symptoms of anxiety lasting a month or more after experiencing a traumatic event such as death, serious injury, of potential physical harm. The event may be directed at the patient or at others which the patient witnessed. In order to make the diagnosis, the patient experiences intense fear, horror, or helplessness. Anxiety symptoms may include repetitively re-experiencing the trauma, repetitively avoiding situations that are reminders of the trauma, and persistent symptoms of physiological arousal. At some point the patient realizes that the fear is excessive or irrational and the symptoms must significantly interfere with the patient’s daily routine, work or school performance, or social activities and relationships.
Acute Stress Disorder is similar to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder with the exception that the symptoms must occur within four weeks of the experience of the trauma and the symptoms persist for a minimum of two days and no longer than four weeks.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a disorder in which the patient experiences significant anxiety or worry about a variety of different events and activities over a six month period or longer. The patient is unable to control the anxiety, and the anxiety is accompanied by a number of physiological symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and muscle tension. The symptoms must significantly interfere with the patient’s daily routine, work or school performance, or social activities and relationships.
Anxiety Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified) is diagnosed when the patient has symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder but does not meet the criteria for any specific Anxiety Disorders diagnosis.