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Everybody knows what it is like to feel anxious; however, anxiety disorders are more intense and can
disrupt your daily life. They are illnesses, and often run in families. Anxiety disorders include:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – This is chronic and exaggerated worry and tension, even
though nothing seems to provoke it. It means always anticipating disaster about health, money, family
or school and work. People with GAD can’t seem to shake their worry even though they usually
realize their anxiety is excessive. They are unable to relax and have trouble falling or staying asleep.
The worry is accompanied by physical symptoms such as trembling, twitching, muscle tension,
headaches, and irritability.
Panic Disorder – People with panic disorder have feelings of terror that strike suddenly making your
heart pound, and you may feel sweaty, weak, faint, or dizzy. Your hands may tingle or feel numb, and
you might feel flushed or chilled. You may have chest pain and believe you are having a heart attack.
Intense worrying can develop over when and where the next panic attack will strike causing avoidance
of the situation. For example, if you have a panic attack while you’re in a grocery store, you may start
avoiding them causing limitations in your life.
Specific Phobia – Intense, irrational fears of certain things like dogs, spiders, closed-in places, heights,
elevators, tunnels, highway driving, water, flying, and injuries involving blood. People with phobias
realize their fears are irrational. If the object of the fear is easy to avoid, people with phobias may not
feel the need to seek treatment. When phobias interfere with a person’s life, such as making a career
decision to avoid a phobic situation, treatment can help.
Social Phobia – Intense fear of embarrassing yourself in front of other people. You tend to think that
other people in a group are all focused on you. It can involve a fear of social situations such as
parties or public speaking.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – You are plagued by persistent, unwelcome thoughts or
images (obsessions), and by the urgent need to engage in certain rituals (compulsions) to solve the
problem. If you are obsessed with germs or dirt, you wash your hands over and over. You feel the
need to check things repeatedly. You may spend long periods of time touching things or counting.
Order or symmetry may preoccupy you. A lot of healthy people can identify with checking the stove
several times before leaving the house, or checking several times to be sure the alarm is set. However,
the disorder is diagnosed only when such activities consume at least an hour a day, are very distressing
and interfere with daily life.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – This condition follows a terrifying or life threatening event
such as kidnapping, a car wreck, war, natural disasters, or rape. People with this disorder may
experience sleep problems, nightmares, depression, feeling numb or be easily startled. Triggers such
as images, sounds, smells or feelings can cause flashbacks, or reliving the event. PTSD is diagnosed
only if the symptoms last more than a month.
Treatment for anxiety disorders includes medication, therapy and relaxation techniques. Medication is not
a cure, but can be helpful with sleep and nightmares. If you think you may have an anxiety disorder and
would like to be screened, come by the C of I Counseling Center, or call Marilyn Simmonds, LCPC, at
459-5561, or email [email protected] to make an appointment.