Anxiety disorder is an umbrella term for various specific forms of fear and anxiety including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and separation anxiety.

Generalized anxiety disorder commonly affects older adults and is characterized by enduring anxiety that really doesn’t seem to be about any certain subject, topic, or concern. The anxiousness, in this case, is continuous and makes daily life difficult.

Panic disorder is characterized by brief and intense bouts of fear or apprehension. Luckily, the feelings usually peak in fewer than ten minutes but can last as long as a few hours. Sometimes the cause of these attacks is easily identified but often, it is unclear.

Linked to panic disorder is agoraphobia, the anxiety about being in a place or situation that may be difficult to get out of. People who suffer from agoraphobia usually need to be near doors or openings at all times. In severe cases, this leads to the individual never wanting to leave his/her home for fear of not being able to leave wherever he/she is going.

Phobias represent the largest category of anxiety disorders. If you suffer from a phobia or several phobias, you know exactly what the object of your fear is. Social phobia (otherwise known as social anxiety disorder) is an abnormal fear of public embarrassment or humiliation which can occur, in severe cases, just when the person enters any social environment, or in specific cases such as when a presentation or speech must be made. Social anxiety often manifests specific physical symptoms, including blushing, sweating, and difficulty speaking.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is mainly characterized by repetitive obsessions with certain thoughts or images and compulsions to repeatedly perform certain actions or rituals. OCD thought pattern could be compared to superstitions, where the person who is affected thinks that if he performs a certain act, any sort of worry or perceived evil will be eliminated. In many cases, the compulsion is entirely inexplicable, just an urge, set off by nervousness, to complete a certain ritual.

Post-traumatic stress, as the name suggests, can result from just one traumatic experience such as combat, rape, a serious accident; or from long term (chronic) exposure to trauma like physical abuse or war. Common symptoms include flashbacks and depression.

Separation anxiety disorder is an abnormal concern over being separated from a person or place. Although separation anxiety is a normal part of development in children, it becomes a disorder when it becomes excessive.

There are many treatment options for the above disorders/phobias: psychotherapy focuses on increasing the individual’s sense of their own well-being. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) aims to get at the root of the dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and cognitions and to treat them accordingly. And pharmaceutical therapy employs various medications to relieve symptoms but is rarely used just by itself as it doesn’t treat the core problem, only its symptoms.

This information does not substitute medical advice given by a health professional.

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