What Are Anxiety Disorders?
How Can I Tell Which One I Have?
First of all, everyone has anxiety.  Anxiety can be quite normal in certain instances. It keeps us busy doing things that keep us safe and out of harm's way. For example, having some anxiety because you discovered the battery in your smoke detector is dead will hopefully bother you enough to motivate you to purchase a new battery soon which might save your life.
     But sometimes anxiety becomes a problem, not a help. We call this an anxiety disorder. There are just a few anxiety disorders. Here is a really brief explanation of the anxiety disorders for laypersons. If you read one of these explanations and it sounds strongly like what you have, you may do well to see your doctor and obtain one of the books listed below under that particular anxiety disorder from your library or bookstore.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- anxiety baseline is elevated all the time
- excessive worry
- can cause bothersome physical
- symptoms such as tension, nausea, fatigue, headaches, etc.

Simple Phobia
- an irrational fear of one thing.
- Example: a fear of squirrels

Panic Disorder
- sudden, frightening panic attacks lasting 30 to 90 minutes.
- No anxiety between attacks except for natural worry about when the next attack will occur.
- may eventually lead a person to avoid certain typical activities:
driving, malls, classes, air travel, or etc.
- this avoidance behavior is known as agoraphobia.
- Some experts believe that agoraphobia is never seen alone and always means the person has panic disorder.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Emotional distress or numbing due to a terrible life threatening experience.
- Examples: lasting emotional reactions to rape, explosions, war, earthquake, plane crash, cave-in, fire.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Anxiety caused by upsetting involuntary thoughts (sacrilegious, sexual, violent, etc.)
- Anxiety caused by compulsions to do certain things repeatedly (washing, checking, meaningless rituals, etc.)
- a fear that something bad will happen if one does not give into these urges.
- perhaps many superstitions trace back to OCD (e.g., Walking under a ladder will bring bad luck)

Social Phobia
Two types:
1. General social phobia.
Pathological shyness (anxiety due to a feeling of being under scrutiny by others while dining at a restaurant.)

2. Performance anxiety (stage fright in common situations where you actually are under scrutiny by others: examples: giving a weekly sales oral report to ten persons at a work meeting, reading a bible passage in front of the congregation at a church service, performing music before an audience.

Atypical anxiety
If your anxiety problem does not sound like any of the above, don't lose heart. As every experienced psychiatrist knows, few textbook, classic cases seem to exist. You may indeed have one of the above even if it does not sound like what you have. A professional can tell. Also, anxiety may be a symptom of another disorder that, once recognized, can be treated.
Stephen Cox, MD
President - NAF
Medical Director

Linda Vernon Blair

C. Todd Strecker

Board of Directors:
Father Edward Bradley
Georgann Chenault
Sarah Wood Cox
Keith Hartman MD

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Georgann Chenault 
© 2016 National Anxiety Foundation

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