What is an Anxiety Disorder?

A generalized anxiety disorder is the presence of excessive anxiety and worry that occurs more days than not for at least six months, about a number of events or activities. The anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms having been present for more days than not for the past six months):

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability
  • Feeling tense (muscle tightness)
  • Sleep disturbance (sleeping too much or too little)

Individuals can find it difficult to control their worry. The anxiety, worry or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive compulsive disorder is the presence of obsessions, compulsions or both. The obsessions or compulsions are time-consuming and cause clinically significant distress or impairment in overall functioning. The obsessive compulsive symptoms are not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition. The disturbance is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder.

Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges or images that are experienced at some time during the disturbance as intrusive and unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress. The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors (hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental acts (praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or following rules that must be applied rigidly. The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing anxiety or distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive.

What is a Panic Disorder?

A panic disorder is marked by recurrent, unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes, and during which four or more of the following symptoms are present:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart or accelerate heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed or faint
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensation)
  • De-realization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
  • Fear of dying

The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition. The disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder. At least one of the panic attacks has been followed by one month (or more) of one or both of the following:

  • Persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks
  • A significant maladaptive change in behavior related to the attacks

What is a Social Anxiety Disorder?

A social anxiety disorder is marked fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny by others (having a conversation, meeting unfamiliar people and being observed such as eating, drinking or performing in front of others). To be determined in children, the anxiety must occur in peer settings and not just during interactions with adults.

What are Social Anxiety Fears?

An individual fears that they will act in a way or show anxiety symptoms that will be negatively evaluated (humiliation, embarrassment, lead to rejection, etc.). Social situations almost always provoke fear or anxiety. For children, the fear or anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing, clinging, shrinking or failing to speak in social situations.

The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual threat posed by the social situation and to the sociocultural context.

The fear, anxiety or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting for six months or more.

The fear, anxiety or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment to overall functioning.

The fear, anxiety or avoidance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition.

The fear, anxiety or avoidance is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder such as panic disorder, body dysmorphic disorder or autism spectrum disorder. If another medical condition is present, the fear, anxiety or avoidance is clearly unrelated or is excessive.

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