Psychiatric and mental disorders are often misunderstood. Until a few decades ago, most psychiatric disorders were either left undetected or misdiagnosed. However, science and social progress has paved the way for us to better define these disorders, including anxiety disorder symptoms to watch out for.
Despite this, certain terms to denote certain disorders can still be confused.
That is the case for anxiety disorders. Anxiety, on one hand, is how we refer to the emotion of unease or worry that comes with the uncertainty of situations.
‘Anxiety disorder’ is a blanket term for psychiatric disorders that come with a persistent feeling of anxiety.
Ahead, we’ll discuss how to differentiate anxiety from anxiety disorders. This includes how to tell at what point it may be a disorder, the different kinds of disorders, and anxiety disorder symptoms to watch out for.
Differentiating Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety
Anxiety, as a feeling or emotion, is normal to have occasionally. After all, a healthy mind will worry about the bills, or the future, or relationships, or other important life events. What sets the feeling apart from the disorder is how rational or reasonable this discomfort becomes.
Here are some of the key differences of anxiety and anxiety disorders:
- Anxiety may involve, for instance, worrying about getting a response you’ve been waiting for. While anxiety disorders can involve constantly worrying about nothing to the point that it impacts daily interactions.
- Anxiety can also mean being embarrassed when you’re thrust into an awkward situation in front of strangers. Anxiety disorders can involve being so afraid of potential humiliation that you avoid getting into social situations, to begin with.
- Being nervous or even panicking about a big test or presentation is an example of anxiety. While having sudden panic attacks or being so preoccupied with worrying about the next presentation can mean you have an anxiety disorder.
When is it a disorder?
So then, at what point could anxiety be a sign of having an anxiety disorder?
Identifying anxiety disorder symptoms to watch out for involve:
- Monitoring the brevity of your emotions. When feeling anxious is irrational and overwhelming or even debilitating, this may be a good sign to approach a mental health expert.
- Noting how an anxiety disorder may cause persistent and uncontrollable dread of everyday or regular situations to the extent that it may be disabling you or interfering with your daily activities.
If you are on the fence about going to a mental health expert or support group, it may be helpful for you to approach a counselor or social worker or even a well-informed and trusted friend to be able to get some outside perspective on how you’re feeling.
Kinds of Anxiety Disorders
Since anxiety disorder is a blanket term, it includes many different subcategories:
- General Anxiety Disorders – involves only the excessive, irrational fear of future situations, regardless of how high or how low the stakes are. These can manifest through negative behavior that could lead to emotional and social consequences.
- Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders -characterized by persistent and intrusive thoughts, or obsessions, that trigger compulsive behavior done to a very repetitive extent. This compulsive behavior often momentarily alleviates the anxiety associated with these intrusive thoughts.
- Stimuli-Triggered Disorders (trauma, stressor-related anxiety) – anxiety that is brought about by specific things. These things could be previously experienced trauma or current overwhelming stressors hence trauma- and stressor-related disorders fall under this.
- Specific Anxiety Disorders
The Types of Specific Anxiety Disorders
A specific phobia is having a persistent fear that is disproportionate to the actual danger that whatever it is you fear could bring.
The anxiety is cued in by the presence or the anticipation of what you fear and adults often recognize that this fear is unreasonable although uncontrollable.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is having a debilitating fear of social situations due to the potential of being embarrassed or humiliated. If this fear carries on for six months, it may be best to consult an expert.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD
This is the most well-known of stimuli-triggered disorders that are brought about by something related to previous trauma like loss or violence in their past. Acute stress disorder and adjustment disorder are both variants of PTSD
This involves going through spontaneous and out-of-the-blue panic symptoms along with the debilitating worry of having another one in the future.
Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD
This involves worrying over potentially negative outcomes of future events and activities. This excessive worry and distress will interfere with daily interactions and day-to-day life.
Other specific anxiety disorders are separation anxiety, agoraphobia, selective mutism, or substance-induced disorders.
Possible physical symptoms
Besides knowing how to delineate anxiety and anxiety disorder there are physical symptoms also.
Anxiety disorders come with chronic life stress because these stressors, regardless of how irrational, still make our body go through the same process as rational stress.
Stressors stimulate the stress hormone system and the cardiovascular system because of the fear and anxiety, this then turns anxiety disorders into a cause of constant increased activity.
Anxiety symptoms to watch out for include:
- rapid breathing
- increased heart rate
- gastrointestinal issues
Under normal conditions, chronic stress levels are low and whenever a threat is present, hormones are released as a response.
The autonomic nervous system is responsible for the release of cortisol that increases the sugar level in the bloodstream to allow the body to act based on just the fight or flight response.
However, if this is a regular occurrence and these biological responses are triggered excessively, possible complications with the immune and cardiovascular systems could arise and someone would be more at risk for these diseases.
In the end, our mental health is and should fall under the same care we give our physical health. If you have any concerns or doubts when it comes to possibly having anxiety, do not hesitate to consult an expert for the right insight and diagnosis.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.