ANXIETY DISORDER: SUB-CATEGORIES
Many millions of people suffer from clinical anxiety. Sometimes the anxiety occurs in an extremely intense form–called a panic attack, and sometimes in an ongoing intermittent manner–called generalized anxiety. What these share in common is the personal and emotional distress they can cause you, in the short run and very possibly in the long run as well.
Suffering from either of these two types of anxiety disorder can make life less fun. You can end up worrying if not virtually obsessing about when your next episode may occur. This is especially true if during the time the anxiety hits you, it becomes much tougher to concentrate clearly, feel socially at ease, make good decisions, and generally feel free enough to laugh and enjoy yourself. Or to put this a bit differently, when you are in the throes of some significant if not overwhelming amount of anxiety, you can feel temporarily powerless at best, and outright paralyzed at worst!
What I will do now is expand upon the two categories presented above, and then add two more: phobias and post-traumatic-stress induced.
For any of you who suffer from–or in the past suffered from–panic attacks, you know how terribly upsetting it is to be in its clutches. Your heart pounds, your hands sweat, your stomach churns, your breathing gets shallow, and you can feel frozen to the spot. As for your mind: it in all likelihood will go heavily into obsessing that you are having a heart attack, or going crazy, or both. If you are lucky–relatively speaking–the attack will subside quickly. But if you are not so lucky, it can last for minutes, if not many minutes. Which can actually feel like it’s hours more than minutes!
GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER
Diagnostically speaking, generalized anxiety disorder is the clinical condition in which you can best be described colloquially as a “real worrier.” Often enough feeling jittery and nervous, you may nonetheless be able to overall go about your life in a reasonably well-functioning manner. But you still can expect to experience some very anxiety-filled moments on a good day, and many of those moments on a bad day, when all you can think about is any person or situation that has you worried and filled with anxiety.
As you may know, a phobia is an anxiety condition in which your often intense anxiety is connected to a specific object or situation. Examples of phobias you may be personally familiar with or have heard about include public speaking, small spaces, flying, snakes or spiders, needle injections, large dogs, or heights. The key piece about phobias is that the anxiety they trigger can be as intense as in a panic attack. Yet the trigger for these attacks may not be as clear as in the case of a phobia, and therefore cannot be outright avoided as is the case with phobic objects or situations.
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS (PTS) INDUCED
In distinguishing PTS-induced intense anxiety from phobias and panic attacks, the resulting anxiety in the former case reflects the fact that sufferer has already experienced a major life trauma. Examples of these include being in war, or being the victim of any of the following: a natural disaster, a violent crime, an animal bite, a car or plane crash, or a significant medical mistake. In the case of phobias in contrast, the sufferer typically develops strong anxiety in ANTICIPATION of having a distressing experience in the presence of the phobic object, but in most instances without actually HAVING HAD that experience. In the case of panic attacks, these typically do not involve a previous major life trauma–although paradoxically it can sure feel like having one of these attacks is a trauma itself!
TREATMENT OPTIONS: SELF-HELP AND PROFESSIONAL
Managing or controlling any of these categories of anxiety disorders can be–as you may well know–a whole lot easier said than done. I therefore recommend you pursue both self-help tools as well as professional interventions in your efforts to tackle your particular type of anxiety problem. On the self-help front, you should consider, e.g., mindful meditation of some type, physical exercise, reassuring self-talk, diversionary/distracting activity, and prayer. On the professional intervention front, you can pursue counseling or psychotherapy, and possibly medication.
One last point. Many years ago, I published an article in a national magazine, entitled “Anxiety Attacks Can Be Guilt Attacks.” Especially if your anxiety problem is mainly of the generalized/worrying type, and whether it’s obvious to you or not, you can figure at least part of your problem is significant unresolved GUILT. So I highly recommend you face that likelihood, and get that guilt resolved to the best of your ability as part of your anxiety-reduction plan.