Anxiety Disorder Definitions

beautiful womanAnxiety can be a healthy response to stress management, and can help people cope according to researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health. When anxious fearful feelings interrupt daily actives and become excessive and unwarranted, anxiety becomes a problem. Anxiety disorders can take several forms, from fears of social interactions to obsession and panic attacks.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

People with generalized anxiety disorder are not able to shake the feelings of impending doom. They worry excessively about future events and expectations. Generalized anxiety disorder is diagnosed when the emotional symptoms are accompanied by physical reactions. Common symptoms are muscle tension and pain, fatigue and headaches. Sweating and hot flashes are common in those who suffer from anxiety disorders. Other physical symptoms to watch for include twitching, irritability and difficulty swallowing.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that involves thinking about past frightful events. The memories of the events can paralyze clients who cannot control their constant reminder of the terror they felt in the past. People with PTSD often have additional emotional issues such as depression, panic disorder, substance abuse or suicidal tendencies.

Panic Disorder and Panic Attacks

Like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder usually presents with physical symptoms that also disrupt clients’ lives. Their symptoms of panic disorder often appear suddenly without warning and are described as a panic attack. In addition to the feelings of terror, patients also develop a pounding heart rate, profuse sweating and dizziness. Some people have chest pains or feel their hands and feet go numb. A sense of impending doom is common when having a panic attack.

Social Phobia

Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, causes clients to be overly self-conscious in public. They have a chronic overwhelming fear of being watched and judged by others. They are so afraid of embarrassing themselves that they break out in a sweat and have difficulty thinking and talking. Social phobia can be limited to certain environments, such as parties or friendly gatherings, or they may involve all interactions with other people.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a form of anxiety characterized by using repeated rituals to calm the many unfounded worries. Clients try to control their upsetting thoughts by performing rituals such as hand-washing, cleaning, counting or touching things. The rituals interfere with daily activities, yet the person cannot stop until the ritual eventually controls them. OCD can become a problem when thoughts become uncontrollable, especially forbidden thoughts of sex, violence or drugs.

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Benita A. Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor

Blairsville & Atlanta, Georgia offices