Eleven Anxiety-Related Disorders
Do I Have An Anxiety Disorder?
As discussed throughout this website, anxiety is useful in certain situations, some of the time. But how do you know when the signs of anxiety you experience might be significant enough to qualify for an anxiety disorder? An appointment with your family physician or a trained mental health professional is a good first step. However, in preparation for that visit, or to decide whether a visit is needed, it can help to understand what professionals look for in diagnosing an anxiety disorder.
To begin with, there are eleven different "types" of anxiety and related disorders, and each anxiety disorder has a list of commonly occurring symptoms clustered into 4 areas:
- Physical responses
Next, anxiety specialists have identified that when people experience anxiety more often (e.g. most days, and for months at a time), and more intensely than others, it can create significant disruption in their lives. This disruption can interrupt or even stop adults from participating in a variety of experiences such as attending higher education, pursuing meaningful work, joining social, athletic or recreational clubs, being in relationships, and more. Finally, it is this combination of factors that increase the chances of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
It is common for adults to experience anxiety symptoms of more than one anxiety disorder. This means as you read the definitions below, it would be fairly common to say, "Yes! This sounds like me, but so does this other description!" Fortunately, the helpful approaches outlined throughout this website can be used for multiple anxiety problems, so that even if you have 2, 3, or more disorders, many of the same tools can be used for all of them.
Individuals with this disorder experience fear using public transportation, being in open spaces, being in enclosed spaces, standing in lines, being in a crowd, and/or being outside of the home alone. They fear these situations because escape from them might be difficult in the event they develop panic or other embarrassing symptoms. They actively avoid the situations, endure it with a lot of distress, or will only go with another person.
Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours, or BFRBs, are a cluster of habitual behaviours that include hair pulling (called Trichotillomania), skin picking (called Skin Excoriation), nail biting, nose picking, and lip or cheek biting. In both Trichotillomania and Skin Excoriation, the individual experiences ongoing and repetitive engagement in either pulling out of one’s hair or skin picking (dependent on the disorder), resulting in noticeable hair loss, or skin abrasions or lesions. This occurs despite extensive efforts to stop these behaviours. In both disorders there is significant impairment or disruption in routine life functioning for the individual.
Individuals with this disorder worry excessively and uncontrollably about daily life events. These worries include potential negative events in the future, minor matters, a loved one becoming ill or dying, work issues, and world events, such as natural disasters.
Although health anxiety is not a disorder, there are several disorders defined by excessive anxiety related to somatic or physical symptoms, or having an illness or condition. In adults, these health worries are excessive, ongoing, and uncontrollable, and often result in frequent visits to medical professionals and reassurance seeking from loved ones all due to exaggerated fears of being ill.
Individuals with this disorder experience ongoing and significant difficulty getting rid of possessions regardless of their value; and strong urges to save and/or acquire, often non-essential, items, that if prevented leads to extreme distress. As a result, living space becomes severely compromised with extreme clutter. In addition, the individual experiences significant impairment in social, occupational, and other important areas of functioning.
Individuals with this disorder have obsessions, or unwanted ugly thoughts that make them anxious, and/or they engage in compulsions (repetitive behaviors or mental acts) in an attempt to reduce a feeling of anxiety. Some compulsions may include repeated hand-washing, checking, tapping, or mental routines (such as counting backwards from 100). An example of an intrusive thought is "I might get sick and die from touching a bathroom door".
Individuals with this disorder experience unexpected and repeated panic attacks, followed by at least 1 month of worry about having additional attacks. They may also fear of something bad happening as a result of the panic attack, such as going crazy, losing control or dying.
Individuals with this disorder have directly experienced, witnessed or heard about a frightening traumatic event. Not everyone who has these experiences develops the disorder. Those who have the disorder also experience symptoms that may include upsetting vivid memories, nightmares, and/or flashbacks of the trauma, avoidance of reminders of the trauma, negative impact on their thoughts and mood (e.g. depression, fear of life being cut short), and changes in their reactivity (e.g. more easily startled).
Individuals with this disorder have excessive anxiety about being separated from a primary attachment figure, such as a spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, or family member. As a result of routine periods of separation, the adult may experience constant worry about being apart from this person/s, have nightmares, be unable to leave the home to go to work, struggle with physical complaints, and other symptoms all of which significantly impacts their life.
Individuals with this disorder have an intense fear of social and/or performance situations and excessive concern about social embarrassment or humiliation. They may avoid social activities like going to parties, performing, speaking in front of others, or dating.
Individuals with this disorder experience persistent and excessive fears of an object or situation, which significantly interferes with life and is beyond voluntary control. Some common phobias include fear of spiders, rodents, snakes, flying, heights, and injections.