Types of anxiety disorders

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

Worrying is a normal reaction to everyday situations, such as exams, family issues, work problems, etc. However people with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) feel anxious and worried most of the time to the point where it begins to interfere with their day-to-day life. Besides persistent and unstoppable worry and stress, other symptoms include racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness and trouble sleeping. Almost 6% of Australians will experience GAD at some point in their lifetime.

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

People with PTSD have experienced or witnessed an event that threatened their life or safety, or that of those around them, which has caused feelings of intense fear, horror or hopelessness. Whilst most people who experience a traumatic event will experience these feelings, for people with PTSD these feelings continue and increase over a prolonged period of time. PTSD can affect people of all ages and can often prevent the person from living a normal life.

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

People with OCD experience reccurring thoughts and compulsions that result in compulsive behaviour, for example, obsessive hand-washing, hoarding, or repeatedly counting objects. These actions are often performed to alleviate the distress or neutralise the thoughts they are experiencing. People with OCD may feel intense shame about their need to carry out these compulsions which may lead to a delay in diagnosis and treatment. People with OCD may also experience other mental illnesses, such as depression, and prolonged OCD can result in social disability, such as children failing to attend school or adults becoming housebound.

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Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is an anxiety disorder in which a person worries intensely and excessively about social situations. For people with social anxiety disorder, being the focus of other people‚Äôs attention (i.e. public speaking, eating in front of other people), can lead to intense anxiety. Common symptoms include excessive perspiration, nausea, blushing, and stammering when trying to speak.  Social anxiety disorder can be linked to other mental illnesses, such as OCD and depression.

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Panic disorder

Panic disorder is the term used when panic attacks are recurrent and disabling. Panic disorder is most common in teenagers and young adults but can affect people of all ages, and often coincides with stressful experiences such as graduating, getting married, having a child, etc. Up to 40% of the population will experience a panic attack at some point in their life. People experiencing a panic attack often feel a sense of overwhelming panic or fear, an increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, and light-headedness. Panic attacks usually last for up to half an hour and can occur once every few years or as often as a many times a day. Many people experience a panic attack once or twice in their lives, which is normal and not considered panic disorder.

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A phobia can be described as an intense, irrational fear of everyday objects and situations. Whilst concern or fear about certain activities, situations or objects (such as snakes, or flying by plane) is common, people with a phobia often react by imagining or irrationally exaggerating the danger. Their feelings of panic, fear or terror are completely out of proportion to the actual threat. About 11% of Australians experience a specific phobia, with the first symptoms usually arising in childhood or early adolescence.  

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