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What are anxiety disorder symptoms?

Read about anxiety disorder symptoms.

Some people who suffer from anxiety disorder will experience intense headaches. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Some people who suffer from anxiety disorder will experience intense headaches.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, about 40 million adults in America have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders include a range of conditions including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder. The symptoms of these disorders can differ, but they all center on recurring, irrational, extreme and overwhelming fear that lasts for six months or more. This article will help individuals recognize anxiety disorder symptoms and identify the type of disorder associated with it. For more information, contact a mental health professional.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) causes anxiety that is extreme, unreasonable and out of proportion with the situation. The primary symptom of GAD is an inability to “shake off” worries. As a result, sufferers may experience a range of psychological and physical symptoms. Restlessness, irritability, impatience, tension, distraction, inattention and a tendency to be easily startled are psychological symptoms of GAD. 

These symptoms may manifest in combination with physical symptoms such as fatigue, sleeplessness, shortness of breath, hot flashes and sweating, muscle tension and aches, trembling or twitching, headaches, feeling a lump in the throat, nausea, stomach aches, and diarrhea. The symptoms of GAD range from mild to severe, and while some people with mild GAD can function professionally and socially, severe GAD can make it difficult to cope with daily life.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is distinguished by sudden, inexplicable and terrifying panic attacks in conjunction with a preoccupation and fear of experiencing another attack. The physical symptoms of a panic attack are so marked that people sometimes think they are having a heart attack: pounding or palpitating heart and chest pains can accompany dizziness, faintness, weakness, sweating or feeling cold, tingling or numb hands, nausea, and the sensation of smothering, choking, or being short of breath. In addition to these symptoms, someone suffering from panic disorder will feel that they are disconnected from reality and are dying, losing control or facing an imminent danger.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is marked by seemingly inescapable, recurring and unwelcome thoughts. Obsessions that lead sufferers of OCD to develop rituals and routines (compulsions) meant to ease anxiety. OCD compulsions, however, can become time consuming and controlling. The symptoms of OCD include obsessions with cleanliness, religion, sex, order, losing or throwing unimportant objects away, excessive doubt or a fear of unintentionally harming others. Some symptoms of the compulsive behavior include ritualistic cleaning, touching, repetition, hoarding or praying.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The onset of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs after a traumatic experience. PTSD symptoms include an emotional numbness resulting in compromised relationships with family and friends, difficulty sleeping (often due to disturbing dreams), repression of the trauma, thoughts of self-harm, irritability, anger, inattention, hopelessness, hallucinations, shame, memory problems and becoming scared easily.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is distinguished by an extreme anxiety regarding social situations which can lead to an inability to lead a normal life. People suffering from social anxiety disorder experience intense terror about behaving incorrectly in social situations and often feel physically ill as a result. The physical symptoms of social anxiety disorder include heart-pounding, breathlessness, dizziness, blushing, sweating, nausea and headaches.

If you or someone you love is experiencing anxiety disorder symptoms described above, contact a primary care physician, or seek help from a medical professional as soon as possible.

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