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Anxiety is a complex experience. You can consider it similar to a combination of the feeling of fear, apprehension and worry all at the same time, often accompanied by physical sensations such as the sensation of feeling ones heart beat loudly, chest pain and/or shortness of breath without any exertion. It is similar to Anxiety Attack, but not as acute, or as intense.

One who experiences frequent bout of anxiety resulting in serious affects on ones life may be diagnosed clinically as having an anxiety disorder. The most common types of anxiety disorder are generalized anxiety disorder, Social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We explore these diagnosis later on in the article.

anxiety symptoms

The physical symptoms of anxiety are caused by an initiation of the "fight or flight" response. This sympathetic / parasympathetic imbalance makes the heart, lungs and other parts of the body work much faster in a perpetual state of "fight or flight". Levels of adrenaline increase in the body. The following symptoms can occur as a result:

  • the feeling of having ones stomach in knots
  • diarrhoea and/or constipation often referred to as irritable bowel
  • dry mouth and throat with difficulty swallowing
  • rapid heartbeat and/or palpitations (the feeling of ones heart beat almost pounding out of the chest)
  • tightness or pain in chest often hindering the breath
  • shortness of breath without any known reason
  • dizziness and light headedness

Psychological symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • insomnia either with difficulty falling asleep, or with difficulty falling back asleep once awake.
  • Irritability and/or anger
  • inability to concentrate for even short periods of time
  • fear of madness
  • feeling unreal and not in control of your actions (depersonalisation)

anxiety subtypes

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is a common disorder which is chronic in nature. The disease affects more women than men, almost at a 2:1 ratio. The symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder leads to a major affect on the basic ins and outs of daily life. Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by long-lasting anxiety that is not focused on any particular object or situation. People with this disorder feel afraid of something but are unable to articulate the specific cause of the fear. Those suffering from this type of anxiety symptoms spend large amounts of time with the inability to control their worries. The constant state of worry increases muscle tension and leads to an increase in; headaches, heart palpitations, dizziness, and insomnia. These physical complaints, combined with the intense, long term anxiety, make it difficult to cope with normal daily activities that many of us take for granted.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder is the fear or apprehension of being in a social environment. Many subtypes of anxiety show this symptom, but when it is concentrated as a blanket fear of being in a social setting, the disorder is labeled, "Social Anxiety Disorder." Individuals with this disorder experience intense fear of being negatively evaluated by others, or of being publicly embarrassed.

Panic Disorder

In panic disorder, the individual affected experiences brief attacks of intense terror and apprehension. Among the symptoms of panic disorder displayed include:

  • trembling and shaking
  • dizziness
  • difficulty breathing

The American Psychiatric Association in 2000 defined a panic attack as fear or discomfort that arises abruptly and peaks in 10 minutes or less. Although panic disorder attacks sometimes seem to occur out of the blue, they generally become more frequent after frightening experiences, and prolonged stress. Many individuals affected in the moment interpret panic attacks for what they are; a result of a passing crisis or stress. Unfortunately, others begin to worry excessively about when the next attack may appear, and some may even quit jobs or refuse to leave the safety of their homes to avoid the possibility of any attacks happening at all. It is labeled panic disorder when several apparently spontaneous attacks lead to a persistent concern about future attacks.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a subtype of anxiety which is characterized by obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are distressing, repetitive thoughts and/or images that the individual often realizes are senseless. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that the person feels forced or compelled into doing, in order to relieve anxiety and fear. Some examples of obsession may include an extreme need for cleanliness based on a fear of contamination. This may lead to the compulsion of having to wash ones hands hundreds of times a day. Another example may be the obsession of cleaning ones teeth out of the fear of cavities. The compulsive behavior could be brushing and flossing hundreds of times a day to alleviate the anxiety.


This category involves a strong, irrational fear and avoidance of objects, places, or situation. The person knows the fear is irrational, yet the anxiety remains and can not easily be controlled. Phobic disorders differ from generalized anxiety disorders and panic disorders because there is a specific stimulus or situation that elicits a strong fear and even terror response.

Examples of phobias may include fear of a specific stimuli such as spiders and/or other animals. Anxiety from being in places and situations are another example, such as high buildings, and/or closed spaces. The phobic response can be so intense that normal cognition and ability to function effectively completely and totally shut down. It is an intense and focalized anxiety symptom focused on such a specific event or stimuli that all symptoms flair up in one focused event.

Posted by Staff at July 19, 2005 6:33 PM

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Comments Archive

I have suffered in the past with abuse and other childhood traumas. since college I suffered from constant panic. If I focus on my heartbeat or breathing I would have many attacks because the stimulus is endless and I have no control over it. One summer I was in a constant state of panic.
I'm on medications now but every so often they come back. Do people suffer from this? I feel like the only one.

Posted by: winston at June 18, 2006 12:14 AM