There are several major types of anxiety disorders:
Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent worry or anxious feelings. People with this disorder worry about a number of concerns, such as health problems or finances. Symptoms include restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems and generally feeling on edge.
Panic disorder is marked by recurrent panic attacks that include symptoms such as sweating, trembling, shortness of breath or a feeling of choking, a pounding heart or rapid heart rate, and feelings of dread. People who experience panic attacks often become fearful about when the next episode will occur (anticipatory anxiety), which can cause them to change or restrict their normal activities.
Phobias are intense fears about certain objects (spiders or snakes, for instance) or situations (such as flying in aeroplanes) that are distressing or intrusive.
Social anxiety disorder is also known as social phobia. People with this disorder are fearful of social situations in which they might feel embarrassed or judged. They typically feel nervous spending time in social settings, feel self-conscious in front of others, and worry about being rejected by or offending others.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as treatment
The recommended treatment for anxiety disorders is psychological treatment (usually cognitive behavioural therapy). The best type of psychological treatment for anxiety disorders is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). When a person starts to do CBT he will start by learning about healthy anxiety and the way our brains handle anxiety. Then he will learn how to challenge his unhelpful thoughts and control his anxious thoughts and behaviours.
Treatment can help, and for many anxiety problems, therapy is often the most effective option. Therapy can help you uncover the underlying causes of your worries and fears; learn how to relax; look at situations in new, less frightening ways; and develop better coping and problem-solving skills. Therapy gives you the tools to overcome anxiety and teaches you how to use them. Many people improve significantly within 8 to 10 therapy sessions.
CBT addresses negative patterns and distortions in the way we look at the world and ourselves. As the name suggests, this involves two main components: Cognitive therapy examines how negative thoughts, or cognitions, contribute to anxiety; Behavior therapy examines how one behaves and reacts in situations that trigger anxiety.
The basic premise of CBT is that our thoughts—not external events—affect the way we feel. In other words, it’s not the situation you’re in that determines how you feel, but your perception of the situation. The same event can lead to completely different emotions in different people. It all depends on our individual expectations, attitudes, and beliefs. For people with anxiety disorders, negative ways of thinking fuel the negative emotions of anxiety and fear. The goal of cognitive-behavioural therapy for anxiety is to identify and correct these negative thoughts and beliefs. The idea is that if one changes the way he thinks, he can change the way he feels. Cognitive restructuring is a process in which one challenges the negative thinking patterns that contribute to your anxiety, replacing them with more positive, realistic thoughts.
Exposure therapy, as the name suggests, exposes one to the situations or objects one fears. The idea is that through repeated exposures, one will feel an increasing sense of control over the situation and your anxiety will diminish.
Exercise can help us to deal with stress and anxiety. As little as 30 minutes of exercise three to five times a week can provide significant anxiety relief. To achieve the maximum benefit, aim for at least an hour of aerobic exercise on most days.
Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and visualisation techniques, can reduce anxiety and increase feelings of emotional well-being.
It is also useful to examine our lives for stress and look for ways to minimize it. Avoid people who make you anxious, be assertive and say no when others give one extra duties and responsibilities.