Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety
- Feeling nervous, restless, and/or tense
- Fear of losing control
- Having a sense of impending danger or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly
- Headaches or dizziness
- Experiencing chest pains
- Trembling and chills
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal problems such as cramps.
- Having difficulty controlling worry
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
- Unwanted persistent thoughts
- Intrusive thoughts
- Mental Images
- General Fears
- Fears of committing an impulse
- Doubting yourself, your intentions, etc.
- Having difficulty tolerating uncertainty
- Obsessional themes will be different for each person experiencing OCD (see Subtypes of OCD below)
- A repetitive behavior or action implemented to reduce anxiety, fear, or some other emotional experience created by an obsession.
- Checking repeatedly. Ex: checking doors and windows multiple times.
- Counting in certain patterns. Ex: there must always be 3 or 6 items in a row.
- Orderliness. Ex: you are compelled to arrange everything by height.
- Following a strict routine. Nothing can deviate from it. Ex. have to get dressed, shower, etc. a specific way each time
- Demanding reassurance.Actively avoiding situations that would trigger obsessions. Ex: visiting the home of someone you have inappropriate thoughts about.
What Are Anxiety Disorders?
It’s very easy to confuse OCD as just anxiety, especially since Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is categorized as an anxiety disorder. However, like other anxiety disorders, it has its own signs, symptoms, and solutions, so it can’t be chalked up as just anxiety.
Anxiety is an emotion that everyone will feel at some point but anxiety disorders are much more severe because you would be suffering intense feelings of fear and worry that is disproportionate to what is happening in your life; panicking about everyday things like work, meeting with friends, the security of your home, etc. They will often include panic attacks as your fear reaches a peak.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Specific Phobias
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Panic Disorder & Panic Attacks
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?
Generalized anxiety disorders are when you have a persisting and disproportionately large amount of stress and worry about various events and/or activities, including your home routine. This nagging worry, and even panic, is very hard to bring down and will affect your physical health as much as, your mental and emotional health.
Oftentimes, people dealing with GAD are experiencing worry around money, job loss, bills, relationships, divorce, or some other major life stressor. In order to be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, this worry, stress, and anxiety must last at least 6 months.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder involves severe anxiety specifically about social situations and events like hanging out with friends in crowded places. If you have social anxiety, you’ve probably noticed intense fears connected to your self-consciousness, the fear of embarrassing yourself or your friends, and/or the fear of being negatively judged by others.
Typically, the way that someone deals with social anxiety is they give into these fears and decide to avoid the following experiences:
- Social interactions
- Speaking with others
- Initiating conversations
- Ongoing conversations (prolonged conversations)
- Being the center of attention
This can become incredibly debilitating, especially for individuals that prefer to be social but are unable to do so because of their severe anxiety.
What are Phobias?
Specific Phobias are what they sound like, they’re specific events, activities, and even objects that induce high anxiety and the feeling of panic when encountered. As a result, experiences, events, or objects that would trigger this are typically avoided by the individual suffering from them.
A few examples of specific phobias include:
- Emetophobia: Fear of throwing up.
- Aerophobia: Fear of flying in airplanes.
- Claustrophobia: Fear of being stuck in a confined space or location.
- Driving phobia: Fear of driving or being driven in a car.
- Arachnophobia: Fear of spiders.
- Hypochondria: Fear of becoming sick or developing a health condition.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur when someone has witnessed or experienced a life-threatening situation. Additionally, PTSD can occur even if the individual suffering from the condition did not personally experience the life threatening situation. Meaning, someone that witnessed someone else go through a life threatening situation could also start feels that their life was in danger and start to develop symptoms of PTSD.
PTSD is commonly associated with car accidents, violent expereinces like war or being robed being rape, or being physically, emotionally, or psychologically, abused. Although these are the common reasons someone could experience PTSD, any situation where you end up fearing for your life could trigger the onset of PTSD.
Symptoms for PTSD include:
Flashbacks of the experience (reliving the experience mentally / physically)
Sudden onset of anxiety while experiencing flashbacks
Avoidance of event (talking about it or visiting location it occurred)
Issues sleeping (nightmares – insomnia)
What is Panic Disorder?
Panic disorder is the ongoing fear of experiencing another panic attack. This usually occurs when the individual repeatedly experiences panic attacks for a period of time. The fear of another oncoming panic attack can become incredibly debilitating. It can become so debilitating that these individuals will decide to no longer leave the house or an area they feel comfortable in (Agoraphobia). This can include a specific amount of miles from their house. Once they pass this designated area, they can start to feel an oncoming panic attack. As a result, they will want to retreat back to the “safe area.”
What are Panic Attacks?
Otherwise known as “Anxiety Attacks” are sudden onset experiences of extreme anxiety that usually accompany one of the following experiences:
- The fear of dying
- The fear of passing out
- The fear of going crazy
- The fear of losing touch with reality
What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
OCD is an anxiety disorder that is a related combination of obsessions and compulsive behaviors. These combined obsessions and compulsions reach a state of severity that they interfere with daily living. To better understand OCD, we’ll break down obsession and compulsion.
What is an Obsession?
An obsession with OCD is an unwanted but persistent fear, intrusive thought, mental image, or fear of committing an impulse. These obsessions will usually get in the way of what you were doing and trying to focus on. It’s possible to believe that you are only experiencing obsessions when you have OCD, which you might not even notice because to you, you’re not thinking about specific kinds of thought too much, but maybe they are taking up a considerable amount of time and even interrupting what you should be concentrating on (i.e. school, work, family/friend relationships).
What are Compulsions?
OCD compulsions are repetitive behaviors used to suppress, avoid, or mitigate the fear, anxiety, or overwhelming emotions created by the obsessions. Most people suffering from OCD will feel compelled to do something about their obsessions, which leaves them feeling forced or obliged to perform a compulsion. For example, not wanting to repeatedly wash your hands for fear of germs but feeling obligated to do so repeatedly throughout the day.
While you can have the symptoms of either obsessions or compulsions, they are always tied together because those who suffer from OCD will try to escape an obsessive thought by performing a compulsive action.
If you suffer from OCD, you might have noticed that you use certain acts to try to relieve your stress and anxiety that come from your obsessions, not because these acts give you any joy in performing them, but because you are using them as a temporary way to escape OCD. Over time, you enter what is called The OCD Cycle of experiencing obsessive thoughts, try to get rid of them each time with the same kind of compulsive actions, get some stress relief, but really only reinforce the original fear of the obsession, and end up having to repeat this experience once the obsession shows up again.
Subtypes of OCD>
Types of OCD will vary from person to person. These subtypes of OCD are based on the types of obsessive thoughts, fears, or obsessional triggers someone is experiencing. There are many subtypes of OCD. A few example of the different subtypes include the following types:
- Violent / Harm
- Emotional or Physical Contamination
- Philosophical or
If you know that you have OCD and are interested in determining which type of OCD, we recommend taking the Types of OCD Test.
Ultimately, it would seem the distinction between anxiety and OCD is that anxiety is a facet of OCD but does not encompass it. All anxiety disorders have similar traits, i.e. intense fear and worry, but that fear and distress is exhibited in different ways based on the disorder.
If you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, please consult your doctor or a licensed therapist to receive a professional opinion. You’ve already done a brave thing in working to educate yourself to improve your quality of life. You just need a professional opinion to move ahead with more certainty.