What is anxiety disorder? What are the main anxiety disorders?
Anxiety disorders are NOT random, unknown, or uncontrollable illnesses or diseases. Even though they might feel that way, anxiety disorder occurs for specific reasons and can be eliminated by identifying and addressing those reasons.
For example, anxiety is defined as a state of apprehension, uncertainty, and fear resulting from the anticipation of a real or imagined event, situation, or circumstance that we think might be dangerous.
In other words, anxiety results when a person behaves apprehensively. Worry is an example of apprehensive behavior.
So, anxiety occurs when we worry (behave apprehensively) that something is dangerous and has the potential to harm us.
Worry is a behavior, not a result of a disease or illness.
You can learn more about anxiety in the Anxiety 101 section.
What is anxiety disorder?
Since everyone worries from time to time, behaving apprehensively isn’t abnormal. Behaving apprehensively and the anxiety it creates becomes a disorder, however, when our apprehensive behavior interferes with a normal lifestyle.
For example, when we worry so much that we feel ill or have a panic attack that prevents us from engaging in normal activities. Or, when we worry so much that the body exhibits symptoms, which we become concerned about. These are just two examples of many, many ways behaving apprehensively can interfere with a normal lifestyle, which is then classified as being an ‘anxiety disorder.’
The bad news about anxiety disorder
The bad news is that behaving overly apprehensively, such as worrying too much, can have an adverse and profound effect on the body, which can cause it to exhibit a wide range of unusual and debilitating symptoms. These symptoms can then also cause interference to a normal lifestyle. You can learn more about the many anxiety symptoms in the ‘anxiety symptoms’ section.
You can also learn more about the many anxiety attack symptoms in the ‘anxiety attack symptoms’ section.
Once the body becomes symptomatic, it can take some time for symptoms to disappear. And if you start to worry about your anxiety symptoms, that worry can cause them to persist.
The good news about anxiety disorder
Since worry is an example of an apprehensive behavior that creates anxiety, the good news is that anxiety disorders are completely resolvable when we identify and successfully address the reasons why we behave overly apprehensively. We can do this by getting good self-help information, coaching/therapy, and support.
All of us can make healthy behavioral change when we get good help.
So the good news is: anxiety disorders are resolvable, and anyone can do it with the right information, help, and support.
Anxiety Disorders Treatment
While medication can help to reduce anxiety disorder symptoms for some people, it should never be considered a cure or necessary for healthy living. In fact, medication has a very low success rate regarding anxiety disorder symptom reduction, and a very poor to awful record for long-term success.
As we mentioned in the Anxiety 101 section, anxiety disorders appear for specific reasons and have definite underlying reasons why they persist. When the underlying reasons are properly addressed, anxiety disorders disappear…and for good.
Anxiety disorders persist only because the underlying reasons aren’t properly identified or addressed.
That’s why those who take medication as their only form of treatment generally remain on medication long term, or find themselves going on and coming off over and over again. Unless the underlying reasons are properly addressed, anxiety almost always persists or returns.
Based on the latest research (this has been our experience as well), the most effective form of treatment for anxiety disorders is the combination of good self-help materials and working with an experienced anxiety therapist who specializes in anxiety disorder recovery (preferably a coach, counselor, therapist, or psychologist who has successfully beaten anxiety in his or her own life and who has been medication free for at least three years).
Note: Based on our experience, therapists who are currently taking anxiety medication themselves, and psychiatrists, aren’t the best sources of anxiety help. We’ve found that those who work with a therapist who has successfully resolved anxiety disorder in his or her own life, is medication-free, and has remained anxiety condition-free for an extended period of time—more than five years--produces the best results. It will be their personal experience with anxiety and their sustained victory over it that can make a profound difference in your recovery.
Therapists who are still taking anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications are doing so because they haven’t successfully resolved their own anxiety. Our thoughts are, if they haven’t done it themselves, how effective are they going to be helping others?
We realize that this statement may irritate some mental health professionals. But our experience has shown that this is generally true. Many of our clients have previously tried these options only to find that their condition remained, or for some, grew worse.
All of the anxiety coaches and therapists at anxietycentre.com have successfully conquered anxiety disorder in their own lives. Because we've done it ourselves, we can help others succeed as well.
Anxiety disorders are resolvable. But doing so requires the right information, help, and support.
Two Main Categories of Anxiety
Anxiety conditions, for the most part, can be divided into two main categories:
Circumstantial anxiety – this type of anxiety condition is characterized by symptoms that appear because of an acute stressful event(s), circumstance(s) or emotion(s). Examples include a relationship difficulty (fighting within or the break-up of an important relationship), career challenge (job loss or important job promotion), illness or death of a loved one, or educational stress (intense workload).
Because the build up of stress often is the precursor to an anxiety condition, most early stress conditions fall within this category. Once the event, circumstance, or emotion has passed, with sufficient self-help materials, rest, and time, most anxiety conditions in this category resolve on their own.
Chronic anxiety – this type of anxiety condition is characterized by symptoms that come and go over an extended period of time (from a few months to a year or more). Examples include, an individual who has symptoms come and go at different stages of their life (as early as 4 years of age), remain as an ongoing backdrop to their life, or have been on and off of medication throughout their life.
Chronic anxiety also has a deep-seated fear component. Many feel that they live in fear whenever their “episodes of illness” appear. Others may have it as a constant companion as they journey through life. Episodes can last a few weeks to many years. Some can remain constant throughout their life. Conditions that last for an extended period of time can also be referred to as “entrenched” anxiety.
Within these categories, there are four types of anxiety:
Spontaneous anxiety or panic – anxiety or panic that occurs regardless of where a person is.
Situational or Phobic anxiety or panic – anxiety or panic that occurs because of a particular situation or location.
Anticipatory anxiety or panic – anxiety or panic that occurs because of a thought that something “might” happen or a situation that “might” occur.
Involuntary anxiety or panic – anxiety or panic that occurs involuntarily, by itself, or “out of the blue” that hasn’t been preceded by spontaneous, situational, or anticipatory anxiety.
There are also degrees of anxiety conditions. They can be categorized as:
Early-stage or onset anxiety – symptoms have just started to appear, and while they may be annoying and mildly distressing, they aren’t a reason for over concern. Often one trip to the doctor is reassuring enough that nothing more serious is going on.
This is the best stage to address stress or anxiety, since the more entrenched the condition becomes, generally the more complex it becomes. Consequently, resolution takes longer. Properly addressing an anxiety condition early produces the most expedient results.
Self-help materials coupled with some personal coaching/counseling/therapy is often sufficient for recovery.
Mild severity – symptoms may be intermittent or persistent. Their negative impact on the individual’s lifestyle, however, is minimal. While the symptoms may be annoying and mildly distressing, they aren’t too restricting. Individuals at this stage may start to become fearful of their condition or their condition’s implications. The individual may make a few trips to the doctor in hopes of finding a solution.
Addressing an anxiety condition at this stage also produces expedient results. Self-help materials coupled with some personal coaching/counseling/therapy is generally sufficient for recovery.
Moderate severity – symptoms are more complex, severe, persistent, and impacting. There is moderate lifestyle impairment. While individuals may be able to force themselves to do mandatory tasks, many activities are restricted. Fear of their condition is more predominant. There may be repeated trips to the doctor in hopes of finding a resolution.
At this stage, doctors typically prescribe medication to help reduce symptoms and the negative impact they have on the individual’s lifestyle. Unfortunately, medication alone at this stage only masks the underlying condition. This masking effect often enables the condition and its effects to continue to resurface time after time unless the underlying condition is properly addressed. Fortunately, many doctors are now recognizing the value of a more comprehensive approach to anxiety resolution, such as good self-help materials and personal coaching/counseling/therapy. While self-help materials can help a condition to improve, working with a personal anxiety coach/counselor/therapist (someone with extensive experience, and preferably, someone who has experienced anxiety in his or her own life) has been shown to produce significantly more effective and lasting results.
High anxiety – symptoms are dramatic, persistent and entrenched. Lifestyle is significantly impaired. Repeated trips to the doctor prove fruitless. Many at this stage are already on medication, yet their symptoms persist to varying degrees. They have a high level of fear about their condition and where it might lead. Many feel their condition is out of control.
Recommended treatment at this stage should involve personal coaching/counseling/therapy in conjunction with good self-help materials. (Self-help materials alone will NOT produce full recovery or lasting results when anxiety reaches this level.)
Recovery can be attained at any stage, however, the road to recovery may be longer and more complex the longer a condition remains entrenched.
Very high anxiety – intense and entrenched symptoms. Dramatic to full lifestyle impairment. This level of severity is more complex and often more difficult to address. It is highly recommend that the help of a personal anxiety coach/counselor/therapist be involved at this stage. While self-help materials will play an important role in the recovery process, one-on-one assistance is most often required before normal and lasting health can be attained when severity has reached this level.
Further, we highly recommend that you work with someone who has personally experienced anxiety at this degree of severity in his or her own life. Their personal experience and insight will be of great value and comfort to you during your recovery process.
Categories of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are commonly classified into the following categories. Click on each link for more information:
There are several categories associated with anxiety disorder, each having their own specific causes and characteristics. While some of the symptoms associated with each category may be unique, the majority of anxiety symptoms and anxiety attack symptoms are common to all types.
The National Institute of Mental Health lists the six main categories of anxiety disorder as:
Panic Attack Disorder (Anxiety Attack Disorder, Anxiety Attacks, Panic Attacks)
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD, Social phobia)
Be encouraged. Anxiety disorder IS reversible. There is excellent help available for those who experience anxiety disorders.
The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder coach, counselor, or therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.
For more information about our Anxiety Counseling option; our Available Anxiety Therapists; to Book An Appointment with one of our anxiety therapists; common Anxiety Signs and Symptoms; common Anxiety Attack Symptoms; the symptoms of panic attack disorder; anxiety Recovery Support area; information about Anxiety; and our Anxiety 101 section; or click on the appropriate link or graphic below:
Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated September 3, 2018.