Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Abnormal Anxiety Types

Abnormal Anxiety GAD

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) describes excessive anxiety and worry about aspects of daily living. Those who have generalized anxiety disorder feel anxious almost every day. The diagnosis requires symptoms to be present for more than 6 months.

Aspects of daily living that trigger anxiety include:

  • Age
  • Appearance
  • Finances
  • Illness
  • Marriage
  • Occupation
  • Peer group
  • School
  • Social relationships

Abnormal Anxiety OCD

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) describes constant thoughts or actions that cause anxiety and interfere with daily living.

Obsessions involve:

  • The person experiences constant thoughts or images that interrupt normal thought processes.
  • The thoughts or images are inappropriate and cause significant anxiety.
  • The person attempts to suppress or ignore the thoughts or images.
  • The person recognizes that the thoughts or images are a product of his or her own mind.

Compulsions involve:
  • The person feels driven to perform repetitive behaviors or mental acts.
    • Examples of repetitive behaviors: hand washing, making lists, locking doors
    • Examples of mental acts: praying, counting, repeating words silently
  • The behaviors or acts are in response to an obsession or in response to a set of rigid rules.
  • The behaviors or acts are thought to prevent distress or a dreaded event.
  • The behaviors or acts are excessive and are not connected to the distress or event in a realistic way.

Those who have obsessive compulsive disorder may suffer from obsessions, compulsions or both.

Abnormal Anxiety Panic Attacks

Panic attacks cause sudden severe episodes of anxiety for no clear reason. Panic attacks usually cause hyperventilation. Those who suffer from panic attacks are usually completely calm in between attacks.

Common symptoms of panic attacks with hyperventilation include:

Hyperventilation can lead to:

Abnormal Anxiety Phobias

A phobia is an irrational fear of a subject, activity or situation.

Examples of phobias include:

Additional phobias include fear of:
  • Water
  • Storms
  • Needles
  • Injury
  • Planes
  • Elevators

Panic attacks may accompany a phobia.

Abnormal Anxiety PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) describes anxiety that is caused by memories of a past traumatic experience. The experience is usually a severe trauma that was a threat to the person's life or someone else's life. However, any event that generates extreme fear, horror or helplessness could result in PTSD.

Examples include:

  • Diagnosis of a life-threatening condition
  • Natural disasters
  • Severe automobile accidents
  • Violent personal assaults
  • War

The person who has PTSD reexperiences the traumatic event in some way. These episodes are commonly called flashbacks.

Flashbacks may involve:

These intense flashbacks cause the person to avoid any thoughts, feelings or situations that might remind them of the event. Avoiding the flashbacks may cause the person to be irritable, be easily startled, lose concentration and suffer from insomnia.

Last Updated: Nov 16, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Abnormal Anxiety References
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