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Anxiety Disorders

Symptoms of anxiety disorders are more severe than normal anxiety you may feel from time to time. Anxiety disorders can impair your ability to do certain things (e.g., get on a plane) or handle specific situations (e.g., public speaking). Anxiety can make you act irrational, even when you know your behavior is not normal. For some, anxiety can make it nearly impossible to live a normal life.

Treatment

Treatment begins with a comprehensive evaluation. We will evaluate the nature and severity of your anxiety, and try to determine its cause. Physical, emotional, or environmental stressors may contribute to the development and maintenance of the disorder. Then you and your clinician develop a treatment plan. The plan is individualized so that your treatment addresses the most pressing problems first. Anxiety disorders can be treated by therapy, medications, or a combination of the two.

The most common anxiety disorders are:

Panic Disorder Symptoms

Symptoms of panic disorder include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling that something terrible (like losing control or dying) is about to happen
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating

If you have recurring attacks or are distressed about having these attacks, you likely have a panic disorder. Fear of these attacks may cause you to avoid any situation that might trigger an attack, such as driving, crowds, or being alone.

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Social Phobia Symptoms

A fear of embarrassment may cause you to avoid ordinary social or performance situations, such as public speaking, going to parties, eating in restaurants, writing in front of others, or using public restrooms. If you have social phobia, you may feel so threatened by certain situations that you either avoid them completely or suffer terribly when they cannot be avoided.

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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder symptoms

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by doing something repeatedly to calm your fears. If you are obsessively worried about contamination, for example, you may wash your hands repeatedly. If you fear being harmed, you may repeatedly check your front door to be sure it is locked, or check the gas stove to be sure it is turned off.

Other signs of OCD include:

  • Excessive collecting or hoarding
  • Compulsive counting
  • Doing things in an unnaturally slow or ritualistic manner
  • Replacing bad thoughts with good ones
  • Fears related to religious beliefs

If you have OCD, you may be aware that your behavior is unnecessary or extreme, but unable to stop it.

Other disorders may be associated with OCD. The most common is Tourette's Disorder. Symptoms of Tourette's include sudden, rapid, repeated tics (e.g., eye blinking, sticking out one's tongue) or sounds (e.g., barks, throat clearing).

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Specific Phobias

You may have a phobia of something specific. Examples include fear of flying, heights, small spaces, illness, or certain animals. Specific phobias are common and don't always require treatment.

When a phobia interferes with normal life, treatment can help. For example, if fear of flying makes it impossible to conduct business or visit relatives, overcoming the phobia is important.

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive worry. Symptoms include fatigue, restlessness, irritability, and muscle tension. GAD can interfere with your ability to work and to function at home.

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may follow a traumatic event such as an accident, rape, assault, or natural or man-made disaster. Frightening thoughts and memories about the traumatic event may interfere with your daily routine. Nightmares, flashbacks, numbed emotions, depression, feeling angry, and being startled are common.

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Additional Resources

Mood Disorders