Diagnosing anxiety disorders
The different types of anxiety disorders are:
- Social anxiety disorder (over any 12 months 4.7% of the Australian population) – a type of anxiety where the fear is centred upon being laughed at or talked about by other people. People with this disorder often find it virtually impossible to present in front of a group of people or eat in restaurants. They always feel themselves about to blush and have a sense that everyone is looking at them.
- Panic disorder (2.6% of the population have a diagnosed panic disorder, but up to 30 per cent of the population will experience a panic attack in any given year). This is often associated with agoraphobia, a fear of going out into public spaces
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (6.4% of the population over any 12 months)– this is associated with a terrifying event when someone has thought they might die or have something awful happen to them such as in a motor vehicle accident, in an assault or during war. Mostly the anxiety that is felt after such an event goes away over a few months, but for some people they remain very anxious, hypervigilant with anxiety triggered by any reminder of the event. Their sleep is often disturbed and they feel always on edge.
- Specific Phobias – this is when someone has a specific fear of something like a spider or of heights
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) (1.9% of the population over any 12 months experience OCD). This is a disorder in which people can have obsessions – which are repetitive ideas that the person dislikes which they can’t get out of their mind, or compulsions – which are rituals or actions that the person feels compelled to repeat to put off a feared event. These ideas and rituals often revolve around the fear of germs or contaimination, worries about leaving the gas or a heater on or whether they have remembered to lock up the house. It is the fourth most common psychiatric disorder.
- Substance-induced anxiety disorder – these are disorders that are started by substances such as caffeine or stimulants.
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) (2.7% of the population) – this is a catchall category for people that are experiencing high levels of anxiety such as persistent feelings of anxiety and excessive worry about what may or may not happen along with tiredness and fatigue and a withdrawal from normal social functioning and every day activities but they don’t fit one of the patterns of symptoms of the other disorders above.
It is often difficult to diagnose with accuracy the specific form of anxiety that a person has when the symptoms are mixed. A medical practitioner may need to ask you many questions in regard to your anxious state to determine what kind of anxiety disorder you might have. Such questions may include:
- Do you feel anxious and ‘on edge’ most of the time and for days/weeks on end?
- Do you worry about most things all the time including everyday problems and challenges?
- Looking back into the past, do some of your memories make you anxious? Were there stressful events in your childhood or later life that you remember as having great significance for you?
- Have you ever experienced physical symptoms such as sweating, nausea, vomiting, heart palpitations, and shaking?
- Do you find yourself in tears for no apparent reason?
- When you are feeling down, is it difficult to ‘shake off’ your mood?
- Do you find that your anxiety and worrying interferes with everyday functioning such as going to the shops, going to work, communicating with family and friends, and socialising generally?
- Have you found yourself becoming more isolated because of the way that you feel about life?
- Do you get ideas or worries that are just hard to get out of your head?
- Are there things that you need to check?