common anxiety disorders are phobias, generalized anxiety,
panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic
Phobias are the most common form of anxiety. They are characterized
by an intense, almost paralyzing fear centering on a specific
situation or object. Virtually everyone can think of something
that evokes a visceral response akin to fear, but phobias
go far beyond what is normal or rational.
Generalized Anxiety may involve specific situations, issues
or objects. Many with this problem weave a web of excessive
worry that encompasses a wide range of everyday situations,
many of them quite trivial. In generalized anxiety, the fears
are more pervasive and less easy to plan around than are those
associated with phobias.
Panic Disorder. Panic attacks are characterized by a sudden
rush of fear, usually accompanied by a pounding heart, shortness
of breath, a choking or suffocating sensation or other physical
symptoms. They often occur in response to a stressful situation
or during a period of chronic emotional stress. Attacks can
occur in the most familiar and seemingly non-threatening settings,
at the grocery store, in church or while driving along a familiar
road. Suffers often describe a feeling of unreality during
Someone experiencing a panic attack may feel on the verge
of losing control, going crazy or even dying; he or she may
suddenly start screaming, run away or otherwise create a scene.
In most instances, the feelings pass within a few moments.
Proper diagnosis is critical. Many sufferers of panic disorder
are convinced they have heart disease because of the pounding
heart and choking sensations. They may drift from one doctor
to another, being reassured that their hearts are fine but
never getting to the root of their problem.
Obsessive-Compulsive. Individuals with obsessive-compulsive
disorder are plagued by uncertainty, manifested in obsessions
(persistent unwanted thoughts or impulses) and compulsions
(senseless rituals performed either to prevent or bring about
a future event).
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has gained recognition in recent
years because of its emergence in many Vietnam veterans. Victims
tend to relive over and over a particularly painful or stressful
situation and often have nightmares about the event. Rape,
beatings, incest, sexual abuse and catastrophic accidents
can also trigger the disorder.