Everyday anxiety or something more? Here's how to tell.
Overcome by worry? Feeling anxious on occasion is a normal part of life, like before taking a test or making an important decision. “It allows us to respond appropriately to danger and fear,” says Khadijah Watkins, MD, a psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine. Anxiety disorder, however—which affects nearly 34 percent of the population—is when distress or worrisome thoughts interfere with your ability to function in everyday life. “My anxiety will hijack certain things. So I have to reel myself in and really ask myself: Am I reacting because this is my truth or am I reacting because my anxiety is stepping in?” says Trish Barillas, a life and career coach who has generalized anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders come in many forms and often share similar symptoms, so without a proper diagnosis, the distinction isn’t always clear. Here’s a look at the different types of anxiety disorders—and what to do if you sense that anxiety might be a problem for you.
A phobia is an irrational fear of a person, place, or thing that poses little to no actual threat or danger, like a fear of heights, flying, or enclosed spaces. A person with a phobia may try to avoid situations that involve their fear and feel extreme anxiety or panic when exposed to it.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
People with generalized anxiety disorder worry excessively about a multitude of things for weeks or months on end. These spiraling worrisome thoughts can cause people with GAD to feel restless, tired, irritable, and on edge.
Social Anxiety Disorder
“Social anxiety disorder is like generalized anxiety disorder, but your worries, concerns and judgments about yourself are exclusively in social situations,” says Gail Saltz, MD, a psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medicine. People with social anxiety disorder (or “social phobia”) might avoid situations where they have to talk to people, have a hard time making or keeping friends, and be very afraid of offending or being judged by people.
Panic disorder is when a person has recurrent unexpected panic attacks. “You feel overcome by a sense of dread—thoughts of perhaps, I’m going to die or I’m going crazy,” says Dr. Saltz. These episodes of panic trigger a host of physical symptoms which are scary on their own, like heart palpitations, sweating, shaking, and difficulty breathing.
If you suspect anxiety disorder in you or someone you know, it’s worth it to get evaluated by a medical professional. You may not realize how severe your anxiety is—and how much better you could feel.
“You may be living with an anxiety disorder for a long time and think, ‘this is just me, this is just the way life is,’” says Dr. Saltz. “When in fact, you could be a much better version of you if you didn’t have this backpack on your back of all this anxiety.”
Dr. Saltz is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medicine and a psychoanalyst with the New York Psychoanalytic Institute.Khadijah Watkins
Dr. Watkins is an assistant professor of psychiatry in the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine and an assistant attending psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.Jennifer L. Hartstein
Dr. Hartstein is the owner of Hartstein Psychological Services, a group psychotherapy practice in New York City.
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I tend to call it the what-ifs.
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what if this happens what if that happens?
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You tend to catastrophize a lot of things,
and bring it to the worst place.
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Anxiety is a natural emotion, and
a natural response that we have,
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that allows us to respond
appropriately to danger and fear.
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When anxiety becomes a disorder is when
it gets in the way of you functioning.
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There are a host of anxiety disorders.
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Simple phobias are actually one of
the most common of anxiety disorders.
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And that is a fear that is irrational
of a very particular thing.
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Common ones would be, thunderstorms,
heights, fear of flying.
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Generalized anxiety disorder, is this
constant worry about varied topics or
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one topic and then another topic, through
much of your day, for weeks on end.
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Social anxiety disorder,
is like generalized anxiety disorder but
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your worries and concerns and
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judgements about yourself
are exclusively in social situations.
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Panic disorder are circumscribed
events that occur.
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A panic attack where you feel
overcome by a sense of dread,
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thoughts of perhaps,
I'm gonna die or I'm going crazy.
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You have physiological symptoms,
meaning you have shortness of breath,
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you feel palpitations,
you might feel nauseous,
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My anxiety will hijack certain things.
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So I have to reel myself in and
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really ask myself, am I reacting because
this is my truth or am I reacting
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because my anxiety is stepping in?
Risk factors for anxiety disorder
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are family history of anxiety disorder or
other mental health conditions.
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Having a very stressful life,
the more stress factors that you have,
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having experienced trauma or
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loss early on at an age.
So it's a clinical diagnosis,
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which means that you need to go in for
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They'll ask you, how much do you worry,
what do you worry about, how many hours
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of your day would you say this takes up?
Most anxiety disorders
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are treated either with medications or
with cognitive behavior therapy because
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anxiety disorders are really
a thought disorder.
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So we're gonna work on challenging
those thoughts over and over and
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over again to figure out how
to help you rewire them and
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so you may be living with an anxiety
disorder for a long time and think, but
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this is just me,
this is just the way life is.
00:02:35,420 --> 00:02:39,150
When in fact,
you could be a much better version of you,
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if you didn't have this back pack
on your back of this anxiety.
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And so if you are thinking, maybe this is
an issue, it's really worth tapping in for
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an evaluation to see how severe this
is and how much better you could feel.
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Anxiety Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. (Accessed on January 8, 2021 at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml)
Phobia - simple / specific. U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. (Accessed on January 8, 2021 at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000956.htm)
Epidemiology of anxiety disorders in the 21st century. Göttingen, Germany: Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Centre, 2015. (Accessed on January 8, 2021 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610617)