Have you ever wondered if you might be suffering from an anxiety disorder? Well, first of all I want to tell you, you are not alone! Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. Women are more likely than men to experience anxiety disorders and the chances of developing an anxiety greatly increases if you have biological parent diagnosed with one. Knowing the symptoms of anxiety will better help you find the correct treatment for you or a loved one. Here we will talk about generalized anxiety and social anxiety.
Generalized anxiety disorder can be diagnosed with the following criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 (DSM-5)*:
A. Excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance).
B. The individual finds it difficult to control the worry.
C. The anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms having been present for more days than not for the past 6 months): Note: Only one item required in children.
-Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge.
-Being easily fatigued.
-Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank.
-Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep).
D. The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or
impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Social Anxiety Disorder can be diagnosed with the following criteria from the DSM-5*:
A. Marked fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny by others. Examples include social interactions (e.g., having a conversation, meeting unfamiliar people), being observed (e.g., eating or drinking), and performing in front of others (e.g., giving a speech).
B. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way or show anxiety symptoms that will be negatively evaluated (i.e., will be humiliating or embarrassing; will lead to rejection or offend others).
C. The social situations almost always provoke fear or anxiety.
D. The social situations are avoided or endured with intense fear or anxiety.
E. The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual threat posed by the social situation and to the sociocultural context.
F. The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting for 6 months or more.
G.The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Case Example of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
When Amanda came into my office, she was dealing with severe anxiety. She explained she feels on edge all the time, has constant worries that she can’t control, and suffers from lack of sleep, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. Amanda also explained that she often has intrusive images or pictures in her head that she sees when the worries come up. For Amanda, her worries revolved around her family and their safety. She would worry someone might hurt her children. The anxiety was so severe that she would not put pictures of her children on social media, when they were out in public she would not let go of their hands, and if she felt unsafe at all, they would have to leave even if the tasks that brought them there weren’t completed. Amanda also worried about someone breaking into their house and hurting her and her family. The thoughts would start out in a neutral fashion, but then very quickly would spiral out of control.
“I didn’t lock the door.”
“Someone will come in the house.”
“I won't hear them when they enter.”
“They will go into my children’s rooms and kidnap them.”
“They will kill my children.”
“They will kill my husband.”
“They will kill me.”
“I can’t protect my children.”
“I am a bad mom.”
Through our treatment together, Amanda gained the ability to manage her anxiety in a healthy way. She no longer allowed her thoughts to take her to those dark places. She learned that she was in control of her anxiety and she didn’t have to suffer through each day. It was amazing to see the insight Amanda gained over the course of our work and how she used this along with other skills to manage her anxiety. Names have been changed for confidentiality reasons.
Case Example of Social Anxiety Disorder
Katie originally came in for therapy because of her anxiety. At this time, she did not realize that what she was dealing with was actually a social anxiety disorder. All she knew was she felt uncomfortable a lot of the time. Katie explained she feels most of anxiety when she is around people she is not very close with. She explained she always feels like she is going to say something that will make her look stupid or that will offend the people she is with. Katie ultimately fears people will not like her and think she is weird. Because of the anxiety, Katie would oftentimes avoid going out with coworkers and friends, but then feel isolated and alone. Katie would also avoid going to certain public places during the busy times of day to avoid the possible judgement by others. Through our treatment together, Katie has been able to recognize her faulty thinking patterns and challenge these using her skills. She also had to accept that she doesn't know what others are thinking and ultimately go into situations that might cause discomfort to confront her fears. Katie is more social now and overall feels more connected to the people around her. Names have been changed for confidentiality reasons.
Anxiety disorders are highly treatable so don't wait another day to find the help you need.
Want more information on treating anxiety? Check out my new eBook Conquer Anxiety in Ten Weeks. You will get ten different activities that help you manage your anxiety in a healthy way.
*American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.