Understanding different anxiety disorders and symptoms

There is more than one type of anxiety. Learn about the different kinds and symptoms.

Most high school graduations are done and families have or are planning their graduation parties to celebrate their child’s accomplishments. This transition from high school to “adulthood” is one of the most stressful in life. Most students are not fully prepared for managing life independently and will need on-going support and encouragement. Parents and caregivers need to understand the signs of anxiety to be able to recognize the difference between stress and anxiety and know how to respond.

There are many types of anxiety disorders such as specific phobias, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder and anxiety disorders due to medical condition. According to Mental Health First Aid, the most common anxiety disorders are panic disorders that can lead to phobic, post-traumatic stress (PST), obsessive-compulsive disorders and generalized anxiety.

A person with a phobic disorder avoids and restricts activities because of persistent and excessive fear. Agoraphobia involves avoidance of situations where a person fears having a panic attack. Post-traumatic stress occur after a distressing or catastrophic event. A major symptom is re-experiencing the trauma. This can include recurrent dreams, flashbacks, intrusive memories or unrest in situations that bring back memories of the original trauma. Besides these someone with PST can also avoid and become emotional numb. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal also can occur, such as constant watchfulness, irritability, jumpiness, outburst of rage or insomnia. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is when a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors accompany feelings of anxiety. Generalized anxiety disorders (GAD) are overwhelming, unfounded anxiety and worry accompanied by multiple physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety or tension occurring more days than not for at least six months.

Most of these disorders start at the on-set of puberty (11 years old). If your child has had issues that were not medically corrected perhaps there is an anxiety problem.

Symptoms/signs of anxiety:
  • Cardiovascular- pounding heart, rapid heartrate, flushing
  • Respiratory- hyperventilation, shortness of breath
  • Neurological- dizziness, headache, sweating, tingling, numbness
  • Gastrointestinal- choking, dry mouth, stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Musculoskeletal- muscle aches and pains, restlessness, tremors, shaking, inability to relax
  • Psychological – unrealistic and/or excessive fear and worry, mind racing or going blank, decreased concentration, irritability, impatience, anger, confusion, restlessness or feeling “on-edge”, nervous, tired, sleep disturbance, vivid dreams
  • Behavioral- avoidance of situations, obsessive or compulsive behavior, distress in social situations, phobic behavior.

Parents are their children’s first teachers and know them the best. If your child is having any of these symptoms, contact your primary doctor and schedule an appointment to discuss the symptoms. Children and adults need to understand that anxiety disorders are treatable and people can continue to grow and develop and have fulfilling lives. 

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