DO YOU HAVE AN ANXIETY DISORDER?
In my outpatient psychology practice, I see eight things every
day--they show up again and again, presenting in one form or another.
One of the bigger and more negative experiences clients have is anxiety.
Specifically, the first thing clients want to know is whether they have
an anxiety disorder. Here is a rather clinical description of what
anxiety is, according to an older but very accurate source, the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition:
"...An apprehension, tension, or uneasiness that stems from the
anticipation of danger, which may be internal or external. Some
definitions of anxiety distinguish it from fear by limiting it to
anticipation of a danger whose source is largely unknown whereas fear
is the response to a consciously recognized and usually external threat
or danger. The manifestations of anxiety and fear are the same and
include motor tension, autonomic hyperactivity, apprehensive expectation,
vigilance and scanning. Anxiety may be focused on an object, situation,
or activity, which is avoided (phobia), or may be not focused
(free-floating anxiety). It may be experienced in discrete periods of
sudden onset and be accompanied by physical symptoms. When anxiety is
focused on physical signs or symptoms and causes preoccupation with the
fear or belief of having a disease, it is termed hypochondriasis."
Anxiety pervades almost all of our experiences in every venue.
Most of the time, it is in the background. It turns out we need some
very basic tension to exist and a little more to be motivated to do things.
We psychologists call this ergic tension. You could not sit up or read
this article if you had no ergic tension. It is normal.
However, many people have more anxiety than this, which still could
be good in some circumstances, like in sports or just before an important
speech or even right before a major test in school. This keeps us focused
and helps us appropriately utilize the usual amount of extra adrenaline
that accompanies such events. We are still in the normal range of anxiety
if we understand and can manage it during and then after the specific event,
our anxiety drops back to lower levels.
Some people have even more anxiety than this, and it doesn't go back
to "mark headings." These are the folks that probably have an anxiety
There are seven major categories of anxiety disorders, depending upon
the cluster of symptoms and their manifestations. I'll just list them
here, but I have written a very thorough ebook on diagnosing your own
anxiety, which contains these categories explained in depth, and a bunch
of other information you will need to understand. The seven categories
are what I call the Worrisome Personality, then the more clinical categories
follow: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety,
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Attacks, Phobia Disorder and Obsessive
Compulsive Disorder. I made up the first category because I see this a lot
but it is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,
Fourth Edition (the latest version of this manuscript, which is the Bible
of mental health professionals). The last six categories are clinical
categories and are found in the DSM IV.
As I list in my ebook, there are at least thirty-three symptoms
of anxiety. Here is a partial list:
...Trembling, twitching, or feeling shaky, muscle tension and aches or
soreness (including chest pains), restlessness, easy fatiguing...or...
shortness of breath or smothering sensations, palpitations or accelerated
heart rate, sweating or cold clammy hands, dry mouth, dizziness or
lightheadedness, nausea, diarrhea, or other abdominal distress, flushing,
hot flashes, chills, frequent urinations, trouble swallowing, or...feeling
keyed up and on edge, exaggerated startle response, difficulty concentrating
or having your mind "going blank," trouble falling or staying asleep, or
being excessively irritable.
You have to think about these symptoms in a very different way to
diagnose whether or not you have an anxiety disorder. That is exactly
what I provide in my publication.