Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things.
People with the disorder, which is also referred to as GAD, experience exaggerated worry and tension, often expecting the worst, even when there is no apparent reason for concern. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about a variety of everyday problems for at least 6 months.
Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety. They don’t know how to stop the worry cycle and feel it is beyond their control, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants.
GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, in any given year. Women are twice as likely to be affected.
The disorder comes on gradually and can begin across the life cycle, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age. Although the exact cause of GAD is unknown, there is evidence that biological factors, family background, and life experiences, particularly stressful ones, play a role.
When their anxiety level is mild, people with GAD can function socially and be gainfully employed. Although they may avoid some situations because they have the disorder, some people can have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities when their anxiety is severe.
PANIC DISORDER & AGORAPHOBIA
Panic disorder is diagnosed in people who experience spontaneous seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and are preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack. Panic attacks occur unexpectedly, sometimes even during sleep.
About six million American adults experience panic disorder in a given year. Typically developing in early adulthood, women are twice as likely as men to have panic disorder.
Many people don't know that their disorder is real and highly responsive to treatment. Some are afraid or embarrassed to tell anyone, including their doctors and loved ones, about what they experience for fear of being considered a hypochondriac. Instead they suffer in silence, distancing themselves from friends, family, and others who could be helpful or supportive.
Some people stop going into situations or places in which they've previously had a panic attack in anticipation of it happening again.
These people have agoraphobia, and they typically avoid public places where they feel immediate escape might be difficult, such as shopping malls, public transportation, or large sports arenas. About one in three people with panic disorder develops agoraphobia. Their world may become smaller as they are constantly on guard, waiting for the next panic attack. Some people develop a fixed route or territory, and it may become impossible for them to travel beyond their safety zones without suffering severe anxiety.
It’s the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations: Social anxiety disorder can wreak havoc on the lives of those who suffer from it. This disorder is not simply shyness that has been inappropriately medicalized: Read about the difference.
Symptoms may be so extreme that they disrupt daily life. People with this disorder, also called social phobia, may have few or no social or romantic relationships, making them feel powerless, alone, or even ashamed.
About 15 million American adults have social anxiety disorder
Typical age of onset: 13 years old
36 percent of people with social anxiety disorder report symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help
Although they recognize that the fear is excessive and unreasonable, people with social anxiety disorder feel powerless against their anxiety. They are terrified they will humiliate or embarrass themselves.
The anxiety can interfere significantly with daily routines, occupational performance, or social life, making it difficult to complete school, interview and get a job, and have friendships and romantic relationships.
Social anxiety disorder usually begins in childhood or adolescence, and children are prone to clinging behavior, tantrums, and even mutism.
Most people feel anxious or depressed at times. Losing a loved one, getting fired from a job, going through a divorce, and other difficult situations can lead a person to feel sad, lonely, scared, nervous, or anxious. These feelings are normal reactions to life's stressors.
But some people experience these feelings daily or nearly daily for no apparent reason, making it difficult to carry on with normal, everyday functioning. These people may have an anxiety disorder, depression, or both.
It is not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. The good news is that these disorders are both treatable, separately and together.
Depression is a condition in which a person feels discouraged, sad, hopeless, unmotivated, or disinterested in life in general. When these feelings last for a short period of time, it may be a case of "the blues."
But when such feelings last for more than two weeks and when the feelings interfere with daily activities such as taking care of family, spending time with friends, or going to work or school, it's likely a major depressive episode.
Major depression is a treatable illness that affects the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, and functions. Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. In 2014, around 15.7 million adults age 18 or older in the U.S. had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year, which represented 6.7 percent of all American adults. At any point in time, 3 to 5 percent of adults suffer from major depression; the lifetime risk is about 17 percent. As many as 2 out of 100 young children and 8 out of 100 teens may have serious depression.
Types of Depression
Three main types of depressive disorders—major depression, persistent depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder—can occur with any of the anxiety disorders.
Some people with major depression may feel that life is not worth living and some will attempt to end their lives.
Persistent depressive disorder, or PDD, (formerly called dysthymia) is a form of depression that usually continues for at least two years. Although it is less severe than major depression, It involves the same symptoms as major depression, mainly low energy, poor appetite or overeating, and insomnia or oversleeping. It can manifest as stress, irritability, and mild anhedonia, which is the inability to derive pleasure from most activities.
People with PDD might be thought of as always seeing the glass as half empty.
Bipolar disorder, once called manic-depression, is characterized by a mood cycle that shifts from severe highs (mania) or mild highs (hypomania) to severe lows (depression).
During the manic phase, a person may experience abnormal or excessive elation, irritability, a decreased need for sleep, grandiose notions, increased talking, racing thoughts, increased sexual desire, markedly increased energy, poor judgment, and inappropriate social behavior.
During the depressive phase, a person experiences the same symptoms as would a sufferer of major depression. Mood swings from manic to depressive are often gradual, although occasionally they can occur abruptly.
Depression and Anxiety Disorders: Not the Same
Depression and anxiety disorders are different, but people with depression often experience symptoms similar to those of an anxiety disorder, such as nervousness, irritability, and problems sleeping and concentrating. But each disorder has its own causes and its own emotional and behavioral symptoms.
Many people who develop depression have a history of an anxiety disorder earlier in life. There is no evidence one disorder causes the other, but there is clear evidence that many people suffer from both disorders.