Anxiety is a diagnosable medical condition whereas stress is not.
There are six types of anxiety.
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).
A person feels anxious on most days, worrying about lots of different things rather than one specific one for a period of six months or more. GAD can cause psychological and physical symptoms. These can include feeling restless, having trouble concentrating or sleeping, dizziness or heart palpitations. GAD affects approximately 5% of the population and is slightly more common in women.
Social anxiety disorder
This is an intense fear that affects every day activities. Someone with social anxiety feels overwhelmed and worried about social situations before, during and after them. People with social anxiety disorder often try to avid social activities and find it difficult to do thing when others are watching them. They may have low self- esteem and fear criticism
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. There are two types.
The first is a specific or simple phobia which is an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal. They develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object usually in childhood or adolescence. If a phobia becomes very severe, a person may organise their life around avoiding the thing that’s causing them anxiety. As well as restricting their day-to-day life, it can also cause a lot of distress.
The second type of phobia is a complex phobia which tends to develop in adulthood. This type of phobia has a more debilitating effect than a specific phobia. Examples of complex phobias are social anxiety disorder (as above) and agoraphobia. An agoraphobic feels anxious about being in a place or situation where escaping may be difficult if they have a panic attack. This anxiety often results in the agoraphobic avoiding being alone, being in crowded places or travelling on public transport.
This is an anxiety disorder where people regularly have sudden attacks of panic or fear for no apparent reason. Those with panic disorder may try to avoid certain situations as they fear it will trigger another attack causing a cycle of living in fear.
A panic attack is when your body experiences a rush of intense mental and physical symptoms. It can come on very quickly and for no apparent reason. It can be very frightening and distressing but they are not dangerous and will not cause any physical harm. Symptoms include a racing heartbeat, sweating, shortness of breath, ringing in ears and feelings of nausea.
Most panic attacks last between 5 and 20 minutes.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
OCD affects adults and children, often starting in puberty or early adulthood. It is having frequent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, urge or image which repeatedly enters the mind causing feelings of disgust, anxiety or unease. Compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that someone feels they need to do to temporarily relieve unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought. The compulsive behaviour varies from person to person.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
This is caused by frightening, traumatic or distressing experience. Someone with PTSD relives the event through nightmares and flashbacks and may experience feelings of guilt, isolation and irritability. Concentrating and sleeping can be very difficult. The symptoms are often severe and persistent having a significant impact upon day to day life.
PTSD can develop immediately after a traumatic event or even years later.
Examples of traumatic events include being involved in/seeing a road traffic accident, violent assault, serious health problems, military combat and being involved in a terror attack.
There is treatment available for all types of anxiety disorder. This may be medication or psychological therapies. Advice should be sought from your GP.