Back to a stable personalityFear is part of life. It arises in a variety of situations and contexts, indicate imminent danger and therefore performs an important protective function for us humans. It becomes critical when normal fears become anxiety disorders that have a major negative impact on life.
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Causes & symptoms
What types of anxiety disorders are there?Anxiety disorders, along with depression, are among the most common psychological illnesses. Surveys show that around 14 percent of adults in Germany suffer from a clinically relevant anxiety disorder. Women are affected almost twice as frequently as men. Affected persons usually only tell their general practitioner about physical symptoms such as dizziness, palpitations, trembling, reduced ability to cope with stress or gastrointestinal problems. They do not mention their fear. Thus, the illness is often not discovered for years.
There are six types of anxiety disorders:
- Panic disorder, agoraphobia
- Social anxiety (phobia)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder , compulsions
- Stress, trauma (PTSD)
- Generalised anxiety disorder
Causes: How does an anxiety disorder develop?Anxiety attacks occur when physical symptoms, which are, in and of themselves, not dangerous, are classified as dangerous or threatening. Palpitations, for instance, are misinterpreted as a heart attack, or dizziness as an imminent loss of consciousness. This results in increased tension which, in turn, exacerbates the symptoms, fear and anxious thoughts. This results in a vicious cycle that can be triggered again and again by situations or physical symptoms. On the one hand, the cycle of fear feeds itself. On the other, the flight reaction results in the affected person not being able have the curative experience of overcoming the fear. Even worse: The person believes if they don’t avoid the fear, the inevitable catastrophe will occur, for instance, a heart attack. This thought anchors itself in the mind and results in even greater anticipatory anxiety in the next situation.
Anxiety disorder: Symptoms indicating a disorderThe typical physical symptoms of anxiety include palpitations, sudden perspiration and dizziness. Nausea, trembling, respiratory distress and blurred vision can also occur. Affected persons often complain of
a feeling of pressure in their chest or head.
Feelings such as panic occur, often felt as helplessness, powerlessness, at the mercy of the situation, loss of control through to immediate mortal fear. Typical thoughts in these threatening situations may include: “This is the end!”, “I'm going to make a fool of myself!”, “I am scared!”, “I’m going mad!”. As a reaction to the perceived threat, affected persons attempt to get away from the situation (flight) or circumvent it. Some seek protection through proximity to a person who makes them feel safe. Others remain in the situation physically, but avoid the internal conflict. This can happen when the anxiety is suppressed or due to conscious distraction or consumption of alcohol or sedatives.