Anxiety, as well as all the different types of anxiety have become part of our vocabulary as a synonym for fear, or equivalent of intense fear. We all feel fear in different ways, and we know that both it and anxiety feel the same; narrow sight, shortness of breath, tense muscles, rapid heartbeat.
Truthfully, fear and anxiety produce very similar organism responses, but they differ in the ways they are triggered.
Fear is an adaptive response to real, imminent, well defined danger. Many people see fear as a weakness. Though it has a bad reputation, fear is essential for surviving dangerous situations. It mobilizes the entire organism for the fight or fight response. When our ancestors saw a dangerous animal, they felt fear and ran as to not be attacked. We owe our existence to their fear.
The infamous case of a 54 year old woman from the United State that cannot feel fear because of brain injury, showed the consequences of the lack of this emotion. The woman was nearly killed, attacked and threatened multiple times because of her inability to sense danger and protect herself.
So, if fear is beneficial, is anxiety pathological? The answer is no.
According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is an emotion characterized by:
- Physical symptoms, like high blood pressure
The difference between fear and anxiety is that the first is a response to real danger, while the latter anticipates imaginary danger from a more or less likely future.
Anxiety often solicits avoidant behavior: refusal to exposure to any situation that could cause the slightest discomfort. This type of behavior narrows our world and possibilities more and more.
Anxiety can also have beneficial effects, however; a 2017 study on anxiety shows that when subjects suffering from anxiety looked at stressful events as challenges, rather than threats, they had better results than people who did not suffer from anxiety.
Sadly, more and more people cannot realize this change in perspective. Instead, they listen to the anxious voice in their head that tells them to avoid specific situations, until, step by step, they reach a point where they never try anything new, and never take any risks.
Anxiety is a problem when it controls our life, instead of us controlling it.
Anxiety isn’t a diagnostic, however. There are multiple types of disorders that have anxiety at their basis.
Anxiety disorders are series of affections that share excessive anxiety and specific behavioral modifications. They differ by the types of contexts that induce and trigger fear, anxiety, or avoidant behavior, as well as related thoughts and beliefs. Many of these disorders develop from childhood and tend to persist if not treated accordingly.
Types of anxiety:
Out of all types of anxiety, this is the most specific to younger children, most often debuting between 6 months and 3 years. It can appear, however, in older children, teenagers, and even adults.
It manifests through excessive anxiety towards physical separation from the primary caretaker/attachment figure.
This type of anxiety is characterized by a constant fear that something bad will happen to a loved one or that something will lead to the permanent loss of the attachment figure. The sufferer does not want to stay away from their attachment figure. They present physical stress marks and often has nightmares.
How to recognize this disorder in your child:
- Around 75% of children with separation anxiety refuse to go to school and have adaptability issues;
- Your child does not want to say goodbye to you, and hangs onto you so closely that it is almost impossible to separate yourself from them;
- Your child cries and yells in a way that suggests physical pain for prolonged amounts of time after you have left their presence:
- Your child refuses to interact with other children or teachers
- Your child always wants to know where you are and that you are safe.
Characterized by repeated incapacity to talk in certain social situations, most often situations in which talking is required, although there being no fear of communication in other contexts. It usually shows up during childhood and persists to adulthood if not treated properly.
People who suffer from this disorder still do not talk when they are threatened with repercussions like: humiliation; punishment; social isolation. Children and adults suffering from selective mutism are perfectly capable of articulating words and understanding language. They cannot, however, talk or communicate efficiently in social contexts.
They are often labeled as: impolite, impertinent or antisocial by those around them.
It is important for others to understand that sufferers do not refuse to talk, but they quite literally cannot.
More than 90% of children with selective mutism suffer from this kind of social phobia or social anxiety.
These conditions affect their educational performance, as well as their social integration and self esteem.
Selective mutism manifests differently from person to person. Some can talk to certain people, like close friends, but not to teachers or strangers. Others manage to only whisper, while there are cases of people who freeze, lack expression or emotion, and don’t say anything at all.
Main warning signs in children:
- Significant contrast between their ability to talk and socialize with loved ones, and frozen posture and facial expression when having to socialize outside of their comfort zone;
- Avoids eye contact and seems uptight, tense, uncoordinated when near people they feel uncomfortable with;
- Timid and withdrawn in social contexts;
- Hangs on to caretakers in social contexts.
People who suffer from this type of anxiety feel anxious about a certain object or situation, that they avoid at any price. The feeling of anxiety shows up as soon as the person in question is exposed to the phobic stimulus, being disproportionate to the threat it represents. There are many types of phobias, among the most common being: animal phobia/blood phobia/medical shot phobia/wound phobia/plane phobia.
This disorder’s trigger is social interaction or situations where it’s possible to be judged by others.
Some examples of these kinds of situations are:
- socializing with strangers
- contexts where the sufferer can be watched while eating or drinking
- situations where they have to perform in front of an audience
Consists of unexpected recurrent panic attacks, accompanied by constant worry and fear related to the possibility of having a panic attack. It is more frequent in women than in men. Symptoms debut most often in young adults.
Panic attacks represent an intense and overwhelming feeling of fear or significant discomfort, that reaches a peak of intensity in a few minutes.
While experiencing a panic attack, you might feel like you’re having a heart attack, like you’re dying, suffocating, going mad. These can show up in 2 ways:
- Predictably – being triggered by fear-inducing factors
- Unexpectedly – when we cannot identify the trigger
Most people experience these symptoms when having a panic attack:
- dizziness, feeling like they’re about to faint
- limbs falling asleep, bodily tingles
- terror, feelings of sudden death
- cold sweats
- chest pain
- breathing problems
- feelings of losing control
People with this disorder often avoid a lot of situations, out of fear that they may trigger panic attacks.
People that suffer from this disorder are afraid of two or more of the following:
- Using public transport
- Being in open spaces
- Being in tight spaces
- Waiting in line
- Being in crowded spaces
- Being alone outside in certain contexts
The situations listed above almost always challenge the fear in question. They are either avoided, either managed with the help of a loved one. People with agoraphobia are afraid of these situations. They are afraid because they think they won’t be able to get away or get help in case they start feeling anxiety or other debilitating symptoms they might consider to be embarrassing.
Spre deosebire de tipurile de anxietate de mai sus aceasta este caracterizată de teama și griji persistente și excesive legate de aspecte variate (muncă, școală, relații) care nu pot fi controlate. În plus, persoanele afectate au simptome fizice și o serie de simptome psihice:
Unlike the types of anxiety listed above, this disorder is characterized by persistent and excessive fears and worries, caused by a variety of potential aspects (work, school, relationships) that cannot be controlled. What’s more, people affected by this disorder have physical symptoms and a series of psychological symptoms.
- muscle tension;
- feeling like you might burst
- needing to use the restroom frequently
- difficulty focusing, or the sensation that their mind is empty and they can’t seem to remember what to do or say
- sleeping issues