It is normal to feel nervous or worried at times. This anxiety can be a helpful feeling when it motivates us or warns us of danger. An anxiety disorder, on the other hand, causes unexpected or unhelpful anxiety that can seriously impact a students life, including how they think, feel, and act.
What are anxiety disorders?
Anxiety disorders are mental health challenges. The different types of anxiety disorders include:
A phobia is an intense fear around a specific thing like an object, animal, or situation. Most of us are scared of something, but these feelings don’t disrupt our lives. With phobias, a student changes the way they live in order to avoid the feared object or situation.
Panic disorder involves repeated and unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is a feeling of sudden and intense fear that lasts for a short period of time. It causes a lot of physical feelings like a racing heart, shortness of breath, or nausea. Panic attacks can be a normal reaction to a stressful situation, or a part of other anxiety disorders. With panic disorder, panic attacks seem to happen for no reason. Students who experience panic disorder fear more panic attacks and may worry that something bad will happen as a result of the panic attack. Some students may change their routine to avoid triggering more panic attacks.
Agoraphobia is fear of being in a situation where a student can’t escape or find help if they experience a panic attack or other feelings of anxiety. A person with agoraphobia may avoid public places or even avoid leaving their homes.
Social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder involves intense fear of being embarrassed or evaluated negatively by others. As a result, students will avoid social situations. This is more than shyness. It can have a big impact on school performance and relationships.
Generalized anxiety disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is excessive worry around a number of everyday problems for more than six months. This anxiety is often far greater than expected—for example, intense anxiety over a minor concern. Many people experience physical symptoms too, including muscle tension and sleep problems.
Other mental health challenges
Some mental health challenges are no longer classified as anxiety disorders, though anxiety or fear is a major part of the health challenges.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur after a very scary or traumatic event, such as abuse, an accident, or a natural disaster. Symptoms of PTSD include reliving the event through nightmares or flashbacks, avoiding reminders of the traumatic event, and feeling unsafe in the world, even when a person isn’t in danger.
Who do they affect?
Anxiety disorders can affect anyone at any age, and they are the most common mental health challenge. Sometimes, anxiety disorders are triggered by a specific event or stressful life experience such as moving away from home or starting post- secondary education. Anxiety disorders may be more likely to occur when we have certain ways of looking at things (like believing that everything must be perfect) or learn unhelpful coping strategies from others. But sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be a reason.
What treatment is available?
Many people who experience an anxiety disorder think that they should just be able to ‘get over it’ on their own. Others may need time to recognize how deeply anxiety affects their life. However, anxiety disorders are real illnesses that affect a person’s well-being. It’s important to talk to a doctor about mental health concerns. Some physical health conditions cause symptoms of anxiety. A mental health professional will look at all possible causes of anxiety.
Normal, expected anxiety is part of being human. Treatment should look at reducing unhelpful coping strategies and building healthy behaviours that help you better manage anxiety.
Each anxiety disorder has its own specific treatments and goals, but most include some combination of the following strategies:counselling, support groups, medication and self-help programs.