The Big Five; Anxiety Disorders
You are probably aware anxiety is a bit of a c***, but what exactly is an anxiety disorder? When we are diagnosed with Anxiety, this refers to Generalised Anxiety Disorder, also known as GAD, hence the fact that the diagnostic questionnaire often used is the GAD-7. As it sounds GAD is general anxiety on a day to day basis with no specific trigger, just generally feeling anxious. Now we have all bloody been there... haven’t we?
Well actually, true anxiety becomes a problem when it becomes a problem. When it is happening more often than not, it has lasted for some time and because of it we are changing the way we live our life. This is an anxiety disorder. Specific anxiety disorders start to arise as our mind tries to make sense of how awful we feel and so particular behaviours ensue.
Some of the most common examples of such anxiety disorders are:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Interestingly OCD is the rarest of those mentioned and nothing to do with being particular, so when you next hear someone say “ooo, I’m a little bit OCD”, because they are really into Marie Kondo, educate them and then slap them with a fish. Similarly acting like a wet blanket around spiders doesn’t mean you have a phobia, whereas not being able to look at a photo of a spider and actively avoiding situations where they may be, possibly could be.
This is important because most of us will experience poor mental health at some time and yet most of us do not know how to respond or feel we can talk about it - so help to reduce the stigma by correcting people.
To clear some of the bullshit lets lay down some facts:
Starting with phobias; Phobias can come out in many ways, often we can see that there is a direct cause for the phobia from a traumatic experience, it may be a learnt response, there is also a school of thought that we harbour innate fears much like how a field mouse is born to instinctively avoid birds of prey. At this point you might be starting to ask yourself if your toss-pot of an ex falls into the phobia category, but they probably do not. It is also important to note, it is also ABSOLUTELY ok to not know the cause of your phobia, or indeed anxiety.
Phobias are far ranging; they can be of a social nature or with regards to a specific object. In my clinical practice I have met those who are phobic of beans, bananas, stairs, houses without lights on, buttons and glitter - imagine a world without glitter :( However, the common denominator for all of the individuals and their experience is that they change their lives to avoid the phobia stimulus.
PTSD and ASD fall into the same category of trauma response, obviously we have all had experiences where we have been left feeling overwhelmed or indeed have gone into shock at the time, but rarely would we experience the full symptoms of ASD or PTSD. ASD tends to be shorter lived and not as severe however for those experiencing full blown PTSD, they may have flashbacks of the event, experience night terrors, be on heightened alert all of the time and ‘triggered’ by any type of sensory stimulation.
It’s also a total myth that PTSD and ASD are isolated to war veterans, Hello Sailor! Actually, you can experience them as a result of any trauma and more women present than men. You can even experience a diagnosis as a result of hearing a loved one has gone through trauma. I have indeed even met men who have gone on to be symptomatic after witnessing childbirth, obviously their female partners just got on with it ;-p
Moving on to panic disorder, this is different to a singular panic attack which anyone of us may experience for a variety of reasons. Panic disorder is signified by the individual having panic attacks routinely, maybe many in a given week. As a result of this they may go on to avoid certain situations, events, people etc and develop agoraphobia, which is often misinterpreted as being a phobia of being in outdoor spaces, in fact it is a phobia of having a panic attack.
And lastly, my favourite, OCD. What OCD is NOT; being tidy, being particular, liking to take regular showers, liking things to be orderly. OCD is a serious, rare and debilitating illness driven by a thought which often, but not always, manifests itself in behavioural coping mechanisms (see the Hot Cross Bun of CBT for more information on how thoughts and behaviours link). It is these behaviours that people are often referring when they claim to be a little ‘OCD’.
The key difference between ‘these people’ and those experiencing true OCD is the difference between the motivating thought and the control it has on a person’s life; I can be motivated to clean my home and have it in an orderly fashion because of my unique disposition. However, this will rarely, cause me to be late for work, or be so much of a pull it stops me from participating in my usual social engagements. Secondly the driving thought process behind the behaviour for someone with OCD is often a belief that if they do not participate in the behaviour something bad will happen and therefore, they cannot, not participate.
Interestingly the driving thought may be completely un-related to the behaviour of the individual experiencing OCD e.g. 'if I do not complete things a set order a loved one may die'. Within the OCD diagnosis behaviours can include, cleanliness type activities, orderliness, hoarding and checking. Individuals can also have Pure Obsessional OCD (Pure O) which involves having purely obsessional intrusive thoughts which often do not lead to a set behaviour. Body Dysmorphia (which can be a fixation on ANY body area/part) also falls within the OCD realm.
So NotLostbutFree lovers that is your whistle stop tour of anxiety disorders to find out more head over to MIND and to get more information on help head here. Anxiety disorders if nipped in the bud can be solved rapidly, so if you think someone is suffering send them over to the blog.
All my love.