There are several anxiety disorders, such as phobias and social anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, hypochondria and generalised anxiety disorder. If the symptom or disorder you are experiencing is not discussed below, feel free to contact Move for Motion to find out if we can offer you treatment.
Although it works differently for different people, cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective form of treatment that is also the recommended therapy for anxiety disorders. Some anxiety disorders can also be treated with Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR). This may be considered for anxiety disorders that have emerged or worsened following an extremely frightening or shocking experience.
If people are afraid of something, they tend to avoid the source of their fear. Cognitive behavioural therapy works by challenging the frightening thoughts and confronting the source of the fear little by little, in a process called exposure. Your therapist will support you throughout this process.
For more information in English about anxiety disorders and treatment, see the fact sheet of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT).
A phobia is diagnosed in cases where a person has a deep and irrational fear of a specific situation or thing and experiences undue distress in their daily lives as a result. Phobic people typically attempt to avoid the source of their fear. If they must confront it, they usually respond with terror.
There are five subtypes of phobias:
- Fear of animals: e.g., fear of dogs, fear of snakes, etc.
- Fear of natural environment: e.g., fear of heights, fear of thunder, etc.
- Fear of blood/injections/injury: e.g., fear of needles, fear of the dentist
- Fear of situations: e.g., fear of flying, fear of driving, etc.
- Other phobias: e.g., fear of vomiting
Social anxiety or social phobia is associated with extreme anxiety in social situations. People with social anxiety disorder are often afraid that other people will think poorly of them or that they will do something shameful or embarrassing in a social setting. For this reason, they tend to avoid the social situations they so dread.
Social anxiety can underlie fears of public speaking or just conversing with other people, being terribly afraid of blushing or sweating, or fear of failure.
Panic attacks are sudden, short periods of extreme anxiety that can be accompanied by physical sensations such as heart palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath, dizziness and shaking.
Many people tend to avoid places or situations in which they have previously had a panic attack. For example, people who struggle with panic complaints may avoid busy public places or having to use public transport.
If a person has had repeated panic attacks and is afraid to experience such an attack again, or if they are frightened of the consequences of their panic attacks, the diagnosis ‘panic disorder’ applies. People who avoid certain situations for fear of a panic attack are diagnosed with ‘panic disorder and agoraphobia’.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder consisting of recurrent, anxiety-inducing thoughts (obsessions or compulsive thoughts) and a strong urge or need to repeat the same rituals or behaviours (compulsions) in an attempt to reduce the anxiety.
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder may persistently think that their hands are dirty (obsession) and respond by repeatedly washing their hands (compulsion). Some people are constantly afraid that they left the gas on and that a fire will start (obsession), which causes them to repeatedly check whether the cooker is off (compulsion). Performing the rituals or compulsions is often very time-consuming, which may create problems for people at work or in their personal relationships.
Also known as ‘health phobia’, hypochondria is the fear of contracting a serious illness or the belief that you have already been afflicted with serious illness, even though medical tests have concluded otherwise. Hypochondria sufferers typically misinterpret physical sensations or symptoms. Hypochondriacs are often so convinced that they are seriously ill that they have already consulted many doctors. When diagnostic tests find no illness, sufferers of hypochondria are only briefly reassured and they normally become anxious again quickly.
Hypochondria is classified as a so-called somatoform disorder rather than an ‘anxiety disorder’. However, because people with hypochondria often report a great deal of anxiety, the condition is often treated as an anxiety disorder.
Generalised anxiety disorder
It is normal for people to worry about finances, relationships, work, etc., but people who ruminate about these things and others over a long period of time, sometimes as long as they can remember, may have generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). People with GAD worry excessively about a wide variety of subjects; they often even worry about their worrying. All this worrying can lead to symptoms such as being tense, sleeping poorly or not being able to concentrate.
GAD is typically treated with metacognitive therapy (MCT), a variant of cognitive behavioural therapy. The subject of investigation during MCT sessions is not what you worry about, but the thoughts you have about worrying. These thoughts are called ‘metacognitions’. The purpose of MCT is to change these metacognitions.