9 Anxiety Disorders Currently Recognized by the DSM

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness around the world. Currently, there are 9 anxiety disorders recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is used by professionals to diagnose mental health conditions.

1. Generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is a condition that is characterized by persistent and excessive worrying about everyday things, such as health and family issues. The disorder can be debilitating, preventing people from living normally.

Generalized anxiety disorder affects about 6 million adults in the United States, or about 3% of the population. Women are twice as likely to have this condition as men, and it usually begins during childhood or adolescence but may not be diagnosed until adulthood.

The cause of generalized anxiety disorder is unknown, but people with the condition may have an inherited tendency toward depression and other psychiatric disorders. Other factors that may contribute to the development of generalized anxiety disorder include certain stressful life events; problems at work; financial difficulties; lack of social support; and substance abuse.

In many cases, it’s possible to treat generalized anxiety disorder without medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly helpful for people with this condition, because it teaches them how to manage their thoughts and feelings in order to reduce their stress levels and lessen the severity of symptoms.

2. Panic disorder

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder currently recognized by the DSM. It is characterized by recurrent unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden periods of intense fear. The symptoms of a panic attack often include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain, choking or smothering sensations, dizziness or light-headedness, nausea or abdominal distress, feeling unreal or detached from oneself. Panic attacks can be triggered by exposure to certain stimuli: agoraphobia may be triggered by being outside the home; social phobia may be triggered by being in public places; and claustrophobia may be triggered by being in confined spaces.

Panic disorder affects between 1% and 3% of people at some point in their life. Many people experience one or two isolated episodes of unexpected panic during their lifetime (often during childhood) with no ongoing problems thereafter. 

It can develop at any age but tends to first appear between late adolescence and young adulthood. 

3. Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It is most commonly characterized by fear of open spaces, crowds, or being alone in public places. It is also characterized by fear of being somewhere that escape would be difficult if a panic attack occurred.

In addition to these specific fears, agoraphobia can cause people to avoid certain situations that make them feel uncomfortable. For example, some people with agoraphobia will avoid driving on freeways or crossing bridges because they feel trapped in their cars when they drive under them. Agoraphobia can also make it difficult for people to leave their homes and go out into the world due to their fears of being in public places (and thus being unable to escape).

4. Social phobia

It involves a marked and persistent fear of one or more social situations in which the person is exposed to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way that will be humiliating or embarrassing. Common examples include public speaking, using public restrooms, and writing in front of others. Exposure to the feared social situation almost invariably provokes anxiety, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally predisposed panic attack.

The fear or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting for six months or more, and causes significant distress and interferes significantly with the person’s normal routine, employment or academic functioning. At some point the person recognizes that the fear or avoidance is excessive or unreasonable. The fear or avoidance is not due to direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., drugs) or a general medical condition not better accounted for by another mental disorder and is not better explained by another mental disorder such as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

5. Specific phobia

It is defined as an excessive and irrational fear of a specific object or situation that can result in panic attacks, avoidance of the object or situation, and/or significant distress. The object or situation must be one that interferes with the person’s ability to function normally if they are exposed to it.

People with this disorder experience intense anxiety and may have difficulty breathing, shaking, vomiting, or having other physical symptoms. They may also avoid going to places where they might encounter their feared object or situation. For example, someone who has a phobia about dogs may refuse to go outside if there are dogs nearby because they fear being attacked by one of them.

6. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Obsessions are thoughts that recur and cause significant distress and anxiety. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that an individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.

The most common form of OCD is characterized by intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions). The individual performs these actions in a manner that results in some form of temporary relief from the obsessive thought. For example, an individual might develop obsessive thoughts about germs on the hands and perform compulsive hand washing as a way of reducing the distressing thoughts.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can also be characterized by hoarding, which is defined as acquiring and failing to discard worthless items despite their apparent uselessness; extreme preoccupation with orderliness; bodily rituals such as counting or touching; and mental rituals such as praying. Hoarding is considered a separate syndrome from OCD when it occurs independently of other symptoms.

7. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder currently recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). This disorder is characterized by the development of debilitating symptoms following an exposure to a traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD can include re-experiencing the trauma through nightmares, flashbacks, or other dissociative experiences; avoiding reminders of the trauma; emotional numbing; hyperarousal; and distorted thoughts about oneself or others.

PTSD is often seen in veterans who have experienced combat, but it can also develop after any extremely distressing event in which there was imminent danger, threat to life or physical integrity, or actual death. It has also been found to develop in those who have experienced: sexual abuse as children; accidents on the job , terrorist attacks; natural disasters, and violent crimes.

8. Separation anxiety disorder

Typically, separation anxiety disorder begins in childhood and continues through adolescence or early adulthood. It is characterized by extreme fear of being separated from a parent or loved one, or an object that provides safety. This fear can be triggered by actual separation from the person or object, or it may occur when a child anticipates being separated from them (e.g., going to school). In addition, children with separation anxiety disorder often worry about being abandoned or rejected by their parents when they are unable to see them.

Symptoms of separation anxiety disorder include excessive worry about being separated from caregivers, excessive worry about harm coming to caregivers, persistent fears about losing caregivers, refusal to go to school, refusal to go to sleep without a parent nearby, nightmares about harm coming to caregivers, refusing to stay overnight at friends’ homes (or other places), and refusing to attend daycare or preschool.

9. Selective mutism (SM)

It is characterized by an inability to speak in certain situations, even when the child has no trouble speaking at home or in other situations. In some cases, selective mutism may be a symptom of another disorder, such as autism or social anxiety disorder.

A person with SM will have difficulty speaking in certain situations but can speak freely in others. For example, a child with SM might be able to talk freely at home but refuse to speak in school or with strangers. Children with SM often do not make eye contact and may have trouble understanding what is being said to them. They also tend to avoid social situations and interactions with other people.

It is important for parents and caregivers to seek help if they notice that their child is unable to speak in certain situations. Early intervention can make it easier for children with SM to overcome their fears and communicate effectively with others later on in life.

Anxiety disorders can do more than just cause you to be nervous. They can make you experience extreme levels of stress and keep you from living a normal life. If you feel that your anxiety has gone unchecked for too long this article may offer some relief.

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