Mental health is an area that is finally getting some attention as a real and serious health issue, though we still have so far to go. Part of removing the stigma around mental health is understanding the various types of disorders people can be diagnosed with.
There are many disorders, both under the anxiety and depression categories, and many iterations of each.
“As with all disorders, whether they are depressive or anxiety related disorders, they have to display what we call ‘functional impairment’, which means that whatever the symptoms are, they must have some sort of negative impact on your life to be diagnosed with a disorder,” Associate Professor Vijaya Manicavasagar from The Black Dog Institute told HuffPost Australia.
Here is a look at some of the types of both anxiety and depression and how they vary.
“The core of anxiety is a fear response — it’s part of people feeling some sort of fear,” Manicavasagar said.
“There are various forms of anxiety in terms of disorders. Anxiety disorders are defined by a constellation of symptoms that are precipitated by certain cues.”
“One of the more common anxiety disorders is social anxiety, or social phobia. That’s a fear of being evaluated or judged negatively by others,” Manicavasagar said.
People with social anxiety might avoid parties or worry about being in crowds.
“They will avoid speaking in public or speaking in groups, they can be very shy and they can have difficulty making friends. They are quite often fine on a one-to-one basis, but they get very anxious when they are around other people and have to speak up or stand out.”
“The fear there is a fear of negative evaluation, they fear that people will judge them for what they are saying or judge them because they will notice that they are anxious or maybe turning red, or sweating or stammering,” Manicavasagar said.
“Another very common form of anxiety is a panic disorder,” Manicavasagar said.
This disorder comes from a fear of having a panic attack.
“It’s thought that a third of university students have experienced a panic attack, so it’s not at all unusual or rare. A panic disorder occurs when people have suffered from a panic attack, and then go on to become fearful of having a panic attack again.
“What happens is they then become very sensitised to normal body sensations, such as perspiration on a hot day. That may be interpreted as an attack coming on, and simply from anticipating a panic attack, it can raise anxiety levels and then a panic attack may occur.”
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
“Generalised Anxiety Disorder is one of the more loosely defined disorders. It’s characterised by catastrophic worry about two or more areas of your life.”
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is very broad and in some cases not taken as seriously as it should be.
“It’s a loose category because when you say two or more categories in your life, it comes down to how related or far apart those two related areas are. Someone might be worried about their relationship or marriage, as well as their finances, for example.
“The worry needs to occur for a six month period or more. The kind of worry that comes along with GAD can be quite incapacitating, to the point where people are paralyzed with anxiety or do irrational things due to their worry,” Manicavasagar said.
“My special interest is in separation anxiety, which has a very high rate of prevalence,” Manicavasagar said.
“About 7 percent of the population have suffered separation anxiety. It can be brought on by being separated from a loved one — it could be a detachment figure, it could be a parent, or children — I’ve seen mums who are very very anxious about being away from their kids.”
Not just about people, being away from a loved animal can be the cause of separation anxiety, too.
“People can even have separation anxiety towards pets. If you’re unable to travel because you’re worrying about your pet then obviously it’s an impairment. Separation anxiety is a new one that is not so well known because prior to that people with it were lumped under the panic disorder diagnosis because it can also involve panic attacks. Quite often it was misdiagnosed,” Manicavasagar said.
Sadly, but understandably, a lot of people with anxiety will use drugs or alcohol as a means to feel some relief.
“Quite often, with all the anxiety disorders, people can have a propensity to resort to alcohol or certain medications to try and help control their anxiety. A lot of people with social anxiety will drink before they go to go into a social situation because it can get alleviated by alcohol. But obviously that’s not a good way of coping.”
– Leigh Campbell
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