In this section I am attempting to describe some common Anxiety Disorders and the ways in which they may present themselves.
But first there is something about diagnosis in psychiatry that needs to be understood.
In physical medicine there is usually hard evidence of a disease. You get blood tests done and there is concrete evidence that, for example, the virus or bacteria actually exist.
Because there is hard evidence, the medicine manufacturers are able to develop medicines which then get rid of the unwanted virus or bacteria and you are cured.
The existence of this evidence also makes the diagnosis more definite.
There is no such hard evidence with the majority of psychiatric conditions. In psychiatry a diagnosis is based on the presence of a handful of symptoms. Many of these are just more extreme versions of normal feelings. Anxiety disorders and many depressive disorders fall into this category.
Anxiety is a normal human feeling.
Anxiety is not a symptom that you must get rid of
In reality, however, it is not so much a question of putting the correct psychiatric label on your anxiety, but of needing to understand exactly what is happening in your mind and body to cause these anxious feelings.
When we have a physical disease we go to a doctor and expect something to be done to us so we get better, or at least our symptoms are reduced. This may be with medicine, an operation, etc.
It's not like that with psychiatric disorders.
A mood disorder, such as one based on anxiety or depression, is not a precise illness. It is just too much of something we all get normally. As such, we can't cure it by getting rid of it.
But there's medication for anxiety, what does that do?
Although medication can reduce many of the most severe symptoms by masking them, it is not likely to remove them completely. The only way medication can completely stop anyone experiencing anxiety is by making them totally unconscious or so numbed that they are incapable of thinking at all. That is no real alternative!
On the other hand, when people are severely distressed, medication is very helpful to temporarily reduce their anxiety levels so they can participate in treatment.
Why can't the doctor or psychologist just make me better?
This is the big issue for those of us who work in the field of mental health. There is very often this conflict between what we can do and what the patient expects!
As I have said already, most psychiatric disorders are based on more extreme versions of normal feelings. We don't catch them like we do other diseases.
Anxiety Disorders are not illnesses but psychological problems.
They are the result of our thinking habits.
Nobody but you can change your thoughts.
Therapy will make you understand which of these thoughts are causing you problems if you don't already know. It will then attempt to show you how to go about changing these. There is more about this and why recovery from anxiety problems is mainly down to a form of self help here.
This usually involves teaching and talking. That's why these are called "talking therapies". They do not have to happen on a 1:1 though. In many cases it is far more effective if the teaching is done almost as if you're in a classroom.
We are usually unaware in the beginning of how our thinking has caused the problem to develop.
If you have read the section on Causes of Anxiety you will realise that what we call anxiety is really a normal response of your mind and body to danger. Nobody can ever stop their inbuilt response to a genuine danger, and nobody in their right mind would want to.
What has usually happened when people suffer from an anxiety disorder is that this normal response has for some reason been developed so that it has become a problem in itself.
The key to recovery is understanding how and why it developed and then reversing that process so as to unlearn it.
This is what we teach you to do in therapy.
If this approach appears confusing initially don't worry. There is a full step-by-step description of overcoming anxiety the Feelgood Way on this website. This approach is a simplified version of Mindfulness and Acceptance and Comitment Therapy.
In this section are descriptions of the main psychiatric disorders which have anxiety as a major component. In addition to those listed below there are also sections on Fears and Phobias and on Panic Disorder.
In addition there is a section describing the most common anxiety symptoms and how they come about.