Understanding Specific Anxiety Disorders
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is the most common, with 15 percent of the American population afflicted by it. It is characterized by a persistent fear of social or performance situations.
In social situations, people with social anxiety disorder become nervous. They feel that people are looking at them, that they're not saying the right things, and that they don't look right. These people can become painfully shy and begin to avoid social situations. As a result, they don't have as many friends as they could. This disorder also affects a person's ability to perform at work, because many jobs involve speaking in front of other people and being in group meetings where you are expected to make a contribution. As a result, social anxiety disorder can have a broad effect on a person's life.
This disorder is different from shyness. Shyness is a temperament. Some people are more shy than others. Social anxiety disorder, on the other hand, produces impairment.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a reaction to a terrifying event that keeps returning in the form of frightening, intrusive memories. The traumatic event could be something you see or something that happens to you directly.
PTSD produces an intense fear and a sense of helplessness. People with this anxiety disorder can become detached and emotionally numb. They may feel guilt for surviving. The survivors wonder, "Why me?" They also often have problems sleeping.
PTSD is fairly common. At some point in their lives, 40 to 80 percent of people are exposed to a serious, traumatic event. At any given time, 8 percent of the people in the United States has PTSD.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Everyday events and decisions cause exaggerated worry and tension in people with generalized anxiety disorder. These people are "worrywarts." They feel the world in general is not a safe place and that bad things happen to good people like themselves. They are always feeling distressed. They become restless, fatigued, irritable, and tense.
People with generalized anxiety disorder have chronic, moderate levels of symptoms associated with lots of worrying. However, they don't have panic attacks that send them to the emergency room. About 6 percent of the U.S. population suffers from this condition.