Anxiety can manifest in many different ways. When it attaches to certain circumstances or behaviours it is then grouped into types of anxiety disorders.
Anyone who has suffered from any of these types of anxiety disorders will know the debilitating effect it has on their lives. If you are reading this, it is likely that you yourself are or have experienced some form of anxiety disorder.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, but I am going to concentrate on five:
- Social Anxiety
- Panic Disorder
- Health Anxiety
- Generalised Panic Disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
These types of anxiety disorders can start off with little warning and out of nowhere. All of them, however, have core beliefs that maintain and nurture the anxiety.
Social anxiety disorder is characterized by extreme fear and anxiety in everyday social situations. You can experience an overwhelming urge to flee when in social settings. These settings can include the workplace, parties, or simply out and about where there might be people.
People who suffer from social anxiety will feel terribly self-conscious. They may struggle with certain aspects of social situations. These could include eating or drinking in public or public speaking. In extreme cases, the person will feel anxious whenever they are in any social circumstances.
Core Beliefs behind Social Anxiety
- Fear of rejection
- I’m not good enough
- I don’t feel safe
Typically, those with social anxiety have been raised in an environment where social humiliation was the norm. They would have learned to expect the worst and started to shun social gatherings to avoid being embarrassed. They would believe that they would behave in an embarrassing manner in all social situations. In order to protect themselves, they’d try and avoid social situations of all kinds.
The other core belief central to this type of anxiety disorder is a fear of being rejected. Here people are afraid of making a mistake in front of others because they are frightened of rejection. This core belief will prompt them to err on the side of caution when it comes to social situations. People who have this core belief tend to see social situations as threats to be avoided at all costs. Their negative thought process kicks in particularly if they are expected to ‘perform’ in some way.
Another instance is when a social phobia sufferer doesn’t feel safe around other people. It may be due to the past negative experiences and trauma or even sensory-processing sensitivity.
Panic disorder is characterized by sudden and recurring bouts of feelings of extreme fear that doesn’t seem to be associated with anything real. These feelings have physical symptoms that include heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and fainting spells.
Core beliefs behind Panic Disorder
- I need control
- I’m a failure
- I don’t deserve love
Many people with certain types of anxiety disorders have maladaptive core beliefs that started in childhood. They may have lived in an environment which made them feel helpless, out of control or unloved.
Now, these children are adults, these core beliefs present themselves in the form of panic disorders. They feel helpless and get panicky when they don’t have control.
Health anxiety is more than someone suffering from hypochondria. It is an anxiety disorder where a person feels real panic about getting a serious illness. Most people who suffer from health anxiety are preoccupied with conditions such as cancer, AIDS, heart attacks, strokes, even death. But any type of illness is fair game, particularly ones that run in families.
Core beliefs behind Health Anxiety
- I don’t want to be abandoned
- I feel isolated
- I’m worthless
There can be many core beliefs associated with health anxiety, it all depends on the person. But most revolve around negative views about one’s self, or death and illness (including issues of abandonment and isolation). It can be common for individuals to misinterpret signals from their body. They may even avoid parts of their body if they think it will make it worse.
Surprisingly, another strong core belief for those who suffer from health anxiety is superstition. Many believe that death can be used a punishment for them because they are weak and worthless.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is one of the most difficult types of anxiety disorders to treat. This is because, as the name suggests, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what triggers an attack. Generally speaking, a person suffering from GAD will experience random bouts of panic that seemingly come and go at will.
Core beliefs behind GAD
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of the future
- Fear of responsibility
One study has shown that growing up in dysfunctional environments can lead to adopting negative core beliefs. In particular, situations where a child is consistently put under unrelenting stress. This could involve them having to be responsible, where outcomes are always uncertain.
Other causes are where they have to take care of others. In these circumstances, symptoms of GAD are likely to present themselves as adults.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is another one of our types of anxiety disorders related to health. OCD is typified by obsessive and intrusive thoughts where a person must repeat compulsive behaviours. These behaviours can be anything from washing hands, checking and counting. These behaviours become rituals in order to eliminate the thoughts.
Core beliefs behind OCD
- I must be perfect
- I cannot make a mistake
- I must do it right the first time
There are some researchers that believe overprotectiveness in parents could be a contributing factor and predispose a child to OCD. Others believe that those who hold perfectionist views are more likely to develop OCD.
Some studies suggest that think family stress or adverse life events could trigger OCD. All experts agree, however, that the need for perfection is the over-riding core belief.
I’ve listed five types of anxiety disorder here. Have I missed out one that you have or are interested in? Please let me know!