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Anxiety

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal human emotion and refers to distress, fear, worry or panic about a future negative outcome, such as a danger or threat. Anxiety symptoms can include feelings of uneasiness, distress, apprehension or dread. Sometimes we experience physical symptoms of our anxiety, such as headaches, stomach upset, tight muscles or sweating.

In certain situations, a low to moderate degree of anxiety can improve our performance, such as when we realize we need to study for an upcoming test, or ensure our survival like when we sense an approaching car as we are about to cross the road.

Anxiety Disorders are typically diagnosed when anxiety is at such high levels that it is difficult to concentrate and perform, when it is experienced for a prolonged period of time, or when the symptoms of anxiety are getting in the way of a person's ability to do the things that they need to in order to live their life in a fulfilling way.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

What is GAD?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves excessively worrying and feeling anxious or tense over a number of events and activities that are difficult to control (e.g. work, finances, relationships, health). The anxiety must persist for at least 6 months. 

What are the symptoms of GAD?

  • A person with GAD persistently finds it difficult to relax and control their worry about a number of events. This occurs on most days and over many months. The physical symptoms experienced may include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, and irritability.
  • A person with GAD may not always recognize that their worries or tension levels are excessive, or that their level of anxiety is disproportionate to the actual likelihood of the worrisome/feared event occurring. For example, a person with GAD may worry each day that their car will break down, despite the fact that their car is well maintained and has not broken down in the past.
  • The worries may be related to a number of fears and concerns, usually about what might happen in the future. For example, a person who worries about their ability to cope with a future illness or their fear of performing in front of colleagues at an upcoming meeting. These worries are not confined to a specific situation (e.g. social settings), are not about the anticipation of a panic attack, and are not obsessions (intrusive thoughts, images or impulses).
  • The worry and/or physical symptoms experienced by a person with GAD cause significant distress or impairment in ability to function in social, occupational, or other important areas.
  • A person with GAD may experience another anxiety disorder, depression, or alcohol/substance abuse.

Who gets GAD?

  • GAD often develops in childhood or adolescence, but can also begin in adulthood. Although it is common for GAD to develop following a stressful life event, not everyone who experiences stressful events will develop GAD. Prior to developing GAD, it is common for a person to have had a tendency to be a 'worrier' and to be overly concerned about how things will turn out and how they will cope.
  • Besides stress and personality factors, other factors that may contribute to the development of GAD include biological (e.g., genes) and environmental (e.g., parenting style).
  • GAD is experienced by 1.1% of Canadians (aged 15-64) over a 12-month period.

GAD vs. Normal Worry

GAD is more than worry. Most people worry about things from time to time. But, people with GAD find that it affects their everyday life. They may try to control their worry by doing things like visiting doctors frequently, asking for reassurance, over-preparing for any potential event, reminding others continuously about things, avoiding doing new things, or taking on new challenges or opportunities, because of their fear.

Treatment for GAD

GAD is treatable! The best treatments involve learning about your symptoms, learning how to control those symptoms, and slowly (and gradually) practicing going into situations you fear (to teach yourself, slowly and gradually, that you can manage those situations). You can talk to your Family Doctor about getting a referral to a Clinical Psychologist or another mental health professional to learn to manage your worry. Or, you can also learn more about the Online Therapy Unit Wellbeing Course HERE.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

What is SAD?

Individuals with Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) experience considerable anxiety and fear when in social or performance situations. This extreme anxiety often arises with exposure to unfamiliar people or situations and results in the fear of being scrutinized and judged by others. Individuals with SAD commonly avoid social interactions.

Social Anxiety is more than shyness.

Most people experience some degree of shyness from time to time. But, people with SAD find that it affects their everyday life. So, they may avoid doing things, meeting people, or taking on new challenges or opportunities, because of their fear.

What are the symptoms?

  • People with SAD fear acting in a way which they believe will be embarrassing or humiliating. In addition, people with SAD often fear behaviours that will potentially reveal physical signs of anxiety (e.g. sweating, blushing).
  • When people with SAD face feared social situations, their physical symptoms may take the form of a panic attack (i.e. a discrete period of intense and sudden fear, apprehension or terror, with physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, blushing, trembling, sweating and faintness).
  • People may fear specific aspects of social situations, such as writing or eating in public, using public toilets, or being observed by others at work.
  • People with SAD usually recognize that their fear is unreasonable or excessive
  • While many people show signs of shyness and inhibition in social situations, people with SAD can experience considerable disruption to their daily lives, reducing their quality of life overall. Some individuals with SAD are unable be out in public and experience significant distress when they enter social situations.  
  • People with SAD can experience intense distress as a result of their symptoms, and may have difficulties maintaining their normal routine. They may also experience disruptions in their occupational, academic, and/or social functioning.

Who gets Social Anxiety Disorder?

  • SAD typically develops in adolescence. It is uncommon for SAD to develop after the age of 25
  • SAD is experienced by approximately 3.0% of Canadian adults over a 12-month period

Treatment for Social Anxiety

Social phobia is treatable! The best treatments involve learning about your symptoms, learning how to manage those symptoms, and slowly (and gradually) practicing going into situations you fear (to teach yourself, slowly and gradually, that you can manage those situations). You can talk to your Family Doctor about getting a referral to a Clinical Psychologist or another mental health professional to learn to manage your social phobia. You can also learn more about the Online Therapy Unit Wellbeing Course HERE. 

Panic Disorder

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic Disorder (PD) involves the experience of fearing recurrent and unexpected panic attacks in situations that are of little danger. During a panic attack people experience sudden and strong physical symptoms including a racing heart, hyperventilation, shaking, upset stomach, and thoughts of losing control, going crazy, having a heart attack or dying.

What is panic?

  • Severe panic sensations can happen to anyone.
  • General anxiety tends to involve worrying about future events, whereas panic tends to focus more on the present. It also involves feeling a sense of approaching danger, a fear of losing control, and the perception of helplessness.
  • Panic attacks can be terrifying experiences, often people who have panic attacks will start to avoid places where they might have a panic attack, and where they might also have difficulty getting help. This condition is called "Agoraphobia."

Who gets Panic Disorder?

  • PD usually occurs suddenly when people are in their mid to late twenties. However, children can also develop PD, and it may also emerge later in adulthood.
  • Stressful life events are common at the time when PD first develops.
  • Approximately 1.6% of Canadian adults have PD over a 12 month period, with more women (2.1%) than men (1.1%) being affected.

Treatment for Panic Disorder.

Panic is treatable! The best treatments involve learning about your symptoms, learning how to control those symptoms (using cognitive and behavioural techniques or CBT), and gradually resuming your usual activities. Learning to beat your panic takes courage, commitment, and lots of practice!

You can talk to your Family Doctor about getting a referral to a Clinical Psychologist or another mental health professional to learn to manage your panic. Or, you may be able to try our Online Wellbeing program  HERE.

Specific Phobia

What is Specific Phobia?

A person with a specific phobia (SP) experiences intense anxiety when they are exposed to a particular feared situation or object, which either leads them to avoid the situation/object or face it with intense distress.

What are the symptoms?

  • The experience of intense fear that arises when one anticipates or is exposed to a specific object or situation
  • The distress experienced when exposed to the feared situation/object may take the form of a panic attack (i.e. a discrete period of intense and sudden fear, apprehension or terror, with physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, blushing, trembling, sweating, and faintness)
  • People with SP recognize that their fear is unreasonable or excessive
  • People with SP either experience considerable distress about having the phobia and/or they avoid the feared object/situation. If the feared object/situation cannot be avoided, their normal routine will be significantly disrupted (including work, academic study, relationships, and/or social activities)
  • There are five major SP category types, including: Animal (e.g. spiders, snakes), Natural environment (e.g. heights, storms), Blood-injection-injury (e.g. receiving an injection), Situation (e.g. elevators, enclosed spaces, flying), Other (e.g. fear of vomiting, fear of illness)

Who gets a Specific Phobia?

  • Different types of phobias tend to emerge at different life stages. For example a fear of animals, blood, and water tends to develop in early childhood, whereas a fear of heights tends to develop in adolescence
  • Factors contributing to the development of a specific phobia may include childhood fears that are not resolved, parental modeling, or exposure to a stressful or traumatic situation such as a natural disaster or being bitten by an animal

Treatment for Specific Phobia.

Specific Phobia is treatable! The best treatments involve learning about your symptoms, learning how to control those symptoms (using cognitive and behavioural techniques or CBT), and gradually and safely increasing your exposure to the feared situation or item. Learning to beat your phobia takes courage, commitment, and lots of practice!

You can talk to your Family Doctor about getting a referral to a Clinical Psychologist or another mental health professional to learn to manage your specific phobia. Or, you may be able to try our Online Wellbeing program  HERE.