The two anxiety disorders : how to recognise them ?

Social anxiety disorder and generalised anxiety disorder are very real obstacles in everyday life. It is very important to understand how they manifest themselves and to learn how to recognise them. Let's take a closer look at these two psychological disorders, which can seriously hamper the well-being of those affected.

Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is characterised by anxiety about certain social situations. These situations are very often avoided or experienced with enormous suffering by people suffering from this disorder... Some adults were shy as children, but others had no symptoms until puberty. Around 13 % of people suffer from it at some point in their lives, including 9 % of women and 7 % of men (over a one-year period). It is a treatable disorder, unless it is the result of another pathology (this is known as co-morbidity).

A person with this mental disorder worries about their actions, fearing that they may seem inappropriate. They are afraid that their anxiety will be obvious (for example, by sweating, blushing, vomiting, trembling or speaking in a shaky or sobbing voice), but they are also afraid of losing their train of thought or not being able to find their words. Situations that can cause anxiety include: speaking in public, doing something in public, eating with other people, meeting strangers, holding a conversation, signing a document in front of witnesses, going to a public toilet, etc.

The diagnosis of social phobia is based on the fact that the anxiety must be intense and present for at least 6 months, relates to one or more social situations, occurs - almost - always in the same situation(s), involves fear of negative judgement by others, leads to avoidance of situations or to enduring them with great discomfort. Social anxiety is out of all proportion to the real danger, causes significant suffering or considerably hinders a person's ability to function. It is an extremely tiring disorder, as sufferers think and reflect a great deal in every situation. Stress, while powerful, is also very energy-consuming.

It's important, when you're around people with anxiety disorders, to be patient and try to understand them.

Generalised anxiety disorder

Generalised anxiety disorder is a widespread, almost permanent, persistent, irrational anxiety that affects most everyday situations (unlike phobic disorders such as social anxiety disorder, which, as its name suggests, only affects social situations). It is an anxiety that is impossible to control and a source of suffering for sufferers: a real handicap in everyday life, requiring psychotherapeutic care.

GAD can be accompanied by a variety of symptoms, which vary from person to person, such as heart palpitations, muscle tension, a feeling of suffocation, sweating, hot or cold flushes, a feeling of a lump in the throat or stomach, insomnia and so on. It can lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and affects between 5 % and 8 % of the population, twice as many women, especially after the age of 40 (when 1 in 10 women are affected).

As I explained above, there is no one specific situation that causes stress. Generalised anxiety disorder can be caused by several factors or a combination of factors, including biological, hereditary, individual or even environmental factors. This disorder can be treated with cognitive and behavioural therapies, self-help therapies, analytical psychotherapies or medication. It's important not to be alone when faced with this disorder, and to dare to see a psychiatrist. Daily stress is very harmful to the body.

The two anxiety disorders : how to recognise them ?
Capra Pyrenaica 1 January 2024
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