How you can identify an anxiety disorder

Anxiety is a normal reaction, however, it becomes a problem when it becomes constant, pervasive and interferes with our daily functioning.

The symptoms of an anxiety disorder include emotional (uneasiness and irritability), physical (palpitations, chest pain, muscle tension, headaches, nausea and faintness), and behavioural (avoidance of certain places, situations or objects). Ref: Anxiety Disorders Kit.

Anxiety disorders may include:

Panic disorder is an illness where panic attacks are experienced. The symptoms include breathing difficulties, heart palpitations, chest pains, dizziness, sweating, trembling, fear of dying or losing control and fear of choking.

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder where there is fear of leaving familiar surroundings. A person may be reluctant to travel or be in a crowded place.

The symptoms may be similar to that of a panic attack. In addition there may be feelings of depression, loss of self-esteem and self-confidence, frustration and anger with oneself.

In Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), there is unrealistic and excessive worry about finances, health, work and/or relationships.


Symptoms include increased blood pressure, feelings of fear and apprehension, restlessness, startling easily, sleep difficulties, frequent urination, muscle tension, irritability.

A person with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has constant and unwanted thoughts, which result in certain rituals to control or stop them: eg: washing hands constantly, wiping a seat before sitting.

People, who suffer from OCD, have obsessions which are intrusive and disturbing thoughts that they cannot control. Compulsions are repetitive, distressing purposeful physical behaviours relating to the thoughts.

People with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may have witnessed or a victim of trauma such as abuse, torture, vehicle accidents, fire and may continue to have nightmares of flashbacks.

Symptoms may be in the form of intrusions like nightmares and flashbacks that disturb sleep and normal activities of life.

Hyperalertness is increased sensitivity to being touched, sudden appearance of a person or phone ringing. Avoidance of places can occur. The person’s relationships are adversely affected.

Social phobia is a fear that others will judge you in a negative way. The person may avoid eating, speaking or writing in front of others. Symptoms include intense fear, racing heart, trembling, muscle twitches.

The good news is that this is a treatable condition. An assessment is made by a psychologist or psychiatrist and treatment commences. Treatment consists of therapy and possibly medication.