Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics and is considered excessive in relation to the situation.  Individuals with GAD typically worry about everyday life concerns, such as finances, health, and family.  The worry is often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as feeling tense, difficulty sleeping, muscle tension, concentration problems, and/or feeling worn out and fatigued.  GAD can often be mistaken as OCD due to the "obsessive" nature of the thoughts.  The difference, however, is that in GAD, the concerns are about a variety of different topics, whereas in OCD, individuals worry about a specific range of concerns.  GAD is also not typically associated with rituals/compulsions. 

Panic Disorder is characterized by recurrent unexpected panic attacks and a persistent concern about having additional attacks.  Individuals suffering from panic typically worry about the implications of the attack or its consequences (e.g., loosing control, having a heart attack, "going crazy") and alter their behavior related to the fear of experiencing another attack.  To learn more about panic disorder, click here.


A simple or specific phobia is an irrational fear of a specific situation, place, object, or animal that causes the individual distress.  The individual's avoidance of the situation or thing can lead to difficulties in the person's ability to live his/herdaily life, even leading to interference with occupational or relationships.  For example, a person's with a fear of heights may be unable to accept a job in a high rise office building.  Common fears include: dogs, spiders, snakes, elevators, bridges, tunnels, airplanes, thunder/lightning, heights, vomiting, the dentist, blood, injection, and medical appointments are all common phobias. Many individuals are fearful of these situations, but in order to receive a diagnosis of a phobia, the fear has to be persistant and lead to significant interference in one's life. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder develops after an individual is exposed to a life threatening event that includes threatened or actual, injury or death. This stressor can be a direct personal experience of trauma such as military combat, rape, robbery or mugging, terrorist attack, natural disasters, physical assault, or car accident, but it also includes indirect traumatic experiences such as witnessing a severe trauma, or learning about the violent death, injury, or threat of death or injury, of someone who is very close, such as a family member or friend. Symptoms usually begin within 3 months of the original stressor, but in some cases there may be a delay of several months or even several years. In children, sexual trauma does not necessarily have to include violence in order to constitute a traumatic event. To be diagnosed with PTSD, the person must meet the following criteria: (1) constant re-experiencing of the event via recurrent thoughts, or dreams; (2) avoidance of anything that is a reminder of the event and an overall sense of numbness and detachment; (3) symptoms of constant physiological arousal including sleep problems, lack of concentration, anger outbursts, or an exaggerated startle response.
The main feature of Social Phobia is a persistent and uncontrollable fear of social situations, including situations where one is expected to perform. People with this disorder have an irrational fear that they will be embarrassed, scrutinized, judged, or humiliated in public. Speaking in public, eating in public, using public lavatories, or virtually any other activity that might be carried out in the presence of others can elicit extreme anxiety. When exposed to these situations, these individuals are likely to experience extreme levels of anxiety or panic attacks. Social Phobia is diagnosed only if the fear intrudes in the social or occupational functioning of the individual.  To learn more about social phobia, click here.