How many have generalized anxiety disorder?

Psychiatry, psychosomatics & psychotherapy

The main forms are:

  • Panic disorder with or without agoraphobia
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobias

An untreated anxiety disorder can become more and more independent. The result is "fear of fear" (fear of expectation) and places and situations that trigger fear are avoided. As a result, those affected withdraw more and more from life. In addition to the fears and the associated physical symptoms, they suffer from a lack of trust In addition, the patients often torment themselves with difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep and, due to the effects of their illness, often have problems in their partnership or family as well as in their professional life. Sometimes alcohol is misunderstood as a "self-treatment attempt" consumed as it can relieve anxiety in the short term. There is also a danger in the long-term use of sedatives such as benzodiazepines, which are only suitable for short-term use.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder has recurring severe anxiety attacks with severe physical and psychological symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Drowsiness
  • Feeling unsteady, fainting, weak knees, dizziness
  • Palpitations or irregular heartbeat
  • Tremors or tremors
  • sweat
  • Choking, tightness in the throat
  • Nausea, abdominal discomfort
  • Feelings of alienation (feelings of unreality, feelings of not being there)
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Chest pain, pressure, or tightness
  • Fear of dying
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of going insane
  • Numbness or tingling sensations

An attack can last a few minutes and in extreme cases a few hours - but most panic attacks do not last longer than 30 minutes. The frequency of the attacks can vary from several times a day to monthly. Patients sometimes live in constant fear of the next attack. It is not uncommon for them to present themselves to the emergency department of a hospital or often go from doctor to doctor because they fear the existence of a life-threatening illness such as a heart attack.

Panic attacks can come as a complete surprise, for example while you are quietly in front of the television. But they can also be triggered in certain situations. In about two thirds of the cases, the panic disorder is associated with agoraphobia (also called claustrophobia); the person concerned has fear in certain situations or places and avoids them. Mostly these are places where it would be difficult to get a doctor, or situations where you fear not getting out fast enough or cause embarrassment if you need help with a panic attack:

  • Crowds
  • public places
  • Travel long distances from home
  • travel alone,
  • standing in line
  • Take the elevator, bus or car
  • fly in an airplane

In severe cases, those affected can hardly leave their safe, familiar environment alone and are tied to the house.

Women are twice as likely to develop panic disorders as men. Around 2 to 3 percent of the population suffer from this anxiety disorder. Most patients develop symptoms between the ages of 20 and 30. It is most pronounced in the mid-30s; symptoms often disappear after the age of 45.

Generalized anxiety disorder

The main symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder is persistent worry or fear that encompasses many areas of life and is not limited to specific situations. The fear can appear for no reason. Often, however, those affected are also concerned about real threats, such as car accidents or illnesses that could happen to relatives; their fear is unrealistically exaggerated. The patients are internally restless, tense, nervous and often have trouble sleeping. An important characteristic is the feeling of an approaching disaster. Anxiety symptoms do not - as with panic disorder - all appear at the same time in the form of a sudden attack of anxiety, but rather individually and spread over the day:

  • Racing heart
  • Tremble
  • restlessness
  • sweat
  • cold and clammy hands
  • Dry mouth
  • nausea
  • "Lump feeling" in the throat
  • Muscle tension in the back

The worries lead patients to avoid or postpone things, such as travel. Differentiating it from depression is often difficult.
Generalized anxiety disorder is more common in women. Around 4 to 6 percent of the population suffer from this anxiety disorder. It usually begins around the age of 30 and can also persist in old age.

Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)

Social phobia is an extreme form of shyness. People with a social phobia are afraid in situations in which they feel viewed critically or observed by others:

  • To be in a situation where everyone is staring at you, giving a speech, reciting a poem, or singing a song in front of others
  • report to a class or write something on the board
  • take an exam
  • go to a government agency or a doctor
  • speak to a supervisor
  • assert oneself in a dispute over others
  • eat in a restaurant
  • talking on the phone in the presence of other people
  • speak to a stranger
  • meet for an appointment
  • to get to know a woman / a man

People with a social phobia therefore avoid such situations. When faced with such situations, they suffer from blushing, tremors, fear of vomiting, or urgency to use the toilet.

Around seven percent of the population are affected by social phobia. The anxiety disorder usually begins insidiously in childhood or adolescence. The worst are social fears between the ages of 20 and 35; after that they can often improve.

Specific phobias

In the case of specific phobias, fear is caused by individual objects or situations that are usually harmless or harmless. This includes fear of animals (dogs, cats, mice), insects such as wasps, spiders, height phobia and blood and injury phobias (e.g. fear of syringes). The very thought of the relevant situations or objects causes fear, which can range from slight discomfort to panic fear. That other people do not mind the same situation does not alleviate the fear of those affected. Often times, patients know they are overreacting and feel ashamed of it.

Women are more likely to suffer from phobias than men. 75 to 90 percent of patients with animal phobias and 55 to 70 percent of patients with phobias of blood or injury are female.