First and foremost, anxiety is built into our primate origins as a warning system. Imagine never being anxious or nervous: how would you know how to take care of yourself?
How anxiety affects performance
What are the different types of Anxiety?
Anxiety can manifest itself in a number of different forms and each one is characterised by a particular type of fear. Some of the most common ones are:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) – People with GAD report excessive worry about non-specific life events such as health, finances, work, or relationships. The amount of worry is normally out of proportion to the actual danger.
Health anxiety – People with health anxiety are preoccupied with having or acquiring a serious illness. They frequently seek reassurance about their health but fail to feel reassured.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – A person with OCD might have thoughts or images which are intrusive (obsessions), and may feel compelled to carry out actions to relieve the accompanying anxiety (compulsions).
Panic attacks and panic disorder – People who suffer from panic experience sudden feelings of terror and doom which may seem to occur ‘out of the blue’. Attacks are typically fairly short-lived but can be re-triggered and last for longer periods.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – PTSD follows a traumatic life event where the individual felt that their life or bodily integrity was in danger, or witnessed something similar. As well as an ongoing sense of threat that lasts beyond the end of the actual danger, PTSD is accompanied by vivid memories of the event replaying in the person’s mind.
Social anxiety disorder (Social phobia) – People with social phobia are afraid that other people will think badly of them (fear of negative evaluation) and so they take steps to prevent this from happening.
Specific phobia People with a phobia are afraid of a specific object, animal, or situation. They might know that their fear is irrational or out of proportion, but will nevertheless try to avoid the feared object or situation.
So what triggers it?
If a person is already in an anxious state, one stressful life event might be all it takes to trigger an anxiety disorder. The top life stressors are:
- Death of a loved one
- Divorce or separation
- Getting married
- Relational abuse or conflict
- Loss of a job
- Serious illness or injury