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Helpful tips from mind tools

What Are the Six Types of Anxiety Disorders?

Here are the six most common types of anxiety disorders:

  1. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD causes people to have obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. They feel anxious until they've responded in a particular way, and often need to carry out complex physical or mental routines to do so. Family history, personality traits, and differences in the brain, are all believed to be causes of OCD. In some cases, it can be triggered by a particularly stressful life event.

  2. Panic Disorder: you might have a panic disorder if you experience panic attacks (also called anxiety attacks). These can seem to come from nowhere, and can last for several minutes. Classic symptoms of a panic attack include a sense of doom, sweating, dizziness, chest pain, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath.

  3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): this is a serious condition that commonly occurs when you've witnessed or experienced a disaster or traumatic event , or you've been in a situation where your life or health was threatened. People with PTSD often experience flashbacks and can also have trouble sleeping. They may find it hard to concentrate, or feel constantly alert and on edge.

  4. Social Anxiety Disorder: this is not just extreme shyness, but a deep fear or concern of being judged by others, of performing, or of embarrassing yourself.

  5. Specific Phobias: suffering from a phobia is also a form of anxiety disorder. You have a phobia when you're excessively frightened or anxious about a specific object, place or situation, and you go out of your way to avoid it.

  6. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): if you've experienced anxiety regularly for six months or more, you may have GAD. People with this condition consistently expect the worst to happen, even when there's little or no reason to be concerned. They’re particularly susceptible to common worries such as those about family, work and money. Even when something is resolved, a new worry can quickly fill its place. People with GAD often struggle to recall the last time they didn't feel anxious.

What Is the Best Way to Deal With Anxiety?

Each of the anxiety disorders above has its own range of therapies and coping strategies. Many forms of anxiety can be successfully treated with psychological therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), cognitive restructuring or with medication.

There are also various techniques for managing some of the common symptoms of anxiety. These can be helpful when you're going through worrying times, at home or work, or facing particular challenges that make you anxious. Here are six strategies that you can try:

1. Identify Sources of Stress

Stress, particularly long-term stress, is strongly linked to anxiety. To tackle it, a good place to start is the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale . This tool allows you to analyze the sources of stress in your life.

Another approach is to start keeping a stress diary . Every day, write down the stresses that you experience, and record any anxious thoughts that you have. After a few days, read your diary and explore possible causes and triggers.

Once you've identified specific sources of stress and anxiety, you can take steps to avoid them – or at least to manage your feelings toward them. Knowing the triggers should also help you to discuss them with others and seek support when required.

2. Exercise More

Studies show that regular exercise can help to reduce anxiety and build your tolerance for stress. Look for opportunities to fit exercise into your day in many ways, as even small amounts of exercise can have a positive effect on anxious thoughts and feelings.

Yoga can be especially useful for managing anxiety, since it helps to slow and focus your breathing, and can give you more control over your body and mind.

3. Watch What You Eat

You can often lessen your anxiety by reducing or avoiding certain foods and drinks. For example, consider limiting your intake of caffeine, alcohol, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate.

Watching what you eat also means eating a healthy, balanced diet, not skipping meals, and staying hydrated throughout the day.

4. Use Relaxation Techniques

You can use deep breathing exercises to control your stress and anxiety. Deep breathing is especially effective for managing short-term anxiety. If you begin to feel anxious, try taking 10 or 20 slow, deep breaths to calm down. Breathe in as deeply as you can, hold the air in your lungs for several seconds, and let each breath out slowly.

Other effective relaxation techniques include centering , meditation and mindfulness .

5. Think Positively

Often, anxious episodes are preceded by self-sabotaging thoughts or behaviors . Before leading a meeting, for example, you might start imagining it getting out of control, and worry that you're going to look bad in front of your team.

To help with this, write down any negative thoughts as soon as they arise. Then, note down the exact opposites of those thoughts. For example, before your meeting, you could write, "I'm a confident and organized leader, and the people I work with respect me."

As you write out these positive affirmations , start to visualize successful outcomes – both what you hope to happen, and how you want to feel. Mentally rehearsing your meeting like this should relax your mind and body, and help to keep your anxiety under control.

6. Get More Organized

Poor organization can be a serious source of stress and anxiety. If this is the case with you, you'll likely benefit from learning good time-management skills.

Make sure that you manage your daily tasks and responsibilities effectively. Consider using a simple time-management technique, such as a To-Do List , or explore more in-depth tools, such as Action Programs .

A calm and organized working environment should also help you to feel more in control.

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