Anxiety is a normal human emotion and refers to distress, fear, worry, or panic about a future negative outcome, such as a danger or threat. Anxiety symptoms can include feelings of uneasiness, distress, apprehension or dread. Sometimes we experience physical symptoms of anxiety, such as headaches, stomach upset, tight muscles, or sweating.
A low to moderate degree of anxiety can improve our performance in certain situations. For example, when we realize we need to study for an upcoming test, or when we need to ensure our survival, like when we sense an approaching car as we are about to cross the road.
Anxiety Disorders are typically diagnosed when anxiety is experienced over a long period of time and when symptoms of anxiety interfere with a person’s ability to live a fulfilling life.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves excessive, uncontrollable, worrying and feeling anxious or tense about several events and activities (e.g., work, finances, relationships, health). The difficulties with anxiety must last for at least 6 months.
GAD is more than worry. Most people worry about things from time to time. People with GAD find that their worrying significantly affects their everyday lives. They may try to control their worry by doing things like visiting doctors frequently, asking others for reassurance, over-preparing for potential challenges, reminding others continuously about things, avoiding doing new things, or taking on new challenges or opportunities to avoid worrying about something else.
Individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD; previously called Social Phobia) experience considerable anxiety and fear when in social or performance situations. Their extreme anxiety often arises with exposure to unfamiliar people or situations and results in fears of being scrutinized and judged by others. Individuals with SAD commonly avoid social interactions.
Most people experience some degree of shyness from time to time. But, people with SAD find that it significantly affects their everyday lives. People with SAD often avoid doing things, meeting people, or taking on new challenges or opportunities because of their fear.
Panic Disorder (PD) involves the experience of fearing recurrent and unexpected panic attacks in situations that are of little danger. During a panic attack, people experience sudden and strong physical symptoms including a racing heart, hyperventilation, shaking, and upset stomach, as well as thoughts of losing control, going crazy, having a heart attack, or dying.
A person with a specific phobia (SP) experiences intense anxiety when they are exposed to a particular feared situation or object, which either leads them to avoid the situation/object or faced with intense distress.
Depression is more than having the blues for a little while. The Canadian Mental Health Association describes this condition as “grappling with feelings of severe despair over an extended period of time.” The symptoms of depression include feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, restlessness, and excessive irritability. People with depression also experience disruptions like insomnia, oversleeping, slowed thinking and moving, over- or under-eating, loss of pleasure or interest in activities, recurring thoughts of death or suicide, and sometimes unexplained physical problems, as described by the Mayo Clinic.
Depressive Disorders are typically diagnosed when symptoms of depression cause significant distress or interfere with a person’s ability to live their life in a fulfilling way. Depression is an umbrella term used to cover the spectrum of depressive disorders, including:
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): This type of depression often occurs in the fall or winter months. However, SAD may occur in the summer months. The symptoms are the same as other depressive episodes, but they often occur at the same time each year.
Persistent Depressive Disorder (previously known as Dysthymia): This is a form of depression that includes the same symptoms as a major depressive episode. A person can be diagnosed with Persistent Depressive Disorder when their symptoms are present for 2 years or longer, even if that person does not experience enough depressive symptoms to meet diagnostic criteria for a major depressive episode.
Major Depressive Disorder: This is a common mood disorder that is more serious than occasional feelings of sadness. A person with Major Depressive Disorder will experience 5 or more symptoms associated with depression and these last for a 2-week period or longer. Some of the signs or symptoms associated with Major Depressive Disorder include:
In the context of mental health discussions, traumatic stress often refers to the experiences when a person is exposed to a Psychologically Traumatic Stressor. A psychologically traumatic stressor is a stressor that may cause psychological trauma, which is why such stressors are often referred to as Potentially Psychologically Traumatic. A potentially psychologically traumatic event involves a person experiencing, or believing they are about to experience, one or more potentially psychologically traumatic stressors including, but not limited to, physical or sexual assault, being in a car accident, or sudden death of a loved one.
The phrase Operational Stress Injury (OSI) was developed to decrease the stigma that can be associated with other language (e.g., mental disorder; diagnosis). OSI categorizes mental health problems that result from exposures to potentially psychologically traumatic events as “injuries”. The hope was to help make psychological injuries sustained during operational duties as legitimate as physical injuries. The phrase OSI is often used to reduce stigma and to acknowledge that while Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may occur from exposure to one or more potentially psychologically traumatic events, there are many other disorders that can also occur (e.g., Major Depressive Disorder and Panic Disorder). There were concerns raised that “operational” limited such injuries to symptoms following exposures that occur during active operational duty; as such, the phrase posttraumatic stress injury (PTSI) is now used as an umbrella term that includes OSIs, but PTSI includes exposures across different contexts.
Symptoms of a posttraumatic stress injury (PTSI) may occur immediately after exposure to a potentially psychologically traumatic event, but may also not occur until weeks or even months after the exposure. If symptoms occur following exposure to a potentially psychologically traumatic event, and the symptoms do not improve within a month, we recommended that you seek support.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem wherein a person experiences problematic symptoms after being exposed, directly or indirectly, to an actual or perceived threat against themselves or someone else. Chronic exposure to potentially psychologically traumatic events can have an effect similar to exposure to a potentially psychologically traumatic event. If symptoms occur following exposure to a potentially traumatic event and the symptoms do not improve within a month, persist, increase, or prevent a person from participating in different areas of their life, a diagnosis of PTSD may be appropriate; however, some symptoms that follow exposure to a potentially traumatic event may not indicate PTSD. If you have concerns regarding your mental health, we recommend that you speak with a medical professional, psychologist, or other mental health professional.
According the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), the symptoms of PTSD include the following: