Clinical Depression, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder

Clinical Depression

Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.1

Depression affects people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms. They range from lasting feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness, to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling very tearful. Many people with depression also have symptoms of anxiety. There can be physical symptoms too, such as feeling constantly tired, sleeping badly, having no appetite or sex drive, and various aches and pains.1

In its most severe forms, depression appears to be a chemical imbalance that may occur at any time, even when life is going well.2 As depressive disorders become more severe, all the features in depressive episode occur with greater intensity. There is complete loss of function in social and occupational spheres.2

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

GAD is a common condition, estimated to affect up to 5% of the UK population. Slightly more women are affected than men, and the condition is more common in people from the ages of 35 to 59.3

The exact cause of GAD isn’t fully understood, although it’s likely that a combination of several factors plays a role. Research has suggested that these may include3:

  • overactivity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour
  • an imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline, which are involved in the control and regulation of mood
  • the genes you inherit from your parents – you’re 5 times more likely to develop GAD if a close relative has the condition
  • having a history of stressful or traumatic experiences, such as domestic violence, child abuse or bullying
  • having a painful long-term health condition, such as arthritis
  • having a history of drug or alcohol misuse

However, many people develop GAD for no apparent reason.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

SAD, also called social phobia, is a long-lasting and overwhelming fear of social situations.4

You may have social anxiety if you:4

  • dread everyday activities, such as meeting strangers, starting conversations, speaking on the phone, working or shopping
  • avoid or worry a lot about social activities, such as group conversations, eating with company, and parties
  • always worry about doing something you think is embarrassing, such as blushing, sweating or appearing incompetent
  • find it difficult to do things when others are watching – you may feel like you’re being watched and judged all the time
  • fear criticism, avoid eye contact or have low self-esteem
  • often have symptoms such as feeling sick, sweating, trembling or a pounding heartbeat (palpitations)
  • have panic attacks (where you have an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety, usually only for a few minutes)

Panic disorder (with and without agoraphobia)

Panic attacks are a type of fear response. They’re an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to danger, stress or excitement.5

During a panic attack, physical symptoms can build up very quickly. These can include5:

  • a pounding or racing heartbeat
  • feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
  • feeling very hot or very cold
  • sweating, trembling or shaking
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • pain in your chest or abdomen
  • struggling to breathe or feeling like you’re choking
  • feeling like your legs are shaky or are turning to jelly
  • feeling disconnected from your mind, body or surroundings

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder where you regularly have sudden attacks of panic or fear.6

As with many mental health conditions, the exact cause of panic disorder isn’t fully understood. But it’s thought the condition is probably linked to a combination of things, including:6

  • a traumatic or very stressful life experience, such as bereavement
  • having a close family member with the disorder
  • an imbalance of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain.
1) NHS. Clinical Depression. (accessed February 2022). 2) Depression-guide (accessed February 2022). 3) NHS. Generalised anxiety disorder in adults. (accessed February 2022). 4)NHS Social Anxiety. (accessed February 2022). 5)MIND. Anxiety and panic attacks (accessed February 2022) 6) NHS Panic Disorder (accessed February 2022)

Mental Health Disorder Resources

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Revision reference – Vencarm XL_12_01.02.2024