1. Panic disorders
Panic attacks can be experienced completely out of the blue or as a response to particular situations. They are usually short-lived and may include symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and palpitations. Sufferers may feel as though they are about to die, collapse or faint. They may also feel separated from reality (de-realisation) whereby they feel depersonalised.
2. Generalised anxiety disorders
Sometimes known as ‘free-floating anxiety’, this form does not seem attributable to a particular stimulus, and consequently this is what distinguishes it from other forms of anxiety. The symptoms include tension, worry and apprehension.
These involve an intense fear or avoidance of particular objects or situations that is disproportionate to any real threat that may be posed. Such phobias are often categorised into social phobias (e.g. fear of open spaces) and simple phobias (e.g. fear of spiders).
4/ Obsessive-compulsive disorders
This is where recurrent obsessions or compulsions are sufficiently severe to cause marked distress, be time-consuming, and significantly interfere with a person’s routine, occupational functioning, or with social activities and relationships with others. Obsessions are the persistent ideas, thoughts or impulses that are seemingly intrusive and senseless, whilst compulsions refer to the behavioural component and are repetitive, purposeful and intentional.
5/ Post-traumatic stress disorder
PTSD may evolve through a single traumatic event or stressor. Symptoms include persistent re- experiencing of the event (through dreams, thoughts, images), avoidance of reminders of the event (inability to recall important aspects of the event), numbing of responsiveness (detachment), and increased arousal (difficulty concentrating). Normally these symptoms need to last in excess of a month to meet this classification.
Sometimes clients present with what is known as ‘somatisation disorder’. This is where they have the physical symptoms but there is no known organic basis. It is quite unusual, but not rare. This is not to be confused with hypochondriasis where the individual believes or fears that they have a specific disease or illness.
Since there can be much overlap between these different categories the counsellor may need to conduct extensive research to get a clear understanding of the client’s condition.