Anxiety: What You Must Know
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Anxiety is a defined as “several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. These disorders affect how we feel and behave, and they can manifest real physical symptoms. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating, having a serious impact on daily life.” However, anxiety is more than being nervous.
Anxiety comes with feeling a feeling of overwhelm with cyclically panicked thoughts and physical symptoms such as racing heart and even feeling like you are having a heart attack, going crazy, or on the verge of passing out. Those with anxiety often not only feel nervous – they feel an extreme apprehension about what the future holds. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV, anxiety disorders can be classified into several more specific types.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is defined as a chronic disorder characterized by excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worry about nonspecific life events, objects, and situations. There may be specific fears or a general sense of anxiety and being overwhelmed on a daily basis, and the feeling is generally unrealistic to when examined with the facts of the situation. GAD can interfere with a variety of life domains such as work, school, social activities, and relationships.
Panic Disorder is characterized by sudden attacks of physical and emotional upheaval. A person with panic disorder may experience difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea, racing heart, feeling like they will pass out, fear of having a heart attack. A panic attack can last for a several hours. A panic attack may lead an individual to be acutely aware of any change in normal body function, interpreting it as a life threatening illness - hypervigiliance followed by hypochondriasis. In addition, panic attacks lead a sufferer to expect future attacks, which may cause drastic behavioral changes in order to avoid these attacks.
A Phobia is characterized by an irrational fear and avoidance of an object or situation - This is different from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, because there is a specific situation or stimulus that is triggering the response. People may have phobias that range from an irrational fear of spiders to styrofoam - There are thousands of names for thousands of phobias. Although people with phobias often realize that their fear is unrealistic, they feel that they cannot stop the level of panic they feel about the stimulus when they see it or think about it. For example, agoraphobia occurs when one avoids a place or situation to avoid an anxiety or panic attack. Agoraphobics will situate themselves so that escape will not be difficult or embarrassing, and they will change their behavior to reduce anxiety about being able to escape.
Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by a fear of being in public, around others, or being negatively judged by others. There is usually a very strong fear of public embarrassment or humiliation. This disorder can cause people to avoid public situations and human contact to the point that normal life is rendered impossible.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by being compelled to relieve racing thoughts or beliefs through repetitive behaviors. We call the thoughts obsessions and behaviors compulsion. OCD can involve washing hands in a sequence 10 times a day, checking door-locks, hoarding meaningless junk, and repeating seemingly meaningless behaviors in a repeatative manner - A strong component of numbers, sequence, order, and counting may be involved with some forms of OCD.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often results from being the witness or victim of a traumatic event. PTSD could result from the experience or witnessing of intense military combat, rape, hostage situations, or a serious accident. PTSD often leads to flashbacks and behavioral changes in order to avoid certain stimuli, and treating the disorder is often extremely difficult, because a person with PTSD lives in a state of high-alert, constantly ready for a potentially life-threatening event. MDMA (also known as "Ecstacy") was origionally used as a psychotherapeutic medication when it was first developed, but it was outlawed once recreational users began to abuse the substance outside of medical environments. However, MDMA has been re-evaluated and is considered to be a potentially effective treatment for PTSD - Perhaps more effective than any other SSRI antidepressant on the market at this time.
Separation Anxiety Disorder is characterized by high levels of anxiety when separated from a person or place that provides feelings of security or safety. This is most commonly seen in infants, toddlers and young children. It can laso happen in adult relationships if one person is fearful of losing their significant other.
What Causes Anxiety?
“Research has shown that people with abnormal levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain are more likely to suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. When neurotransmitters are not working properly, the brain's internal communication network breaks down, and the brain may react in an inappropriate way in some situations. This can lead to anxiety.” according to C. Crosta.
How is anxiety diagnosed?
A psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, or other mental-health professional uses the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV usually enlisted to diagnose anxiety and identify the causes of it. The diagnosis is based on meeting specific criteria. An example is :
To be diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a person must:
To be diagnosed with GAD, symptoms must be present more often than not for six months and they must interfere with daily living, causing the sufferer to miss work or school. If the focus of the anxiety and worry is confined to a particular anxiety disorder, GAD will not be the diagnosis. For example, a physician may diagnose panic disorder if the anxiety is focused on worrying about having a panic attack, social phobia if worrying about being embarrassed in public, separation anxiety disorder if worrying about being away from home or relatives, anorexia nervosa if worrying about gaining weight, or hypochondriasis if worrying about having a serious illness.
Patients with anxiety disorder often present symptoms similar to clinical depression and vice-versa. It is rare for a patient to exhibit symptoms of only one of these. People with anxiety disorders present a variety of physical symptoms in addition to non-physical symptoms that characterize the disorders such as excessive, unrealistic worrying. Many of these symptoms are similar to those exhibited by a person suffering general illness, heart attack, or stroke, and this tends to further increase anxiety. The following is a list of physical symptoms associated with GAD:
A standard method of treating anxiety is with psychological counseling. This can include cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, or a combination of therapies. As a therapist, I have worked with many anxiety disorder clients. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) along with medication (when needed) has proven to be the most successful approach to treating anxiety disorders.
How is anxiety prevented?
There are many things that can be done to prevent Although anxiety disorders cannot be prevented, there are ways to reduce your risk and methods to control or lessen symptoms. Recommendations include:
- Kim B. M.S.
I am an unprofessionally, self-diagnosed anxiety sufferer - I am of this new generation of WebMD users, where we skip the visits to the physician and simply seek the diagnosis from a website, because I view it as my responsibility to make informed health decisions. It is a sign of healthy growth to be responsibly informed, right?
My children often chide me when I use the phrase, “Well WebMD says.” In fact my oldest child told me, “Dad, you are going to die from worry, because the description of the symptoms are unsettling enough. If you have more than one you will stress out until you have them all.” How does that saying go, “From the mouths of babes?” I don’t know about that, but I do know that in essence she is accurate.
If I focus on the potential debilitating disease or disorder that I ‘might’ have, I will ultimately begin to worry. When I worry too much, it becomes anxiety. When I begin to have the symptoms of anxiety, it often feels that it is too late to turn back and my attempts at personal growth are buried.
This brings to mind a question. Is my anxiety real or just a creation of my imagination? I am not speaking for everyone with an anxiety condition or disorder. I certainly believe that there are anxiety sufferers and I do not want to make lite of their condition or suffering.
I am asking this question for myself because I obsess about many things, and my obsessions can lead me to worry - If I place the attention of my obsessive thinking mind on a fearful thought, the fear will naturally grow and evolve. I often have phobia-type reactions, and I have trouble sleeping, and sometimes have difficulty concentrating on the tasks at hand. My wife calls me out for being irritable more than I want to admit, and my muscles seem to ache with little to no physical activity. I believe I have an anxiety problem, but I have tried to blame it on the natural progression of my life - Also known as getting older.
It alarms me that my anxiety has or can have such a significant impact on one's life and the lives of those around me, and I have desperately tried to live my life without negatively impacting those I may come into contact with. However, I am afraid that it has happened.
I wanted with all my heart and all my being to become, or be, a positive influence on as many people as I possibly could, and I feel like I have indeed done that for some. However, my compulsion with trying to be a positive influence has had a negative impact on those closest to me.
They have been behind the scenes and witnessed the difficulties and challenges that come with my desire to help others - In reality they appreciate it, but why would they desire that lifestyle for themselves? It is not an easy path to personal growth and enrichment, and some people prefer to take the easier path.
Crosta, C. (n.d.). Retrieved January 8, 2015, from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/anxiety/anxiety-treatments.php