Anxiety- – What it is and What to do
Anxiety can be described as fear of fear: being afraid of feeling the fear we anticipate will occur if we do something. It can also be described as the result of a person’s willingness to face the unknown with no real self support – like falling off a cliff with an umbrella instead of a parachute. There are several kinds of anxiety disorders, some of which are described below. There are also both conventional and non-conventional methods of treating anxiety disorders, including self-help. What works depends on the form of the anxiety and on the person themselves.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety disorder is a chronic disorder that is long-lasting. It is anxiety that is not focused on any one object or situation. Sufferers experience non-specific persistent fear and worry and become overly concerned with everyday matters. It is the most common form of anxiety disorder. It can be a result of a medical or substance abuse problem, and medical professionals must be aware of this.
This type of anxiety disorder occurs when a person experiences attacks of intense terror or apprehension that happen over a short time period, and that can be triggered by stress (either physical or emotional). A panic disorder has chronic consequences that can manifest as worry over the attacks’ potential implications, persistent fear of future attacks, or significant changes in behavior related to the attacks. This can lead to physiological changes, such as increased heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive sweating, and other similar changes that might be interpreted by the person suffering the disorder as the beginnings of a heart attack or some equally serious medical problem.
Phobias are characterized as fear and anxiety that is triggered by specific situations. An incident happens when a person habitually anticipates terrible consequences from an encounter with what they fear, and this overwhelms them.
Agoraphobia is an anxiety about being in a place or situation where escape is difficult or embarrassing and where help may be unavailable. The term agoraphobia is also used to refer to avoidance behaviors that sufferers can develop; E.g., following a panic attack while driving, someone suffering from agoraphobia may develop anxiety over driving and will therefore avoid driving.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
Social anxiety disorder is an intense fear and avoidance of negative public scrutiny, public embarrassment, humiliation, or social interaction. This fear can be specific to particular social situations (such as public speaking) or, more typically, is experienced in most (or all) social interactions. As with other types of anxiety disorders, SAD can manifest specific physical symptoms such as blushing, sweating, and difficulty speaking. As with all phobic disorders, those suffering from social anxiety often will attempt to avoid the source of their anxiety; and in severe cases can lead to social isolation.
Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD)
Obsessive–compulsive disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by repetitive obsessions (distressing, persistent, and intrusive thoughts or images) and compulsions (urges to perform specific acts or rituals). Thought pattern may be likened to superstitions insofar as it involves a belief in causative relationships where none exist.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder which results from a traumatic experience and most often occurs when the stressor is not able to find adequate support around the traumatic event. Post-traumatic stress can result from an extreme situation, such as combat, natural disaster, rape, hostage situations, child abuse, bullying or a serious accident. It can also result from long term (chronic) exposure to a severe stressor, for example soldiers who endure individual battles but cannot cope with continuous combat. Common symptoms include hyper vigilance, flashbacks, avoidant behaviors, anxiety, anger and depression.
Separation anxiety disorder is related to young children, and is the feeling of excessive anxiety over being separated from a person or place. Separation anxiety is a normal part of development in babies, and it is only when this feeling is excessive or inappropriate that it can be considered a disorder.
Childhood anxiety disorders
Children as well as adults experience feelings of anxiety, worry and fear when facing different situations, especially those involving a new experience. It is when anxiety is not temporary and begins to interfere with the child’s normal functioning or does harm to their learning, that the problem may be more than just an ordinary anxiousness. When children suffer from such anxiety their thinking, decision-making ability, perceptions of the environment, learning and concentration get affected. They not only experience fear, nervousness, and shyness but also start avoiding places and activities. Anxiety also raises blood pressure and heart rate and can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, ulcers, diarrhea, tingling, weakness, and shortness of breath. Some other symptoms are frequent self-doubt and self-criticism, irritability, sleep problems and, in extreme cases, thoughts of not wanting to be alive.
Treatment for Anxiety
Over time, unaddressed anxiety can affect a persons emotional and physical balance, and may underlie digestive problems, allergies, and even heart attacks and strokes. Treatment options include medical treatment and counseling. In the early stages, there are things a person can do to help themselves without having to consult a professional. The first thing to do if you are experiencing symptoms such as racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, digestive or bowl problems, nausea, tingling, weakness or shortness of breath is to consult your medical doctor.
Then, examine your lifestyle: if it is unhealthy or stressful you are probably going to feel anxious. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself:
- Is your day filled with work, or do you take time each day to relax and have fun?
- Do you have genuine support in place during times of stress – not chocolate or solitaire, but ways that genuinely help you de-stress and stay in touch with your world, such as deep breathing and short time-out walks?
- Are you living a physically balanced life that includes healthy eating and exercise?
- Do you take on more than you can reasonably handle?
- Can you reach out to others when you need to?
When to seek professional help
If your anxiety and fear have become so great that they are causing severe distress and impacting your daily life, it is time to seek professional help.