Understanding Anxiety

Understanding Anxiety
Photo Credit: BsWei / iStockPhoto.com
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Further Understanding to Improve Anxiety Management

Anxiety affects large amounts of people worldwide, and can result in feelings of isolation. The term ‘anxiety’ is often used to apply to more than one disorder, and as an umbrella diagnosis for several different types of anxiety. Some examples of conditions that would fall under the anxiety diagnosis include (but are not limited to):

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Phobias

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

If you are diagnosed with GAD, you are likely to feel a constant, or almost constant, sense of worry. Rather than the anxiety being limited to one specific event, situation or issue as it may be with other kinds of anxiety, GAD involves feelings of unease and panic about almost everything for long and extended periods of time.

Panic Disorder

If you have panic disorder, it is likely you have frequent panic attacks, usually between a couple of times a month to several times a week. Panic attacks include (but are not limited to) symptoms such as a tightening of the chest and a shortening of breath, a sensation of an irregular heartbeat, sweating and shaking, dizziness and an overall feeling of dread.

Panic attacks can be unpredictable, and there may or may not be an event or trigger to set them off (although sometimes there is a catalyst).

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD usually involves flashbacks of the event(s) that triggered the disorder, and often one experiences a sense of reliving the event(s), nightmares and panic attacks, and feelings of severe anxiety.

It is also common to feel constantly alert or on edge, and this may result in extreme precautions to avoid anything that will remind you of the trigger.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

If you have OCD, you are likely to experience frequent intrusive thoughts you find distressing, and may have compulsions (also known as rituals) associated with these thoughts.

It may be that these compulsive behaviors calm your mind and stop these intrusive thoughts, or they may be physical compulsions that you cannot stop. Often these intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors can have a significant negative impact on your daily life.

Social Anxiety Disorder

People with social anxiety disorder feel very nervous, agitated and on edge in social situations, or even at the prospect of them, and may take extreme measures to avoid these situations. If you have social anxiety you may suffer panic attacks in social situations, or even in the time period leading up to any social situation.

Specific Phobias

Phobias can be related to absolutely anything, and produce feelings of high anxiety and panic if you come across or experience any situation or event you are afraid of, and may experience anxiety and/or panic even at the thought of such situations.

Phobias can be extremely debilitating; for example, agoraphobia (a fear of going outside/leaving the house) can prevent you from leading a normal life, as you would be unable to go to work or socialize.

There are many ways you can help these symptoms, and you may find some of the following ideas helpful in alleviating your feelings:

Medication

Although medication may seem like a scary concept, if approached correctly it can be vitally important in improving your life if you have an anxiety disorder. Some examples of medication used to treat the symptoms of anxiety include benzodiazepines such as Xanax, beta-blockers, and antidepressants such as Zoloft.

Therapy

One version of therapy used to treat the symptoms listed in this article (and other related symptoms) is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is based around the idea of recognizing a negative thought pattern or behavior, and taking steps to address the behavior pattern.

Over time, this will eventually produce a more positive outcome and replace the negative thought or behavior. It may also be beneficial for you to engage in one on one talking therapy (also called counseling) as this can assist you in working through the problems you are facing directly and addressing their root cause, while having the support of a professional to help you work through difficult issues.

Stress

At times it is impossible, however avoiding stress can be extremely helpful in lessening the symptoms of anxiety. For example, if you are faced with a deadline at work and it is causing you to be anxious, you may find it less stressful to break it down into smaller goals. You can then reward yourself at each step.

Groups

Attending groups designed to help those who are experiencing the same kinds of symptoms as you may prove extremely helpful. You will be able to build strong bonds of friendship and support, and may learn new tactics and coping mechanisms to overcome the feelings you are having. This will in turn strengthen your social skills for the future.

A Healthy Lifestyle

It goes without saying that everyone should aim to lead a healthy lifestyle, but this is even more important if you have an anxiety disorder. Taking steps such as eating a balanced diet, learning calming practices (such as meditation or yoga) to channel your feelings, and engaging in regular exercise can be extremely beneficial.

It is also important to avoid street drugs and large amounts of alcohol, as these may exacerbate feelings of anxiety, or even cause symptoms to re-emerge. In addition, street drugs and alcohol are not recommended to take if you are on medication, since drugs and alcohol will lessen the effectiveness of the medication used to help treat your disorder.

Keep Records

Keeping a log of how you are feeling and what may have triggered it can be very useful for people with anxiety. For example, if you have panic disorder you may be able to trace the patterns of when you are affected, and if something you may previously have been unaware of is causing the panic attacks.

This can also be helpful in identifying certain situations that may unknowingly trigger your feelings of anxiety or panic and help you be more mindful of people, places or situations that you may want to avoid if possible.

It is vital to remember you are not alone in the way you are feeling and many others before you have felt the same kinds of symptoms. Hallucinations can be very distressing, and it is important that you alert your medical professionals if you begin to experience them.

Early intervention to help those with a mental health condition such as anxiety has been proven by multiple studies to be extremely useful. In a crisis please visit your local emergency room.