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Anxiety

Anxiety is a general term for 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.

People often experience a general state of worry or fear before confronting something challenging such as a test, examination, recital, or interview or when they have a problem at work or in a relationship. These feelings are easily justified and considered normal. Anxiety is considered a problem when symptoms interfere with a person’s ability to sleep or otherwise function. Generally speaking, anxiety occurs when a reaction is out of proportion with what might be normally expected in a situation.

“We have to get the word out that mental illnesses can be diagnosed and treated, and almost everyone suffering from mental illness can live more normal lives.” – Rosalynn Carter (Former first lady of the US)

An anxiety disorder is a serious mental illness and can be classified into different types.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)is a chronic disorder characterized by excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worry about nonspecific life events, objects, and situations. GAD sufferers often feel afraid and worry about health, money, family, work, or school, but they have trouble both identifying the specific fear and controlling the worries. Their fear is usually unrealistic or out of proportion with what may be expected in their situation. Sufferers expect failure and disaster to the point that it interferes with daily functions like work, school, social activities, and relationships.This disorder involves excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to provoke the anxiety.

Panic Disorder is a type of anxiety characterized by brief or sudden attacks of intense terror and apprehension that leads to shaking, confusion, dizziness, sweating, nausea, chest pain, palpitations (irregular heartbeats), difficulty breathing and a feeling of choking. These may make a person feel like he or she is having a heart attack or “going crazy.”Panic attacks tend to arise abruptly and peak after 10 minutes, but they then may last for hours. Panic disorders usually occur after frightening experiences or prolonged stress, but they can be spontaneous as well. 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 – hyper vigilance 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.

Phobia is an irrational fear and avoidance of an object or situation. Phobias are different from generalized anxiety disorders because a phobia has a fear response identified with a specific cause. The fear may be acknowledged as irrational or unnecessary, but the person is still unable to control the anxiety that results. A specific phobia is an intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as snakes, heights, or flying. The level of fear is usually inappropriate to the situation and may cause the person to avoid common, everyday situations.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 a type of social phobia characterized by a fear of being negatively judged by others or a fear of public embarrassment due to impulsive actions. This includes feelings such as stage fright, a fear of intimacy, and a fear of 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 an anxiety disorder characterized by thoughts or actions that are repetitive, distressing, and intrusive. OCD sufferers usually know that their compulsions are unreasonable or irrational, but they serve to alleviate their anxiety. Often, the logic of someone with OCD will appear superstitious, such as an insistence in walking in a certain pattern. OCD sufferers may obsessively clean personal items or hands due to an unreasonable fear of germs or constantly check locks, stoves, or light switches.The disturbing thoughts are called obsessions, and the rituals are called compulsions.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is anxiety that results from previous trauma and/or terrifying event such as military combat, rape, hostage situations, unexpected death of a loved one, a natural disaster or a serious accident. PTSD often leads to flashbacks and behavioral changes in order to avoid certain stimuli.People with PTSD often have lasting and frightening thoughts and memories of the event and tend to be emotionally numb.

Separation Anxiety Disorder is characterized by high levels of anxiety when separated from a person or place that provides feelings of security or safety. Sometimes separation results in panic, and it is considered a disorder when the response is excessive or inappropriate.

Three simple things to decrease the risk of developing depression and anxiety, or to help relieve the conditions:

  1. Connect to others. When we start to feel down or depressed, we tend to want to isolate ourselves. This makes the depressed feelings worse. Human beings are built for social connection and community. Seek out social connections that are positive and nurturing to you.
  2. Seek out meaning and purpose. Focus on activities and relationships that give your life meaning and purpose. It is easy to restrict your life to things that are easy and meaningless like TV. When you don’t feel good, you start to believe that doing something meaningful would take too much energy; but the truth is, the less you do, the more tired and worn-out you feel.
  3. Give to others. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the more you give to others the better you feel. This doesn’t work well if the people you give to are the ones closest to you because we can’t help but to hope for something in return. But, if we reach out to others who are suffering or give our time to the less fortunate, then we feel the benefits of giving and often our mood will improve.

Treatment for Anxiety disorders

Treatment approach depends on the type of disorder,however one or a combination of the following therapies may be used for most anxiety disorders:

Medication: Drugs used to reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders include anti-depressants and anxiety-reducing drugs.

Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy (a type of counseling) addresses the emotional response to mental illness. It is a process in which trained mental health professionals help people by talking through strategies for understanding and dealing with their disorder.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy: People suffering from anxiety disorders often participate in this type of psychotherapy in which the person learns to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome feelings.

Dietary and lifestyle changes

Relaxation therapy

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