Anxiety is when you feel everything, it’s debilitating and you feel a constant heaviness in your mind. Anxiety feels like your mind is on fire, you overthink everything and your mind is constantly telling you that everything is a disaster even though everything may be fine. It feels like your thoughts are running rampant in a million different directions. Anxiety is a liar.
Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress which can assist us in avoiding situations that threaten our sense of security. Anxiety is a normal response to stress. However, if anxiety starts to occur inappropriately in response to daily events, it can become an anxiety disorder. Somebody with anxiety disorder, is constantly anticipating disaster and may have trouble coping with normal stressors.
What are the different types of Anxiety Disorders?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
This disorder is characterized by distress and tension in the absence of a real factor. Someone with this disorder is constantly uncertain, anticipating disaster and they become overly concerned about their health, finances and work without cause. One is incapable of relaxing and generally fights insomnia and poor concentration. Individuals can experience symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, irritability, muscle tension, high blood pressure and sleep disturbances. Most people with a mild case of this disorder, are able to manage to maintain their careers and function socially. Though, with severe cases, it can cause job failure and avoidance of social situations.
This disorder is characterized by unexpected attacks of fear and the sense of looming doom. A panic attack can cause a raised heart rate, sweating, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, chest pain, and feelings of being cold and numb. In many cases, these symptoms intensify the panic attack as the individual may feel like they are dying or in terrible danger.
These are often unpredictable and come on abruptly, but can be triggered by vulnerability to stimuli connected with past trauma. A panic attack can generally last about 10 minutes. Episodes usually arise without warning and with varying recurrence. Panic disorder is very disabling, causing individuals to withdraw from places or situations that prompted attacks before. As a result, these individuals often lose their jobs or change their residence.
This disorder is characterized by continuous, upsetting thoughts or obsessions that can lead to anxiety and the use of ritualistic actions in an attempt to ease this anxiety. If you have ever watched The Big Bang Theory, you’ll know that Sheldon knocks 3 times on a door, as a rule, this is a perfect example. While healthy people can display repetitive behaviours, such as double-checking to see if a door is locked, people with OCD perform rituals so repetitively that their behaviour disturbs them and can conflict with the performance of daily tasks.
Phobias are incomprehensible and unjustifiable fears. They may be a fear of particular objects or things.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Undergoing or witnessing a traumatic or terrifying life event can accelerate a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Individuals with PTSD may either relive the experience in nightmares or have disturbing recalls of it during waking hours. Everyday events can trigger flashbacks that may cause a loss of reality, causing the person to believe the event is happening again.
How would one treat Anxiety?
Due to anxiety and depression having comparable or even overlapping symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of anxiety can be quite a challenge. An individual can alternate between anxiety and depression. Though, as many of the same neural mechanisms are involved in both, in some cases treatment for one can be useful for the other.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy includes modifying thought patterns that affect anxiety and fear. It helps people to identify cognitive distortions, exaggerated and irrational thoughts that produce responses such as anxiety and panic. Special tools can then help the individual identify distorted thinking and replace distorted thoughts with more accurate ones. Cognitive-behavioural therapy is a first-line treatment and is useful in treating all anxiety disorders.
This type of therapy uses various techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing exercises and exposure therapy. Diaphragmatic breathing trains people how to manage the physical signs of anxiety by taking slow, deep breaths to help control hyperventilation. Exposure therapy relies on small, progressive exposures to the frightening trigger, helping people develop confidence and handle anxiety.
This is commonly used in combination with psychotherapy to regulate the biochemical and physiological irregularities that generate anxiety, including changes in the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and cortisol. Medication therapy can cause a number of difficulties, like withdrawal symptoms, drug intolerance and only operating on a small part of the neurological mechanism involved in anxiety. Pharmaceutical treatment of anxiety disorders includes manipulating or emulating the behaviour of neurotransmitters inside the brain. However, these medications normally do not resolve the over-activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis that frequently underlies mood disorders. Using medications to try to enhance brain chemistry can offer relief. However, medications neither restore normal levels of neurotransmitters, nor improve normal brain function. Instead, they manoeuvre the brain chemistry in order to achieve their desired effects.
Over a period of time, the brain can become accustomed to medications, causing them to lose their efficacy, requiring higher doses or different medications. Suspending them can often lead to withdrawal symptoms that feel worse than the initial problem.
How do hormones affect anxiety?
Anxiety affects twice as many women than men. Most steroid hormones are neurologically active. Large amounts of DHEA, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone receptors are found in the brain. These hormones influence the brain in numerous ways, including regulation of mood. Many studies have connected abnormalities in hormone levels to different anxiety disorders. Studies propose that levels of estrogen and serotonin may be connected, both affecting a positive mood throughout menstruation in young women. Moreover, the decline in estrogen during menopause, associated with decreased serotonin production, produces a negative impact on mood and cognitive function. Progesterone also performs a part in anxiety.
Lifestyle changes to relieve anxiety
Reducing smoking and alcohol consumption
Get enough exercise
Get enough sleep
Maintain a healthy body weight
Keep the caffeine intake at a moderate amount
Clear the mind with some yoga
Listen to calming music and find your zen
Massage therapy can aid in relaxation
Eat healthy fresh foods
Natural supplements for anxiety
St. John’s wort
Not one single person has a life untouched by anxiety. We all experience it, we just experience it differently. With the right skills and the right help, we can prevent it from destroying our lives.