Anxiety disorders: an overview
Anxiety can be defined as:
1. a nervousness, agitation, or worry, often about a future circumstance or event
2. a state of apprehension or fear of a real or imagined danger
Anxiety is an emotional state that’s caused by worry. Worry is imagining the future with apprehension and fear.
Acute or prolonged worry can cause physical symptoms, such as, sweating; nervousness; trembling; shortness of breath; elevated heart rate; increased blood pressure; upset stomach, nausea, or diarrhea; chest pain; and headache. These types of symptoms occur because of the physiological change that occurs in the body when the brain perceives danger (often referred to as the fight or flight response).
All of us worry from time to time. Those who worry more regularly and intensely have a higher likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder.
An anxiety disorder is a blanket term used to describe a number of conditions (disorders) that can arise from abnormal and pathological anxiety, fears, phobias, and nervous conditions that can impair or prevent an individual from living a normal life.
Anxiety disorders are commonly classified in the following categories:
o Panic Disorder
o Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
o Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
o Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder)
o Specific Phobias
o Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders often co-exist with other mental or physical illnesses, which may mask anxiety symptoms or make them worse. In some cases, these other illnesses need to be addressed before lasting anxiety recovery is possible.
There are many reasons why anxiety turns into a disorder. One of the more common reasons is that acute or sustained stress can cause the body to produce unusual and frightening symptoms that some people become overly concerned about or afraid of. When they become overly concerned about their symptom’s presence, many assume the worst and become consumed with fear and worry.
This can be further aggravated when stress symptoms are mistakenly associated with a more serious health condition or medical emergency.
For example, chest pains are common symptoms of stress, but they are also commonly associated with heart disease. If an individual experiences chest pains due to stress, yet assumes that they are being caused by an imminent heart emergency, he or she can become fearful and rush to the nearest medical facility fearing the worst. The increased concern can cause even more symptoms, since fear will intensify stress symptoms. This can set up a “cycle of fear” where one aggravates the other. For example
Stress symptoms lead to worry and alarm, worry and alarm cause more stress, more stress causes more symptoms, more symptoms cause more alarm and worry, and so on.
As this “cycle of fear” becomes entrenched, the individual can become so consumed with worry and fear that it negatively impacts or fully disrupts his or her lifestyle.
Fear is the main ingredient to anxiety disorders. Some of the more common anxiety fears include, fear of the unknown, fear of what the symptoms might mean, fear of what the underlying cause may be, fear of where the condition may lead, fear of being out of control, and fear of not being able to recover.
There are many treatments for anxiety disorders. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (talk therapy) provides the best long-term results. While medication can help lessen physiological and psychological symptoms, it should never be considered a cure. There is also a very high rebound rate (after medication is discontinued the condition returns) when medication is used alone. Addressing the underlying factors associated with anxiety is the only approach that provides lasting medication-free recovery.
It’s best to seek the help of a medication-free anxiety coach or therapist who has experienced and conquered anxiety in his or her own life. His or her personal experience will be an invaluable asset when working toward resolving an anxiety condition.anxiety coach