Wednesday, December 13

What is Anxiety?

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What is Anxiety?To start off, I am not a medical professional, but I do enjoy researching topics that interest me for one reason or another.  I am 30 years old and have been suffering with anxiety issues since childhood.  I had just been put on medication from my primary physician 2 months ago, and it got me thinking…What is Anxiety? Why does this happen?  How do I live with it?  With those 3 questions in mind, I began my search on Google.  The amount of pages I pulled up with tons of information was overwhelming.  

So, I grabbed a pen and notebook and started taking notes.  Thus, the article you are now reading has been born.  I decided to write an article summarizing the most important things people should know about anxiety and the different disorders associated with it.Anxiety can be described as a subjective feeling of fear and apprehension accompanied by physical symptoms.  This disorder can present itself for any number of reasons.  Most cases of anxiety stem from a person experiencing a trauma either physically or emotionally.  Some people that suffer from anxiety have an underlying medical condition that can bring on the anxiety episodes also.  Physical symptoms can range from an accelerated heart rate, trembling, shortness of breath, or heart palpitations.  

These physical symptoms can occur in anxiety sufferers with virtually nothing externally stimulating causing these physical symptoms.  Anxiety can also present itself as a state of worry or nervousness, which occurs with a variety of mental disorders, and compulsive behavior can be evident.  Anxiety disorders are grouped into separate types of anxiety conditions.Types of AnxietyPanic DisorderPanic disorder is an unpredictable type of anxiety disorder.  The unpredictability of these anxiety attacks can be associated with physiological manifestations in some people.  The attacks are usually very sudden and unexpected, they appear to be unprovoked, and can often be disabling in some people.  Those who suffer from this type of anxiety disorder usually undergo tests and evaluations for medical conditions, such as heart attacks, before panic disorder is diagnosed.  

The reason the person being affected goes through these medical tests is because of their symptoms, which can range from a racing (pounding) heartbeat, chest pains, dizziness, nausea, hot flashes, trembling, terror, or fear of dying.  Panic attacks often last from minutes to hours, and can occur at any moment, even while you are sleeping. AgoraphobiaAgoraphobia is an unusual fear of being helpless in an uncomfortable or inescapable position socially or publicly.  Symptoms of agoraphobia are an intense fear, rapid heartbeat, disorientation, dizziness, and diarrhea.  Agoraphobia sufferers avoid open and public places in fear of having an anxiety attack.  

People that have agoraphobia normally are housebound because that is where they sense the most comfort.  This symptom causes the person with agoraphobia to impair any sort of social or personal relationships. Specific PhobiasSpecific Phobias is a excessive or irrational fear of physical objects or situations.  This type of anxiety can get very severe in some people because they will avoid the object or situation of fear at great length.  If the person with the phobia has no choice but to face the fearful object or situation, they will endure it with great distress.  When the physical object or situation that scares the person appears the level of anxiety that is produced is immediate and severe physical symptoms.  Those suffering from this type of anxiety have a fear of any number of things, such as spiders, snakes, clowns, etc.

The National Institute of Mental Health has estimated that 5-12% of Americans have a phobia or phobias, while an estimated 6.3 million Americans have specific phobias.Social Anxiety Disorder / Social PhobiaSocial Anxiety Disorder, or Social Phobia, is a constant unreasonable fear of a situation whereas the person is being closely watched and judged by others.  People that suffer from this disorder are very self-conscious in everyday social situations that normally should not bother a person.  They will start to blush, have profuse sweating, tremble, feel nauseous, or have difficulty talking to others.  This usually happens when the person has to make a public speech, eat in public places, use public facilities, or anytime they are surrounded by other people.  This condition causes a person to become fearful of social situations in which they can become the subject of public scrutiny by others.  Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder can interfere with the daily life of a person with this type of anxiety.  

Social Anxiety Disorder can pose problems at work, school, or any other ordinary activities a person might do in public places.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric illness that can occur after a traumatic event.  The traumatic event that causes this illness can be any number of things, such as being a victim of violence, seeing violence, a death or serious illness of a loved one, war or combat, a car accident, plane crash, or natural disasters.  Following this traumatic event the person with PTSD can have feelings that there is still a threat of injury or even death to themselves or someone close to them.  Symptoms of PTSD can be bad dreams, flashbacks, scary thoughts a person can not control, trouble sleeping, always feeling on edge, angry outbursts, or thoughts of hurting themselves or others.  Persons with PTSD should seek immediate medical attention if they are not being treated for this condition.Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, can be characterized by the OCD sufferer using ritualistic or repeating behaviors to repress the obsessive thoughts that cause their anxieties.  

Two examples of what a person with OCD may do is a person who develops a phobia of germs they may wash their hands excessively or if a person has a phobia of intruders they may lock and re-lock the doors to their home until they feel safe.  OCD sufferers will repeatedly check touch, or count things because they feel these type of rituals help keep their anxiety at bay, although this does not it usually causes the OCD to persist and get worse.  

Data collected in the medical community shows that about 2-3% of Americans are suffering from this condition, that is almost 7 million American people.Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, is the most common anxiety disorder.  GAD causes a person to have excessive worry and anxiety that lasts for at least 6 months.  This type of anxiety causes the person to have attacks when the event or circumstances that the attack is provoked by would not normally interfere with others on such a level that it does in people suffering with GAD.  People with GAD usually are restless, easily startled, concentration difficulties, or trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep.

People that have GAD may also eventually suffer from other mental disorders, such as major depression or panic disorder.  Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects about 6.8 million American adults.TreatmentMedicationUsing medications to control your anxiety condition requires a prescription from a physician.  Medications, such as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, SSRIs, MAOIs, beta blockers, or tricyclics, can be used in a treatment plan being monitored by a physician.  People using anti-anxiety and anti-depressants need to be monitored by their physician or a qualified psychiatrist in order to make sure the patient receives the correct dosage of medication to minimize any side effects that can be dangerous.  

Many people that suffer from any of the above listed anxiety conditions usually go straight to the doctor’s office at first because they need to be diagnosed properly and they need to come up with a treatment plan with a physician so they know what they would need to do in order to cope with their disorder.Herbal / HolisticThe use of herbal / holistic remedies is considered an alternative treatment for persons with anxiety conditions.  For thousands of years Chinese and native people have used this type of treatment to cure any ailments someone might be suffering from. Studies have shown that herbal remedy treatments used are just as effective as pharmaceutical medications, but the herbal treatments have little to no side effects.

 A person with anxiety can speak to their physician about trying an alternative remedy for their anxiety disorder if they are worried about the side effects they may receive from prescription medications.  Good relaxation exercises can help relax your mind and body to help restore them to a more healthier calmer state.  Relaxation exercises can help balance your body chemistry and reduce the feeling of anxiousness in a person.  Another form of relaxation exercises someone can use is known as Diaphragmatic or Deep Breathing Exercises.  These breathing exercises will help relax the mind and body.  The techniques used can increase the oxygen flow in the body that helps to reduce the chemical imbalance present that causes the anxieties.  

Diaphragmatic and Deep Breathing has proven to be effective in most, not all, anxiety sufferers because the techniques help reduce the duration and frequency of the anxiety attacks.Regular ExerciseYou hear from everywhere; your doctor, on the news, or from friends; regular exercise is the key to solve or help treat many medical ailments.  If a person suffering from anxiety has 30 minutes of regular exercise every day, it can help to reduce the number of panic attack episodes, shorten the duration of the attacks, and with consistency eliminate the attacks all together.  Exercising helps treat anxiety because while your exercising your mind is being distracted from thinking about something that makes you anxious.  The less you think about whatever bothers you that causes the anxiety the better your body will feel and you will have less symptoms of anxiety.

 Regular exercise is vital in every treatment plan for anxiety because the person with the disorder will have a better chance of overcoming their condition or keeping it under control.Psychological TreatmentBased on all of the available treatments for anxiety the most common and effective treatment is known as Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, or CBT.   The CBT method can be used in conjunction with prescription medications or without, depending on the situation and the physicians treatment plan.  CBT can be explained in two parts which makes up the whole of the therapy treatment.  The cognitive part of the treatment will help people change their pattern of thinking.  

The pattern of thinking the person has pretreatment supports their fears, which is why changing that pattern entirely will help that person cope properly with their fear or eventually completely overcome it.  The behavioral part of this therapy will help the person change their ways of reacting to the anxiety provoking situation for them.  So far Cognitive Behavioral Treatment practiced properly by a licensed medical professional can be the most effective form of therapy for people that are suffering from any number of anxiety conditions.Any type of anxiety disorder can cause a person who is suffering from it a great deal of problems if they do not seek out help.  

Those who get the right help for their condition, usually return to a normal functioning life.  The people who do not receive the help they need because either they think there is nothing wrong with them or choose to ignore the sign and symptoms, can create a bigger problem for themselves and other around them.  Families can be torn apart, friendships may end, or in severe cases that go untreated the affected person may hurt themselves.  If you know of anyone who is suffering from any type of mental disease or disorder please help them receive the help they need so their condition does not worsen.  You can even call mental health hot-line in your community and anonymously discuss the situation with a professional to get the correct way of helping your friend, family member, or even yourself.  


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