Everybody has heard of anxiety and experienced it at some point in their lives. Most of the time, we experience it due to the unknown. Some examples are exams, wedding jitters, life circumstances that we are unprepared for or not knowing what to expect. These fears induce that feeling of nervousness, fear, apprehension, ‘sick to the stomach’ and worry. Most times, these feelings dissapate. We are able to resolve them. Other times, a number of anxiety arousing events can coincide and our ability to deal effectively can be reduced. Anxiety can range from mild to severe. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating and can have a serious impact on daily life. It can be present at all times for little or no reason. It can lead to adverse emotions such as anger, fatigue and irritability.
Anxiety is considered a problem when symptoms interfere with a person’s ability to sleep or otherwise function. It is important to remember that an anxious reaction may be completely out of proportion with what might be normally expected in a situation.
Types of Anxiety
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a chronic disorder. It is characterized by excessive and long-lasting anxiety. General Anxiety Disorder sufferers often feel afraid, and they worry about health, money, family, work, or school, they have trouble identifying the specific fear and controlling the worries. Their fear is usually unrealistic or out of proportion with their situation. Sufferers expect failure and disaster to the point that it interferes with daily functions like work, school, social activities, and relationships.
Psychotherapy can be used to work out underlying life stresses and concerns. It can be very effective to make behaviour changes. Approximately 6.8 million American adults experience General Anxiety Disorder and 2% of adult Europeans, in any given year, experience General Anxiety Disorder.
Panic Disorder is a type of anxiety characterized by brief or sudden attacks of terror that leads to shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and difficulty breathing. 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 a sufferer to interpret it as a life threatening illness which may cause hypervigiliance followed by hypochondriasis. In addition, panic attacks lead a sufferer to expect future attacks, which may cause drastic behavioural changes in order to avoid these attacks. When one is experiencing a panic attack, they experience the following symptoms:
- Pounding o accelarated heart rate
- Feeling shortness of breath
- Derealisation (feelings of unreality)
- Feeling detached from oneself
- Fear of dying
- Chills or hot flushes
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by a fear of being negatively judged by others and 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. In America alone 6.8% of people aged over 18 in a given year have Social Anxiety Disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is characterized by thoughts or actions that are repetitive, distressing, and intrusive. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder sufferers usually know that their compulsions are unreasonable and irrational, but they continue with these compulsions to alleviate their anxiety. Often, the logic of someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder will appear superstitious. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder sufferers may also obsessively clean personal items or hands or constantly check locks, stoves, or light switches.
Treatment can help reduce the symptoms and bring them under control so that they don’t rule daily life. Cognitive behavioural therapy can be effective. Cognitive behavioural therapy involves retraining your thought patterns and routines so that compulsive behaviours are no longer necessary and are no longer required to alleviate anxiety. One Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approach in particular is called exposure and response prevention. This therapy involves gradual exposure to a feared object or obsession and teaching healthy ways to cope with anxiety.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder can occur at any age. It is anxiety that results from previous trauma such as military combat, rape, hostage situations, a natural disaster, assault, domestic abuse, and a prison stay. The actual cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is unknown. It is not known why traumatic events cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in some people but not others. The symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder fall into three main categories.
- The first of these categories is “reliving” the event this may include symptoms such as flashback episodes, repeated upsetting memories of the event, and repeated nightmares of the event.
- The second category of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is avoidance this may include emotional “numbing”, feeling detached, being unable to remember important aspects of the trauma, having a lack of interest in normal activities, showing less of your moods, avoiding places, people, or thoughts that remind you of the event, and feeling like you have no future.
- The third category of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is Arousal the symptoms in this category may include difficulty concentrating, easily startled, having an exaggerated response to things that startle you, feeling more aware (hyper vigilance), feeling irritable or having outbursts of anger, having trouble falling or staying asleep, guilt, agitation, dizziness, fainting, and headaches.
Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder relieves symptoms by helping you deal with the trauma you’ve experienced. There are many types of treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of these include trauma-focused cognitive-behavioural therapy. Cognitive-behavioural therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder involves careful and gradual exposure to thoughts, feelings, and situations that remind the patient of the trauma. Family therapy– Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects both the sufferer and there family. Family therapy can be especially productive in these cases. Family therapy can help loved ones understand what the sufferer is going through.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation Anxiety Disorder is characterized by high levels of anxiety when separated from a person or place that provides feelings of security or safety. It is most common among children but it is possible for adults to develop separation anxiety disorder too.
Separation anxiety is a developmentally normal characteristic in infants and toddlers younger than 4 years of age upon separation from their primary attachment figure. Mild distress and clinging behaviour are anticipated for short periods of time when young children are separated from their primary caregivers in situations such as day care or initial exposure to school.
Symptoms of separation anxiety disorder may include;
- Recurrent excessive distress when separation from home or major attachment figures
- Persistent and excessive worry about losing major attachment figures
- persistent reluctance or refusal to go to school or elsewhere because of fear of separation,
- Excessively fearful or reluctant to be alone or without major attachment figures
- Refusal to go to sleep without being near a near a major attachment figure or to sleep away from home, repeated nightmares involving the theme of separation, repeated complaints of physical symptoms when separation from major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated.
Therepy focused on teaching the sufferer several major skills, such as how to recognize anxious feelings regarding separation and to identify their physical reactions to anxiety is key to successful treatment. They should be taught to identify their thoughts in anxiety provoking separation situations, and to develop a plan to cope adaptively with the situation.
If you suffer from anxiety to a point where it gets in the way of your ability to function normally (i.e., effects work, relationships and homelife), we have a range of practitioners who specialise in the treatment of anxiety and are here to help.
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