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At its core, Anxiety is simply the body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It’s the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event. Worrying about a job interview or stressing out over a test is healthy, normal anxiety – this kind of anxiety encourages us to properly prepare for situations we’re uneasy about, and helps us stay alert and aware.
However, for those suffering from an Anxiety Disorder, anxiety feels far from normal. It can be completely debilitating. Anxiety disorders keep people from sleeping, concentrating, talking to others, or even leaving their home. Anxiety that may need treatment is often irrational, overwhelming, and disproportionate to the situation. It makes sufferers feel as though they have no control of their feelings, and it can involve serious physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, or trembling. When normal anxiety becomes irrational and begins to recur and interfere with daily life, it’s classified as a disorder.
Anxiety Disorders can manifest in many different ways: General Anxiety, Phobias, Social Anxiety, Panic Attacks, and Separation Anxiety are all presentations of the disorder. Anxiety disorders often also occur with other mental health issues such as Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Personality Disorders, and Eating Disorders.
Anxiety symptoms may be different based on the particular condition or disorder, but common symptoms include:
- Excessive, irrational, or uncontrollable feelings of worry and dread
- Sensations of panic and uneasiness for no apparent reason
- Obsessive thoughts
- Ritualistic behavior
- Trouble sleeping
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle tension
- Inability to remain calm
- Trouble concentrating
- Rapid breathing, or hyperventilation
- Dry mouth
- Cold or sweaty hands and feet
- Trembling or shaking
Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD is a psychiatric disorder characterized by a constant sense of worry and fear that interferes with daily life. People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder may experience feelings of dread, distress, or agitation for no discernible reason – psychiatrists refer to this unexplained, trigger-less anxiety as “free floating anxiety.” Though many people with GAD realize that their worry is unrealistic or unwarranted, feelings of anxiety persist and seem unmanageable, leaving sufferers feeling out of control.
Panic Attacks are short (typically less than 15 minute) episodes of intense fear that are often accompanied by serious physical symptoms and uncontrollable feelings of dread and doom. A panic attack differs from a normal fear response in that it strikes without the presence of a threat or an oncoming attack. A person who experiences several panic attacks may develop a Panic Disorder, where the individual begins to spend a significant amount of their time worrying about having another attack, worrying that they are losing their mind, or changing their daily routine because of the panic attacks.
Separation Anxiety Disorder describes an individual’s feelings of persistent and excessive anxiety related to current or oncoming separation from an attachment figure (someone or something that provides the individual with comfort). Separation Disorder frequently occurs in children, and can induce long-lasting, continuous anxiety for periods up to six weeks. Individuals afflicted by separation anxiety disorder experience overwhelming distress and anxiety when separated from their attachment figure.
Social Anxiety Disorder or SAD, also known as Social Phobia, is characterized by a strong and persistent fear of social or performance situations in which humiliation or embarrassment may occur. While it’s normal to feel some anxiety in some social situations, those afflicted by Social Anxiety Disorder experience intense distress, self-consciousness, and fear of judgement in everyday social interactions. SAD often prevents people from having normal friendships, interactions, or romantic relationships, and can keep sufferers from functioning in daily life, at work, or at school. Additionally, people with SAD sometimes experience intense worry, fear, or dread about a social situation days or weeks in advance.
is characterized by intrusive obsessive thoughts that result in compulsive ritualistic behaviors and routines. While it’s possible to have only obsessive symptoms, or only compulsive symptoms, they usually occur in conjunction. People suffering from OCD experience uncontrollable, distressing thoughts or fears about certain things (such as dirt, germs, or order) which then lead to compulsive behaviors performed as an attempt to alleviate worry or anxiety. Just being a “neat freak” or afraid of germs doesn’t necessarily constitute OCD – OCD is diagnosed by obsessions and compulsions which significantly interfere with daily life.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD
is an Anxiety Disorder that may develop after witnessing a deeply distressing or disturbing experience, or after experiencing a serious injury. PTSD can also develop after a threat of death or serious injury, even if no one was physically harmed. While most people experience anxious reactions after a serious traumatic effect, PTSD develops when these symptoms and negative reactions remain for long periods of time and begin to disrupt daily life and functioning. Sufferers of PTSD experience feelings of intense fear, lack of control, and helplessness as a result of their traumatic experience.
Selective Mutism occurs when an individual has difficulty speaking or communicating in certain environments. Selective mutism usually occurs in children – children with the disorder speak at home, with friends, or with family, but not in other situations like at school or in public. The disorder usually presents itself very early, in children under five. In selective mutism, the failure to speak and communicate interferes with daily life and lasts at least a month.
A Phobia is a type of Anxiety Disorder that describes an excessive and irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation. Phobias are different from common fears in that the anxiety associated with the object or situation is so strong that it interferes with daily life and the ability to function normally. People with phobias may go to great lengths to avoid encountering their feared object or situation.
Imagine your head is a watermelon.
Now, imagine that watermelon is lodged between a vice-grip.
(For illustration, imagine it’s one of these.)
On the good days, imagine that the vice-grip is latched on pretty loosely, you feel pretty happy, content with life and anxiety-free.
Life is great!
The next day, something happens: your brain goes askew because you said something bad to somebody; or, you have a ton of to-dos and to-don’t that have been building up in your head; or you forgot to text back an old friend, and you, naturally, assume that that person absolutely hates you.
So, the vice-grip tightens.
The next day, you have a big event. You’re stuck in your head, because you feel like intense pressure that’s crushing your brain like a bulldozer and it’s really hard to explain to other people. And other people just think you’re off.
Or strange. You think, whatever, at the time.
But later, that afternoon, you’re wondering, was I weird? Was I off?
[Related: How to Avoid Getting Anxious or Depressed.]
That becomes more and more of a pressing matter.
You drink a little bit at night, to take the edge off.
Then a little bit more.
At 2 a.m., early one morning, just a few hours before an early-meeting, a bomb goes off inside your head.
Seriously. A cataclysmic, earthquake-like shock. You think, did a fucking bomb just go off? What happened?
You realize, it’s just your thoughts. They’ve become so intense and disruptive and anxiety-inducing, that they’re crashing you awake at 2 a.m.
The next day, you’re tired. You’re cranky.
You feel bad. You feel like shit.
For the next few days (sometimes weeks) you feel like you want to die.
That’s an option.
It’s never even in the top-10, but sometimes it feels like it could crack the top-5.
You decide, that’s off the table.
Okay, but you’re still anxious.
So, instead of moping around, you decide to act.
You write down all of the things that you’re worried about. On paper.
Holy shit, the list is long. And it’s distressing. And it keeps getting longer.
What else? What else?
You write down more things.
Until, before you know it, you have a few pages worth of things that are bothering you. Life is hard, lots of things bother you.
Now that they’re out of your head, you start taking action.
You knock one out. I’m afraid of dragons?! Those aren’t real.
Rainbow unicorns aren’t scary. Next.
I won’t go broke tomorrow. Next.
That talk I’m giving, yeah, that’s going to be hard, but it’s not the first one I’ve given and I’m genuinely excited.
My business might fail, but it should, right? That’s how you learn.
One by one.
Before you know it, that weight that was quickly tightening the vice and turning you into a massive ball of stress and anxiety, that’s been lifted.
You feel free.
You feel a sense of relief, finally, for the first time in, what seems like, weeks.
And you’re happy. Happier than you’ve ever been. A cathartic release.
And then you just wait.
For the next one.
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Anxiety Disorders or Stress and anxiety share many of the same physical symptoms, it is difficult at times to differentiate between the two. Everyone experiences stress and anxiety at one time or another. The difference between them is that stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a reaction to stress.
In stress you experience heart pounding, sweating, breathing, palpitation so does with the anxiety but anxiety is a maladaptive reaction to an upcoming threatening situation. Initially, it was believed that stress is a negative bodily response to a threatening situation but latest researches showed that stress prepares you well, in fact believing that it will have a negative effect will make you more vulnerable. Stress contrary to anxiety makes you more productive, helps you perform well, improves health, vitality, facilitates learning and growth.
What Causes Anxiety Disorders to Develop?
The question is when does your stress convert into Anxiety?
Stress develop over time and under pressure. But Dr. Elaine Ryan proposed that there Are three ways in which stress turned into anxiety or Anxiety Disorders.
The first one is the Acute Stressor, which is a response in reaction to a traumatic event, unpleasant experience and it usually generates high anxiety rapidly. It can overwhelm a person’s anxiety coping mechanism rapidly. Still, sudden abrupt unpleasant events can send even the anxiety-resistant person reeling.
After that comes Chronic Stress, which provokes a constant low level of anxiety. The person usually adapts to such issues while enduring them for a longer period but this effect their mental and emotional wellbeing. As the name suggested, chronic stress subsides over time.
After chronic stress comes Insidious Stress which stays, accumulated and stuffed and exhibit itself into severe anxiety disorder along with other psychological issues. Must Read Clinical Depression
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Types of Anxiety Disorders are Excessive Fear, Anxiety and Behavioral Problems. Fear is a natural reaction to a new situation while anxiety is an overwhelming reaction to a perceived threat.
Anxiety Disorders are one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders and people with anxiety are more sensitive to the facial expressions of other people.
According to diagnostic and statistical manual 5 (DSM 5), Anxiety disorders have been categorized into 8 different categorize based on the type of objects, situations, induced fear, anxiety, avoidance behavior, and cognitive ideation.
Separation Anxiety Disorder: it is unavoidable fear or excessive anxiety concerning separation from home, significant individuals or attachment figures. The fear cause reluctance or persistent refusal to go out or away from home, school or work.
Selective Mutism: consistent failure to speak in specific social situations not because of the lack of knowledge or spoken language but because of the fear or anxiety to speak in certain situations. The anxiety significantly interferes with the person’s social life
Specific Phobia: as the name specifies, it is fear or excessive anxiety related to specific objects or situations like flying, height animals, injection, blood etc.
Social Anxiety Disorder: Excessive fear or anxiety in one or more social situations due to fear of being scrutinized by others. The fear might be due to public speaking and performance, social interaction, and being observed.
Panic Disorder: An unexpected surge or fear of having a panic attack. the person might be preoccupied with the fear of having an additional panic attack. The symptoms of panic attack might include palpitation, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, choking, chest pain, dizziness, light-headed or faintness, de-realization, fear of dying
Agoraphobia: It is a marked or unusual fear of being in any one of the five situations. It might be an open space (marketplace), enclosed place (malls, shops), crowd, public transport or outside the home.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: excessive worry that is uncontrollable, unavoidable and in almost every situation and circumstances.
Substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder: anxiety symptoms or panic attack that is predominant due to medication or substance abuse.
Assessment of Anxiety Disorders:
Assessment of Anxiety disorders is important to go about the best management strategy. Biobehavioral assessment is one of the strategies to go about the case in depth.
Etiology: Genetic Disorders: Anxiety disorders are more prevalent in children whose parents have a history of anxiety disorders. Monozygotic twins are more likely to exhibit symptoms of anxiety than dizygotic.
Neurophysiology Abnormalities – hippocampus in contextual fear conditioning
Conditioned Leaning: Behaviorist believes that people learn fear from his environment. Neutral conditioned stimulus (CS) is paired with the aversive unconditioned stimulus (US). This pairing subsequently elicits a response known as Conditioned Response (CR). This CS will elicit a response even in the absence of the Unconditioned stimulus. Modeling: Barlow’s model described that the attention towards threat develops fear and anxiety
Cognitive Perspectives: maladaptive assumptions and negative thought patterns will continue the cycle. Worry vicious cycle will result into an anxiety.
The Sociocultural Perspectives believe that some fear are been reinforced and nurtured in the environment
Many of the anxiety disorders develop in childhood and tend to persist if not treated. Most occur more frequently in females than in males (approximately 2:1 ratio).
Management – Anxiety disorders if prevail for long can be treated using medication, Psychotherapy is helpful in dealing with anxiety disorders. Different behavioral strategies have been used successfully to manage anxiety disorders.
Systematic Desensitization – Wolpe developed this therapy, in this, you have to develop a hierarchy of fear situations and then systematically expose the patient to it. The main task in this is to develop a Fear hierarchy.
Covert desensitization – imaginary desensitizing oneself from the fear object
“There’s a misconception that anxious people are antisocial, short-fused or over-dramatic. But they’re most likely processing everything around them so intensely that they can’t handle a lot of questions, people or heavy information all at once. Anxiety is when you feel everything.” — Katie Crawford
Anxiety is debilitating. It feels like a constant heaviness in your mind; like something isn’t quite right, although oftentimes you don’t know exactly what that something is.
It feels like acid in your stomach, burning and eating away at the emptiness and taking away any feelings of hunger. It’s like a tight knot that you can’t untwist.
Anxiety feels like your mind is on fire, overthinking and over analyzing every little, irrelevant thing. Sometimes, it makes you feel restless and constantly distracted. It feels as if your thoughts are running wild in a million different directions, bumping into each other along the way.
Other times, it makes you feel detached, as if your mind has gone blank and you are no longer mentally present. You dissociate and feel as if you have left your own body.
Anxiety feels like there is a voice in the back of your mind telling you that everything is not okay, when everything in fact is. Sometimes the voice tells you that there is something wrong with you and that you are different from everybody else.
It tells you that your feelings are bad and a burden to the world and that you should isolate. It makes everyday tasks, such as making simple decisions, incredibly difficult.
Anxiety can keep you up at night — tossing and turning. It’s like a lightbulb that comes on at the most inconvenient times and won’t switch off. Your body feels exhausted, but your mind feels wide awake and racing. You go through the events of your day, analyzing and agonizing over every specific detail.
Anxiety is a liar, although it feels incredibly real.
Listening to it will not make it go away. You need to resist it. Fight it. Don’t let it win.
So let it speak.
Hear out all the worries and irrational concerns. The simple act of listening to it will show you that you are not it. Let it rant and rave and panic and cry. Let it tell you everything it’s thinking. And then you choose.
You choose whether or not you’ll listen to it, or to the more peaceful voice that says not to. It only defines you if it becomes the only voice you listen to. It only defines you until you realize that it is a piece of your mind, not the whole. And that can be hard to see, when those fear thoughts are engulfing your whole being in flames. It can be hard to realize there’s a choice, when you feel like everything is burning.
The first moment is the hardest, and the hardest things are the most truthful. So let your anxiety speak. Let it air its grievances with you and what you’ve done. When all its worries are on the table, you decide how you play the cards.
What is Anxiety:
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. The first day of school, going to a job interview, or giving a speech may cause most people to feel fearful and nervous.
But if your feelings of anxiety are extreme, last for longer than six months, and are interfering with your life, you may have an anxiety disorder.
What are the types of anxiety disorders?
Anxiety is a key part of several different disorders. These include:
panic disorder: experiencing recurring panic attacks at unexpected times. A person with panic disorder may live in fear of the next panic attack.
phobia: excessive fear of a specific object, situation, or activity
social anxiety disorder: extreme fear of being judged by others in social situations
obsessive-compulsive disorder: recurring irrational thoughts that lead you to perform specific, repeated behaviors
separation anxiety disorder: fear of being away from home or loved ones
illness anxiety disorder: anxiety about your health (formerly called hypochondria)
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): anxiety following a traumatic event
What are anxiety disorders?
It’s normal to feel anxious about moving to a new place, starting a new job, or taking a test. This type of anxiety is unpleasant, but it may motivate you to work harder and to do a better job. Ordinary anxiety is a feeling that comes and goes, but does not interfere with your everyday life.
In the case of an anxiety disorder, the feeling of fear may be with you all the time. It is intense and sometimes debilitating.
This type of anxiety may cause you to stop doing things you enjoy. In extreme cases, it may prevent you from entering an elevator, crossing the street, or even leaving your home. If left untreated, the anxiety will keep getting worse.
Anxiety disorders are the most common form of emotional disorder and can affect anyone at any age. According to the American Psychiatric Association, women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety feels different depending on the person experiencing it. Feelings can range from butterflies in your stomach to a racing heart. You might feel out of control, like there’s a disconnect between your mind and body.
Other ways people experience anxiety include nightmares, panic attacks, and painful thoughts or memories that you can’t control. You may have a general feeling of fear and worry, or you may fear a specific place or event.
Symptoms of general anxiety include:
- increased heart rate
- rapid breathing
- trouble concentrating
- difficulty falling asleep
Your anxiety symptoms might be totally different from someone else’s. That’s why it’s important to know all the ways anxiety can present itself. Read about the many types of anxiety symptoms you might experience.
What is an anxiety attack?
An anxiety attack is a feeling of overwhelming apprehension, worry, distress, or fear. For many people, an anxiety attack builds slowly. It may worsen as a stressful event approaches.
Anxiety attacks can vary greatly, and symptoms may differ among individuals. That’s because the many symptoms of anxiety don’t happen to everyone, and they can change over time.
Common symptoms of an anxiety attack include:
- feeling faint or dizzy
- shortness of breath
- dry mouth
- chills or hot flashes
- apprehension and worry
- numbness or tingling
A panic attack and an anxiety attack share some common symptoms, but they’re not the same. Learn more about each so you can decide if your symptoms are the result of either.
What causes anxiety?
Researchers are not sure of the exact cause of anxiety. But, it’s likely a combination of factors play a role. These include genetic and environmental factors, as well as brain chemistry.
In addition, researchers believe that the areas of the brain responsible for controlling fear may be impacted.
Current research of anxiety is taking a deeper look at the parts of the brain that are involved with anxiety. Learn more about what the researchers are finding.
Finance PhD explains stock market in two words.
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Anxiety is simply the fear of fear.
It’s being afraid of an imagined future experience and thinking you can’t deal with it emotionally.
The irony, of course, is that as you imagine the future scenario, you already feel what you think you can’t deal with.
Our brains can’t tell the difference between what is real and what we imagine. We react equally strongly to both.
We often inadvertently make our anxiety worse by trying to avoid, fix, or cope with our imagined experience.
When we focus on the anxiety and it’s perceived cause, we magnify it.
We make it seem even more real in our minds, because psychologically speaking perception is reality.
In reality, however, we are only ever feeling our thinking, not our circumstances.
We are responding to thoughts, not reality.
Our feelings don’t actually have the ability to tell us anything about the outside world.
The moment we see this for ourselves (translation: don’t take my word for it. See it for yourself), it no longer makes as much sense to try to analyse or fight anxiety.
We can simply let it be, knowing that it will go just as mysteriously as it came.
In the case of the sort of anxiety that comes with certain sorts of depression, it can be completely illogical and have nothing to do with your rational understanding of your circumstances (with which your intellect is entirely happy). For example, you may constantly feel that you can’t relax and shouldn’t be doing whatever you’re doing because of an irrational but very powerful feeling that somehow you ought to be somewhere else or doing something else that you’ve failed to do and that you are probably in terrible trouble with someone who doesn’t exist about something you can’t explain. You feel that you are bouncing off the walls and if you sit down for a second you are up immediately, pacing and feeling that perhaps you ought to drive the car… somewhere. If you have an appointment (for example) to see a doctor whom you know, like and trust, you might irrationally experience physical symptoms and emotions more appropriate to facing a date in court to be arraigned for a serious crime, even though your intellect tells you that this is complete rubbish. You know that you are not in fact objectively anxious about anything, but unfortunately you are nonetheless experiencing all of this.
When people experience anxiety, the fear response is triggered. The difference between fear and anxiety is that fear is an emotional state triggered by something right in front of you. Anxiety is when you are anticipating an event in the future.
The mind cannot tell the difference between a real event, and something that is imagined. An example is with people who have nightmares, when they wake up, your body is covered in sweat and you’ve had a physiological reaction to something that is not real.
It’s a particular type of thinking that creates anxiety inside people. Most of the thinking is about an expectation about the event in the future.
- They have a negative memory that they are applying towards the future
- They are trying to achieve something specific and don’t know whether or not they can do it because they lack reference experience to determine how it will go and the fear comes from uncertainty
- The task they are trying to achieve is too difficult
We all are anxious or worried about somethings in our life. It can be money, job, relationships, our health, future, security, studies etc. Sometimes we are able to control this anxiety easily. But there are times when the pressure inside us keeps on growing and it really messes up our minds. Sometimes we blame ourselves for this and frustrate ourselves. In anxiety disorder a person starts to fear from a problem or a thing which is not present at that time. This fear makes a person believe that he/she needs to protect themselves. This often leads a person to get trapped into other unusual problems.
Types of anxiety disorders
Anxiety disorders can be classified into 6 categories;
Panic disorders are characterized by a series of panic attacks. A person having panic disorders are always worried about the occurrence of future panic attacks. There are almost three million people in America who experience panic disorder. Some of the symptoms of panic attacks are increase in heartbeat, shivering, dizziness, sweating, nausea, chest pain, fainting, crying, chills, deep breathing etc. Sometimes a person can have fear of going crazy, or fear of dying.
In agoraphobia, a person is scared of going some places. These can include unfamiliar places, crowded places, malls, airports. Sometimes travelling also makes them anxious and is followed by panic attacks. In US around 3.2 million people suffer from agoraphobia. Sometimes obsessive compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder can also cause agoraphobia.
Read more about this at Are you anxious? Tips to reduce anxiety and stress
Imagine a tiger is about to eat you.
Feel that? The flutters in your chest? The sickness in your stomach? Maybe you’ve got a headache, or your thoughts are running a million miles an hour, or you feel woozy.
Now imagine that… but there’s no tiger.
There’s no cause. You’re just extremely panicked.
All the same symptoms. No tiger.
Kinda weird, huh?
That’s GAD—generalized anxiety disorder. That’s the bucket a lot of people with anxiety fall into.
It’s a disorder where your body sets off all those “OH MY GOD A TIGER” alarms, but there’s no tiger and really, no reason to be so alarmed.
My base level of anxiety is that feeling you have about an hour before giving a big presentation.
You’re not totally freaking out, but your stomach feels a little off, you’re a little dizzy, and the fact that in an hour you’ll be in front of an audience is gnawing at the back of your mind.
That’s my everyday feeling.
It also comes with obsessive thoughts.
For example, if anyone does literally anything, I am required to read into it way more than I should.
My rational brain will say, “They are busy. This is why they are not replying.”
My anxiety brain goes, “Yeah, but maybe they got mauled by a tiger. RED ALERT. RED ALERT. TIGER. EVERYONE PANIC.”
And, therefore, I panic.
It’s exhausting. 0/10, do not recommend.
Answered as part of my session on “Living with anxiety as a student/employee.”
When anxiety and I meet.
I open my eyes. I wish I hadn’t. I don’t want to see things. More importantly, I don’t want to feel them. I can hear a sound. That’s nothing but the sound of my heart. It is beating. Faster than I thought it could ever beat. I am scared. Scared of what? I don’t know! I can’t breathe. I have to put efforts to even inhale. I keep trying.
I need energy. Energy to get out of the bed. I have to face a long day. And yet, the toughest part of the day is to get out of the bed. I don’t wish to take shower today. I don’t wanna be alone. All by myself. I don’t get good thoughts. I feel like drowning in the tub. I’m hungry. But I skip my breakfast because I don’t really feel like eating. I want to eat but I can’t, because of nausea.
I meet people. They are talking to me. I’m listening. But still I have no clue what they’re talking about. A different argument is going on in my mind. I’m arguing with myself for trivial things. I know they don’t matter in a long run but a war is going on. My face is blank. People find it arrogant. Here I am, just fighting with myself.
I come back to the bed and never wish to leave it. I don’t wish to move my body. I don’t wish my heart to beat that fast. Or may be, I don’t wish it to beat at all. I wish this deep breathing to stop. I wish these dry eyes to be closed. I wish this blurred vision to be gone. I want this argument to end. I don’t want to hear these voices.
I want peace. Even if it costs something. Even if it costs everything.