Anxiety and Fear
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension and fear characterized by physical symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, and feelings of stress. When walking into a feared situation, the socially anxious person will go through many of the same worried thoughts and physical signs as those during a panic attack. However certain bodily symptoms (like rapid heart rate, trembling voice, shaking hands, sweating, and blushing) are more common and can be more distressing because they may be observed by others. If a personal is extremely anxious, they may feel as they are frozen solid and can not move. Anxiety is also referred to or includes as nerves, rapid heart beat, anxious, panic, worry, stress, apprehension, or fear.
How do I know if I have an anxiety disorder?
Anxiety is a normal state of apprehension, tension, and uneasiness in response to a real or perceived threat. Although anxiety is considered a normal response to temporary periods of stress or uncertain situations, prolonged, intense, or inappropriate periods of anxiety may indicate an anxiety disorder. Other indicators of an anxiety disorder are anxiety that occurs without an external threat (free-floating anxiety) and anxiety that impairs daily functioning. If you think that you might have an anxiety disorder, talk to your doctor.
What are the most common types of anxiety disorders?
Anxiety disorders come in all shapes and sizes. They are often complicated by the presence of alcohol/drug abuse and depression.
• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD often occurs after some sort of traumatic event like war, assault, or a disaster. Women are more likely than men to experience PTSD: "About 10%–14% of women will have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in their lives, compared with 5%–6% of men."* If you think you have PTSD, check out the website for the National Center for PTSD or talk to your doctor.
• Phobias: A phobia is an extreme and often irrational fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger. Some common phobias include arachnophobia (fear of spiders), ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), acrophobia (fear of heights), and mysophobia (fear of germs).
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Thoughts, images, or impulses that occur time and again that are outside a person's control are called obsessions. They might be accompanied by feelings of doubt, fear, or disgust. Those who suffer from OCD might find themselves constantly paranoid (in fear of something bad happening), experiencing unwanted sexual thoughts, feeling like they're losing control (and might harm themselves or others), cleaning (to get rid of dirt, chemicals, and germs), or a number of other obsessions.
• Social Anxiety Disorder: Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common of the anxiety disorders. People who suffer from this feel as through they are constantly being judged in social situations by their peers. They might have trouble going to public gatherings or speaking to people.
• Generalized Anxiety Disorder: This disorder occurs when a person has chronic anxiety and is constantly worrying or anxious even when there is little to nothing to be worried about. Women are more likely to suffer from generalized anxiety disorder than men. "6.6% in women will have generalized anxiety disorder, but just 3.6% of men will."*
What are the predisposing factors or common causes of anxiety disorders?
Some people are more likely to have or develop anxiety disorders than others.
• Being Female: Women are more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder than men are. "6.6% in women will have generalized anxiety disorder, but just 3.6% of men will."*
• Abuse as Children: Those who experienced abuse as children are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder. "Childhood abuse also seems to cause long-term changes in brain chemistry and structure that may predispose individuals to anxiety disorders."*
• Drug or Alcohol Abuse: Drugs and alcohol can have profound effects on brain chemistry. Using or abusing drugs or alcohol can cause or worsen anxiety.
• Heredity: Those with relatives who have anxiety disorders are more likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder themselves.
• Other Mental Health Disorders: People who suffer from other mental health disorders (like depression) are more likely to suffer from anxiety.
• Trauma: Adults and children alike who have experienced some sort of trauma are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder.
• Extreme Stress: Sometimes extreme stress can cause either anxiety or panic attacks in people. It can be either a series of small events or one big event that causes the stress.
How can I help with my anxiety?
Thankfully, there are some things that you can do to help out with your anxiety. If you feel like your anxiety is out of control, please see your doctor or psychologist as soon as possible.
• Exercise: Exercise releases endorphins, which help make you feel better. Even something as simple as taking a walk outside in fresh air can help lessen your anxiety symptoms.
• Rest: Make sure you are getting enough rest.
• Avoid Sugar: Some studies have shown that consumption of sugar can lead to increased anxiety. A study in 2008 revealed that rats who consumed a lot of sugar and then were deprived of food led to a dopamine imbalance which increased symptoms of anxiety.
• Stay Calm: Yoga, stretching, and breathing exercises can help keep you calm when you feel extremely anxious.
• Examine Medications: Some side effects of certain medications include anxiety, so talk to your doctor if you think one of your medications might be the cause of your anxiety.
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