Occasional anxiety (a feeling of nervousness, apprehension, fear, and worry) is an expected part of modern life. It is our body’s natural response to keep us safe from various stressful or unexpected situations/changes. For instance, speaking in public, going to a job interview or before taking a test may cause some people to feel nervous and fearful. However, if the symptoms of anxiety do not go away and happen without any particular reason or cause, you may be a victim of an anxiety disorder.
What is Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety disorder is the most common form of mental illness characterized by feelings of constant, excessive, uncontrollable, and unrealistic fear or worry, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it. In Australia, anxiety disorder affects more than 2 million people in a single year. On average, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will experience this form of mental illness at some stage in their life.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety disorder is an umbrella term and encompasses several different conditions each with a unique set of symptoms. However, all the different forms of anxiety orders share the following general symptoms:
- overwhelming fear, panic, and uneasiness
- hot and cold flushes
- a surge of doom and gloom
- trouble concentrating
- shortness of breath
- sleep problems
- increased or irregular heartbeat
- muscle tension
- back pain
- muscle tension
The Different Forms
Let’s have a look at the five major types:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – characterized by a feeling of excessive, unrealistic, and constant fear and worry about everyday things, even when there is little or nothing to trigger it.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – characterized by recurring irrational thoughts (obsessions) that lead the patient to perform specific, repeated behaviors (compulsions).
- Panic Disorder – characterized by feelings of anxiety (panic attack) combined with a range of physical symptoms. The patient may live in constant fear of the next panic attack.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – characterized by a set of adverse emotional, cognitive, and behavioral changes that are experienced persistently following a traumatic event.
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) – characterized by a strong feeling of extreme fear or anxiety and self-consciousness about every day social situations.
How to Manage It?
There are many ways to effectively manage your disorder before it takes control of your life. The type of treatment that’s good for you will ultimately depend on the type you are experiencing. Often, it can be easily managed by using a combination of
- medication – antidepressants, Pregabalin, Beta-blockers, Benzodiazepine tranquilizers
- psychology – counselling, applied relaxation therapy
- behavioural therapy – CBT
What to Do When You Experience a Panic Attack
Panic attacks can be sudden and very terrifying. They can last from a few minutes to a few hours and can leave the patient frightened and uneasy. Panic attacks are usually accompanied by physical and emotional symptoms. Learning to effectively manage a panic attack can help limit potential triggers and reduce the risk of re-occurrence. Here are some things that can help manage panic attacks:
- acknowledge you are having a panic attack
- retreat to a quiet place
- divert your focus onto something enjoyable
- deep, focussed breathing
Southbank Medical Centre