Anxiety and Panic disorder
You have been given a new project to work on at your work place and you are doing well, but still you constantly keep worrying about the outcome. The worry slowly turns into fear. You feel that you cannot handle the project well anymore. You come home but still you cannot relax. You have difficulty in sleeping. You have cramps in the stomach and diarrhea. You feel like you are in a hopeless situation and that you are going to have a nervous breakdown. If you have encountered similar situations in your life, then you may be suffering from anxiety disorder.
Anxiety- When it becomes a disorder
In life, we may face situations that cause anxiety to us. Anxiety is the body’s way of alerting us to dangerous situations but in some people, anxiety goes beyond control, interfering with day to day activities. This kind of anxiety affects work, relationships, and does not allow the person to enjoy life to the fullest. Finally anxiety takes a toll on health as well. It is estimated that 40 million Americans, 18 years and above, are suffering from anxiety disorders in a year.
Anxiety is continuous worry about issues that can be minor or major in nature. The types of anxiety disorder are Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder.
Generalized anxiety disorder
In generalized anxiety disorder, the person keeps worrying about things even if there is nothing to worry about. For example, the person constantly worries about his work even though he is doing well at his work place. The symptoms are trembling, breathing problem, rapid heartbeat, muscle tension, fatigue, dry mouth, nausea, dizziness, loss of sleep, irritability, and poor concentration.
When there is a sudden attack of intense fear for no known reason leading to severe physical reactions, it is known as a panic attack. During a panic attack, you may feel that you are having a heart attack or dying but the attack lasts for 5 to 30 minutes only. Generally, you can experience one two panic attacks in your life but in chronic conditions of panic attack, there can be several panic attacks. The quality of life is affected by these attacks. The symptoms that are seen in panic attacks are chest pain, pressure on chest, heart beat racing, increase in pulse rate, body trembling, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, diarrhea, hands and feet become numb, chills, and extreme fear.
Phobia is extreme fear which is unreasonable. Phobias can be of different types like phobia of snakes, spiders, crowds, heights, closed spaces, bridges, blood, water, animals, tunnels, flying, medicines, and humiliation in public. Phobia becomes a problem when it does not let the person lead a normal life. The symptoms you see when a person experiences phobia are rapid heartbeat, breathing problem, trembling, fear, and a desire to get away from the phobia causing situation.
Anxiety disorders are caused due to the imbalance of chemicals like dopamine, serotonin or norepinephrine in the brain. Genetic factors and stressful life situations also trigger anxiety attacks. Anxiety can be linked to physical problems like diabetes, heart disease, alcohol withdrawal, drug abuse, asthma, thyroid problems, muscle cramps, spasms, and withdrawal from antianxiety medications, tumors that produce adrenalin, also called as flight or fright hormones, and prickling and tingling sensation whose cause is not known.
Anxiety disorders can be treated successfully. Your doctor will advise you to go for counseling and will prescribe the required medication to overcome anxiety. When a thought starts worrying do not think about what might happen. Just focus on the present. Allot around 30 minutes to worry about the thought everyday at a particular time of the day. After that, do not entertain the worry anymore. You can practice relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga or pursue a hobby you love. You can try muscle relaxation technique in which you must hold a muscle tightly for few seconds and then release the grip. It is very important to get enough sleep and exercise regularly.
Avoid caffeine which is present in coffee as it acts as a stimulant of the central nervous system which increases anxiety. Over the counter medications, cough medications with decongestants, drugs, and alcohol must all be avoided. The medications that the doctor prescribes are antidepressants like paroxetin (paxil), fluoxetin (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft), imipramine (Tofranil) and Venlafaxine (Effexor); anti anxiety drugs like Buspirone and sedatives like diazepam, lorazepam and alprazolam. All medications should be taken under doctor’s prescription. The cognitive behavior therapy is used in counseling where patients are taught skills to eliminate negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.
Coping with Anxiety disorders
Involving your family and friends is a way you can cope with your anxiety. Talk to them and let them know about your fears. Their support will definitely make a huge difference. You can also join support groups in which people with same kind of experiences come together and share experiences, and support each other. You can find such groups at National Alliance on Mental Illness and Anxiety disorders association of America. With a combination of medications, psychological counseling and support from your loved ones you can overcome anxiety disorders.