KNOWING ABOUT ANXIETY SYMPTOMS
Do you get worried? Maybe you are having some work problems or while waiting for an examination result you experience some stomach discomfort or you get anxious while waiting for the delivery of your child.
These and many more are life circumstances where anxiety occurs. Everyone has been anxious at some point in their lives and this is applicable both to children and to adults. While for some people, anxiety is intermittent lasting only for a transient period of time- about minutes to few days, for others, this anxiety may be prolonged lasting for weeks, months or even years. It is more than just the usual worry over something. This anxiety may even progress to cause significant life style disturbance which affects functionality. It is at this point that it is called an anxiety disorder.
SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY
The symptoms that manifest in anxiety are due to an individual’s specific response when facing a circumstance. It is different from person to person. When one is anxious, the chemicals epinephrine and norepinephrine which serve for fright and flight are activated thereby increasing the body’s alertness. The symptoms peculiar to anxiety include:
- Feelings of danger
- Racing heart rate
- Muscle twitching or tremulousness
- Sweating excessively
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- Feeling tense
- Feeling weak and being lethargic
- Loss of or difficulty in thinking about anything else
- Lack of sleep
- Gastrointestinal discomfort like constipation, diarrhea, flatulence
- An overwhelming feeling directed at avoiding triggers to anxiety
- Carrying out some activities repeatedly on impulse- characteristic of an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Feeling anxious because of a life event or significant encounter that happened in the past- characteristic of post-traumatic stress disorder.
A panic attack is an episode of fear that occurs suddenly, peaking in minutes and is only said to occur when at least four of the following symptoms have been experienced by the individual:
- Shortness of breath or chest discomfort such as severe chest pains
- Gastrointestinal problems such as nausea
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Numbness or tingling sensation
- Depersonalization, meaning that one feels detached from himself/herself or from reality
- DE realization or the fear that comes when one is afraid of going crazy or losing control or dying
Some symptoms occur in other conditions apart from anxiety disorders. This typically happens in panic attacks. The manifestations are like that of heart disease or thyroid diseases or breathing disorders and other diseases.
Because of this, many people with panic disorder frequently go to the hospital either to a doctor’s office or to an emergency room because they think that the symptoms are representative of more severe diseases rather than anxiety disorders.
TYPES OF ANXIETY DISORDERS
There are many types of anxiety disorders. Some of them include:
Those with this condition are scared of being in some places especially places that make them feel as though they are locked up, defenseless or ashamed. This feeling can trigger panic attacks. Those with agoraphobia tend to stay away from places or circumstances that may trigger panic attacks.
GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDERS
Those with this condition go through a form of anxiety that is always present. They worry about things that would ordinarily be handled in a simple way. The amount of worry is inappropriate for the condition as it is always much greater than the condition. The anxiety brings on physical manifestations such as headaches, stomach discomfort and insomnia in the body.
It is the constant experience of unsought thoughts and fears that makes one to be anxious. The person who experiences it may actually know that those thoughts are frivolous but still do it as a form of ritual just to bring down their anxiety level. Examples of obsessive-compulsive acts include: handwashing, counting, or checking on things such as if they put off the gas after cooking.
This brings about sudden and repeated episodes of extreme fear that spikes within minutes. This episode is called a panic attack. People who go through this may have symptoms such as:
- Feeling of an impending danger
- Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
- Racing heartbeat
Panic attacks make sufferers worry even more about the possibility of their next occurrence and makes them to look for and identify triggers to a previous attack so as to avoid the triggers.
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)
This follows a traumatic event that a person witnessed such as war, accident, flooding, and assault. The symptoms usually include:
- Terrorizing dreams
- Flashback of the disturbing event
- Trouble relaxing
They try to stay away from any situation that may cause trauma.
It occurs in children. The child is unable to talk in certain places or particular situations. Example is when a child who talks well at home refuses to talk in school or other social gatherings. It can have an effect on their daily life and activities including at work, school or socially.
SEPARATION ANXIETY DISORDER
It occurs during childhood. It is characterized by worry occurring when a child is being separated from the parents or caregivers. The anxiety that comes with separation is regarded as normal but many children outgrow it when they are around 18 months old. It is only when the child does not outgrow it that it leads to severe anxiety enough to make them disorganized.
This is worry directed at a particular object, event or situation that causes extreme fear when in contact with the thing. An overwhelming desire to avoid it accompanies this fear. Phobias such as hydrophobia (fear of water), or claustrophobia (fear of small spaces), may trigger panic attacks when one is exposed to them.
WHAT CAUSES ANXIETY
Researchers and even doctors are yet to know the true cause of anxiety disorders. Currently, the belief is that a traumatic episode will trigger anxiety in those predisposed to it. Genetics are also thought to contribute to anxiety. A health condition can equally lead to anxiety such that the symptoms that end up manifesting earlier are reflective of the physical, rather than mental illness.
More than one anxiety disorder may happen to someone at the same time. An anxiety disorder may occur with other mental illnesses such as bipolar affective disorder or even depression. This is typical for the variant- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which is the most form of anxiety disorder that occurs with other mental condition.
WHEN SHOULD YOU TALK TO A DOCTOR
It is usually hard to differentiate when anxiety is serious thus requiring medical intervention or if it is just the type one experiences routinely. In the absence of treatment, the anxiety may not completely go. It may even progressively worsen over time. It is better to treat anxiety disorder or any other mental condition when it is still early in the course of the illness, before symptoms get worse.
You need to see a doctor if:
- You think your worries are so great to the extent of interfering with your daily routine like hygiene or school or social life
- The worry is burdening and seemingly hard for you to handle
- You make use of hard drugs or alcohol to survive
- Have other mental health concerns apart from anxiety
- You feel that the anxiety experienced is due to a mental problem
- You have suicidal thoughts or tendencies
When you have made up your mind about seeking help for your anxiety, first see a primary care doctor. They help to tell if the anxiety is linked to an underlying disease condition. If a disease condition is identified, they give a proper treatment plan that helps you get a relief from anxiety.
The primary care doctor usually refers you to a mental health specialist who is either a psychiatrist or a psychologist if no disease condition has been found.
A psychiatrist is a doctor who is licensed (after being trained to diagnose and treat mental health problems) to provide mental health care. He achieves this through adequate drug prescriptions and other modalities of treatment. A psychologist on the other hand, is a mental health professional that offers care solely through the means of counselling.
Your doctor can recommended mental health service providers to you. It may require more than just one meeting to decide which provider is right for you.
The mental health care provider may carry out a psychological assessment during the first meeting session. This may include a one-on-one meeting where the service provider asks some questions to well describe one’s feelings.
Another means is by matching the symptoms you present with to that in the criteria needed for diagnosis, present in the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-V) to conclude on a diagnosis.
FINDING THE RIGHT MENTAL HEALTH PROVIDER
One way to know if your mental health care provider is the right one for you is if you feel at ease when speaking to them about your anxiety. It is okay for you to see a psychologist if your mental health provider says that your anxiety can be effectively tackled by talk therapy alone else try to see a psychiatrist if the need to take medication for the anxiety exists.
The results following treatment for anxiety are usually not rapid. They are indeed slow. Exercise patience, be adherent to any treatment prescribed so as to get the best result. Never forget that you are free to see another mental health care provider if you think you are not getting better while receiving treatment from your present mental health care provider or if you don’t feel comfortable talking to your mental health care provider about your anxiety. Simply request for referral to other mental health care providers around you.
AT HOME ANXIETY TREATMENTS
Apart from talking with a mental health therapist or taking drugs, some simple home remedies that assist with the relief of anxiety. This is because it is an all-time job to handle anxiety.
Exercise regularly. Have a pre-planned exercise schedule to stick to on most days of the week, this helps to bring down the stress and anxiety level. If your lifestyle was earlier not very active, begin with some activities and keep on adding more as time goes on.
Do away with alcohol and recreational drugs as their use can bring about or further exacerbate the anxiety level. If you are experiencing difficulty in quitting, speak to a doctor or find a support group to help you.
Quit smoking and reduce or put a full stop to your caffeine drinks consumption. The substance nicotine present in cigarettes and beverages that contain caffeine such as coffee, beverages and some energy drinks can aggravate anxiety.
Practice relaxation and stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, mantra repetition and trying out visualization techniques,
Sleep adequately. Not getting enough sleep can make one to be more restless and worried. If you are having trouble sleeping, look for your doctor to help you with it.
Eat a balanced diet regularly. Take plenty fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein including chicken and fish.
COPING AND SUPPORT
It can be quite challenging to cope with an anxiety disorder. The following things can make it easier to cope with the symptoms of anxiety:
- Be knowledgeable: try to learn and be well informed about your anxiety condition and the various modalities of treatment available as this will guide you when you want to decide on which treatment to go for.
- Be consistent: stick to the plan of treatment as directed by your health care provider. Be adherent to your medications, do not miss a therapy appointment. All these will help to keep the anxiety symptoms under control.
- Know yourself: find out what the triggers to your anxiety are and try out coping modalities you produced with your mental health care provider so you can best handle your anxiety when it occurs.
- Write it down: when you keep a diary or journal of how you’ve been feeling and the situations you have faced, it assists the mental health care provider in choosing the best treatment modality available to you.
- Get support: think of joining a support group where you can be comfortable sharing your experiences and also hearing from others going through a similar condition. In America, The National Alliance on Mental illness or the Anxiety and Depression Association of America can help you to look for a proper support group close to you.
- Manage your time intelligently: this helps to make your treatment effective and bring down your stress and anxiety level.
- Be social: withdrawing from family and friends can make the anxiety last longer while getting very bad. Plan to hang out with those you enjoy spending time with.
- Shake things up: do not let your anxiety to regulate your life. If you feel as though the stress and anxiety is too much, take a break. Try taking a walk or even carrying out an activity that pushes your mind away from the worries you are experiencing.