Every person feels anxiety on occasion. It is a part of life. All of us know what it is like to feel worry, nervous, fear and concern. We feel nervous when we have to give a speech or go for a job interview. Most of us manage these anxious feelings fairly well and are able to carry on with our lives without much difficulty. These feelings do not disrupt our lives.
Many people suffer from devastating and constant anxiety that severely affects their lives, sometimes resulting in living in highly restricted ways. These people experience panic attacks, phobias, extreme shyness, obsessive thoughts, and compulsive behaviours. The feeling of anxiety is a constant and dominating force that distrupts their lives. Some become prisoners in their own homes, unable to leave to work, drive, or visit the grocery store. For these people, anxiety is much more than just an occasional wave of apprehension.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
An anxiety disorder affects a person’s behaviour, thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. The most common anxiety disorders include the following:
Social Anxiety or Social Phobia – is a fear if being around other people. People who suffer from this disorder always feel self-conscious around others. They have the feeling that everyone is watching them and staring at them, being critical in some way. Because the anxiety is so painful, they learn to stay away from social situations and avoid other people.
People who have social anxiety usually know that their thoughts and fears are not rational. They are aware that others are not actually judging or evaluating them at every moment. But this knowledge does not make the feelings disappear.
Panic disorder — is a condition where a person has panic attacks without warning.
Common signs of panic include:
• Racing or pounding heart
• Sweaty palms
• Feelings of terror
• Chest pains of heaviness in the the chest
• Dizziness and lightheadedness
• Fear if dying
• Fear of going crazy
• Fear of losing control
• Feeling unable to catch one’s breath
• Tingling in the hands, feet, legs or arms
A panic attack typically lasts several minutes and is extremely upsetting and frightening. In some cases, panic attacks last longer than a few minutes or strike several times in a short time period.
A panic attack is often followed by feelings of depression and helplessness. Most people who have experienced panic say that the greatest fear is that the panic attack will happen again.
Many times, the person who has a panic attack doesn’t know what caused it. It seems to have come “out of the blue.” At other times, people report that they were feeling extreme stress or had encountered difficult times and weren’t surprised that they had a panic attack.
Generalized anxiety disorder is quite common. This disorder fills a person’s life with worry, anxiety, and fear. People who have this disorder are always thinking and dwelling on the “what ifs” of every situation. The person often becomes depressed about life and their inability to stop worrying.
People who have generalized anxiety usually do not avoid situations and they don’t generally have panic attacks. They can become incapacitated by an inability to shut the mind off, and are overcome with feelings or worry, dread, fatigue, and a loss of interest in life. The person usually realizes these feelings are irrational, but the feelings are also very real. The person’s mood can change from day to day, or even hour to hour. Feelings of anxiety and mood swings become a pattern that severely disrupts the quality of life.
People with generalized anxiety disorder often have physical symptoms including headaches, irritability, frustration, trembling, inability to concentrate, and sleep disturbances. They may also have symptoms of social phobia and panic disorder.
Most people who suffer from anxiety disorders begin to feel better when they receive the proper treatment. While a treatment plan must be specifically designed for each individual, there are a number of standard approaches. Mental health professionals who specialize in treating anxiety most often use a combination of the following treatments. There is no single correct approach. Treatment options include education, support groups, cognitive behavioral therapy or medication.
© Foster Common Unity Counselling Services
1015 Princess Avenue, Brandon, MB R7A 0P7
204-728-3758 or fax 204-725-3103