Anxiety is a normal human emotion that we all experience. But when panic and anxiety symptoms escalate into anxiety attacks and panic attacks, it may be an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and panic disorder. There is excellent treatment for anxiety attacks, as well as panic attack symptoms, including medication and psychotherapy.
This sad, hopeless feeling just can't go on. It's affecting your job, your life. It seems like depression. But could it be something more?
Many people with depression also experience some degree of anxiety - anxiety that goes beyond the typical tension we experience when we face life's challenges. For people with an anxiety disorder, the overwhelming worry and fear is constant - with obsessive thoughts, feelings of panic, trouble sleeping, heart palpitations, cold or sweaty hands.
Indeed, sadness, depression, and anxiety are often triggered by life events - and the symptoms are not easily separated out. Financial, relationship, and family problems - all these can trigger anxiety and sadness, so we consider these feelings to be normal. They are not normal when the feelings are extremely intense, when they impair everyday functioning, affect quality of life. When all that is happening, it becomes difficult to solve the very problems that started the depression.
In addition to anxiety and depression, there might be something else going on -- bipolar disorder. This is a condition that involves shifts in a person's mood from severe depression to manic phases - with soaring highs, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts, impulsive decisions, reckless behaviour, and poor judgment. In many cases there is normal mood in between the phases.
Anxiety is part of the package of life. It's a natural byproduct of having a brain that is capable of such high-wire acts as considering the future. A little anxiety is good, even necessary, and a great motivator to get us to plan well and to perform ably.
Yet too much anxiety can be disabling. For millions of people, worry disrupts everyday life, restricting it to some degree or even overshadowing it entirely. These include generalized anxiety, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder and flat-out panic attacks. As a group, anxiety disorders constitute the most common disorder in the country.
How do you know whether you are worrying too much? When anxiety moves beyond an occasional wave of apprehension to become a constant and dominating force in your life, you need to take steps to curb anxiety.
Sometimes anxiety explodes in a panic attack, marked by a general feeling of terror. A person engulfed in a panic attack usually experiences a racing or pounding heart, sometimes even pain or heaviness in the chest. Breathing becomes difficult. The body trembles and hands turn clammy. The person may notice tingling in their hands and feet, sometimes in their arms and legs. They may start to feel light-headed.
Victims feel out of control of their body. Many feel like they are going crazy. Panic attacks are so frightening that sufferers wonder whether they will survive the episode.
Often, the attacks come out of the blue, for no apparent reason. Or they can come on when a person is coping with extreme stress. Either way panic attacks can last for several minutes.
Other forms of anxiety are less dramatic but more widespread.
For some, other people are the cause of anxiety. Social anxiety creates in its sufferers the feeling that they are being watched and judged by others, even if rationally they know that this is not the case. In its milder forms, social anxiety can create extreme self-consciousness in the presence of others; but in its severe forms it can be debilitating, leading sufferers to avoid social situations altogether.
Another common form of worry is generalized anxiety disorder. Sufferers are filled with questions -- negative ones -- and dwell on endless "what if's" of a situation. They feel trapped in cycles of anxiety and worry.
General anxiety doesn't typically lead to panic attacks, but it can still be incapacitating. The endless worry saps energy, destroys interest in life and prompts frequent mood swings.
It's possible that some people are born with a temperament that inclines them to anxiety. Regardless of how anxiety develops, it's possible to control it.
Prevention of anxiety essentially involves an awareness of life's stresses and your own ability to cope with them. This can often be a difficult task in our busy and hectic 21st century.
- In essence, you might develop coping mechanisms for all of life's stresses. Strategies might include these:
- Relaxation exercises including deep breathing
- Interpersonal skills in dealing with difficult people and situations or parenting skills training in dealing with your children
- Prevention also includes diet, regular exercise, rest, and the basics in terms of preventive health care maintenance. Diet is a large factor. Caffeine, stimulants, lack of rest, and lack of exercise all are factors that influence anxiety.