Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues people experience, so if you struggle with it… it’s important to know you’re not alone.
In fact, we all experience anxiety to some degree in our lives. A feeling of unease in pressured situations, worrying about doing something or low-level fears are types of anxiety that can be part of everyday life (think job interview, just before a cup final football match or big date). However, for some those anxious feelings are harder to control and can develop into episodes of anxiety.
Now here’s the science bit: When an episode occurs our bodies release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Once they’re released we start to worry, our levels of fear starts to rise, and we feel like there may be no escape. Aside from what goes through our mind during an episode, we may also experience physical symptoms, including:
Increased heart rate
Stomach pains and muscle tension
Excessive tiredness or Insomnia
With both physical and mental health symptoms developing, episodes of anxiety can really influence the way we live our lives. Luckily, we have a few tips, advice and tools up our sleeves that should help to minimise the impact anxiety can have.
If social interactions with other people can be an important source of stress for anxious people, sometimes even going to the extent of triggering heavy panic attacks, our animal friends could have the exact opposite effect.
If you happen to have a dog, or a cat already, you probably know that when you come home after a long day of work,be inggreeted by a big slobbery dog kiss or the purring of cat is one great feeling in itself. The sight of an animal sleeping peacefully in your living room or playing joyfully in its cage or on your knee can also bring a more than welcome distraction to your mind, focusing your thoughts on something that will bring your general anxiety level down.
Studies have shown recently that, when confronted to executing a stressful task in the presence of either their spouse, their pet, alone, or both their pet and their spouse, people experienced the lowest levels of stress when they were with their pet only. As a matter of fact, I was able to verify this theory myself, during some of my panic attacks.
When I felt like the world was going the wrong way and that an imminent catastrophe was coming at me, just looking at my cat sleeping on the bed helped me rationalize the situation and realizing no danger was around. Why? Because cats know. I have noticed that thanks to his cat super powers, my cat feels when a storm is coming and goes straight under the table to hide. So if he is still sleeping like a bear hibernating, it must mean that every thing is fine, right ? In the same way, when I feel like my mind is going too fast and driving me crazy, lying down next to my sleeping cat and petting it is a great way to soothe me, as I instantly get focused on something else,something pleasant and peaceful. Of course, this works with many other animals too !
Stronger bonds between a pet and his owner have proven to be the most efficient ones in stress and anxiety reduction, but a simple encounter can be very powerful as well. Indeed, people who have been exposed to a dog right before a treatment operation have experienced a 37% reduction of their stress levels. In the United States, universities are starting to acknowledge the benefits animals are likely to bring for the students facing mental health issues. This is why some of them are now allowing, after authorization, students to live with their pet in their on-campus housing.
Anxiety and depression, do they mix?
The dreaded duo of anxiety and depression are two of the most common psychiatric Disorders in UK. Both belong in the ‘mood disorders’ category in psychiatric problems.
Most cases occur as a normal reaction for what we percept. But can be triggered by multiple factors and few examples are,
• Physical : disabilities, diseases (infectious/noninfectious), injuries etc.
• Life events: child birth, financial problems, divorce, death of a relative etc.
• Racial : Adult blacks 20 percent more prone for mental problems than whites.
• Substance abuse: opioids, hallucinogens sedatives, stimulants etc.
• Genetic predisposition: positive family history
• Certain drugs : Accutane to treat acne, certain antiviral drugs
In anxiety disorders sufferer experiences sudden onset of anxious thoughts/panic attacks with or without a precipitating trigger. Basically an overreaction to a situation in which our mind sees as troublesome. Here the sufferer expects a future threat and holds on to it and succumbs to fear, grief or panic in situations where a normal person will not.
Generalized anxiety is the most common type but there are many other subcategories prevail. Few examples are
• Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
• Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
• Panic disorders
Psychiatry considers anxiety as a high mood/high energy mental state in contrast to depression which is a low mood/low energy state.
The evil twin of anxiety. Characterized by a devastating low mood and low energy state. Sufferer feels sad and can interfere with day to day activities such as sleeping, working, eating etc. Can seriously cripple the mental state of one and in some cases leads right into suicide. Affected person may experience reduced energy, loss of appetite, pessimistic ideas, repeated headaches and loss of interest in day to day activities.
Symptoms of depression varies vastly. Not everybody will get all the characteristic symptoms and in many, the symptoms will be milder.
Do they mix?
As it may seem unusual at the first glance, anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Despite the fact that they work in opposite energy states of mind they really do mingle.
Having anxiety/depression alone will significantly predict that sufferer will be prone to the other at some point. The reason for this is not yet understood. In one study 85% of people with depression were diagnosed with anxiety disorders. From them 35% had panic disorders (subcategory of anxiety disorder). Let me give you an example. A depressed individual experiences lack of interest in work. So he stops going to work and neglect his routes of income. But after some time utility bills pile up, bank accounts dry and financial instability occur and causes the person to panic in addressing the money problem. And the anxiety strikes. So basically they are two sides of a same coin and usually anxiety precedes depression.
Combined symptoms are more serious and devastating and depression complicated with anxiety has high suicidal rate than depression alone.
Who are at risk?
Any person having anxiety/depression is at risk of developing both. Family history is also vital to predict combined disease. The type of the anxiety disorder is also significant. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and phobias specifically social phobia (agoraphobia) can lead to depression when compared to others. Age is important too. If a person develops anxiety for the first time after 40 years of age most likely to develop depression.
How to manage?
Treatment plan is vital to address the combined disorder. One common misconception is that medical treatment will be obsolete in treating combined symptoms and it is not. It has been proven that judicious use of medicine plus behavioral therapy (CBT) significantly reduce the symptoms and pave the way back to normal life. This is called an integrated approach and combines physical, mental, medical and spiritual therapies to combat.
If thoughts of suicide arise, a psychotherapist or a physician should be consulted immediately and is considered one of the psychiatric emergencies. If the sufferer doesn’t willingly inquire help, a family member or any person close to him should take immediate action.
When having moderate to severe combined symptoms it is vital to have a provider or a group of providers which can include physician, nursing officer, psychotherapist and someone to address spiritual needs of the person.
But recovery will be time consuming and patients will have to be mentally strong to battle these demons. And only way to do that is through self- determination and not giving up.
Depression is a disorder that does not get nearly enough attention.
Depressed people are often told to “cheer up” or to “look at the bright side” of things, and may spiral even more profound when they are unable to simply snap out of the mood that has such a hold on them. While depression can often lead to fatigue and listlessness, it has a close cousin by the name of anxiety. Anxiety causes the opposite effect, putting our bodies into the “fight or flight” mode that protected us in the wild.
Anxiety attacks can feel like heart attacks, and even at more moderate levels, anxiety can have a dangerous and very harmful effect on our lives and on our quality of living. Stress can also lead to depression when a sense of worry and fear for the future leads to the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. That is a classic symptom of depression. Depression and anxiety are often seen together, and can sometimes lead to one another.
Anxiety is a way of describing a particular form of feeling. It may represent a sense of fear, dread, or a sense that you are in immediate danger, even when you are safe and have no reason to feel this way. There are several different kinds of anxiety disorders, including phobias or irrational fears, situational anxiety, panic disorders, generalised anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorders, among others.
These disorders can lead to a state of almost constant high stress and can affect your daily life much to the worse. You may be unable to function in certain situations, or you may come to fear to leave your own home. If untreated, the symptoms of anxiety disorders can lead to many of the same problems as depression, including insomnia or a reluctance or fear to leave the house or to be around other people.
Anxiety symptoms can also feel like heart attacks, with palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pains, and more. You might begin trembling and shaking, your mouth might go dry, and you might become dizzy from the stress of the situation. The body becomes “hyped up” by your reaction to the job, and your senses go into a sort of overdrive that is unlike the depression of the system that happens when you suffer from clinical depression.
Depression disorder actually slows the body in some ways, making you feel sluggish rather than ready to run or fight, and hopeless rather than actively panicked or fearful. If you have been suffering from anxiety attacks, the attacks themselves may lead into depression because of the hopelessness that you feel at the hands of the attacks and because of the fears that are associated with possibly having another attack.
If your anxiety symptoms have changed to include listlessness, disinterest in things that used to engage you, or feelings of hopelessness and self-loathing, then you may now be suffering from a depression disorder and should be treated accordingly for your medical condition.
Depression is not a constant state of being, nor is anxiety. You might think that because you have a good number of “good days” that your depressive days are just bad moments that will pass, however, depression can become worse over time if it is not treated and taken care of, and can lead to suicide if left untreated long enough.
Anxiety can worsen over time as well if it is not handled properly. There are ways to help with anxiety, even without medication. Therapies are different depending on the type of anxiety that affects you and on the level of anxiety that you suffer. For a phobia, you might be exposed at increasing levels to the thing that you are afraid of. Other therapies might require talking your problems out, and others might provide techniques to help you ride out your panic attacks and get on with life without letting them affect you more than necessary.
Depression treatments are also varied, mostly depending on your personal preference. Medication can provide you with an effective way of dealing with depression; however, medicine is not for everyone. If you are not interested in medication, then you might consider other kinds of therapies with a psychologist who has experience working with depression.
Depression and anxiety are related disorders that can have a significant impact on your overall health and quality of life if left untreated. However, both are manageable conditions that do not have to affect your daily life.
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It can be tough to deal with managing your anxiety while in a relationship. Maintaining a relationship is tough enough let alone having to deal with your anxieties. As a result, here is a list of techniques and suggestions on what to do in managing your anxieties while being in a relationship.
In a relationship, we may sometimes encounter a scary situation that gets us all upset. When encountering these events, always remember to get all of the facts of the given situation. Gathering facts can prevent us from relying on exaggerated and fearful assumptions. By focusing on the facts, a person can rely on what is a reality and what is not.
Sometimes we get stressed out when everything happens all at once. When this happens, a person should take a deep breathe and try to find something to do for a few minutes to get their mind off of the problem. A person could get some fresh air or do something that will give them a fresh perspective on things.
Be smart in how you deal with your stresses in a relationship. Do not try to tackle everything all at once. When facing a current or upcoming task that overwhelms you with a lot of anxiety, break the task into a series of smaller steps. Completing these smaller tasks one at a time will make the stress more manageable and increases your chances of success.
Make a list of all the things that you enjoy in your current relationship. The next time you get anxious or fearful, look at your list and remind yourself of the good parts in being with that person. This technique will put your fears and anxieties in a relationship into perspective.
Sometimes, it helps to be able to talk to someone about our stressful situations. Talking to a trusted friend, counsellor, or clergyman can not only make us feel better, but they might be able to give you additional advice and insights on how to deal with your current problem.
Although I am a layman and not a professional I have interviewed many psychologists and clergyman and I have over fifteen years of experience in dealing with fear. Dealing with our persistent fears in a relationship is not easy, however, there are many helpful resources available to us if you look hard enough.
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Anxiety is a bit of a common phenomenon in today’s stress-filled world. Most people have already experienced the sudden palpitations, the sweaty palms, and that overwhelming sense of dread. People inherently understand the power that fear holds over them and can sometimes even recognize when fear becomes too much for them. Fear is often said to trigger sudden battles with anxiety in even the toughest and most hardened minds. This is because fear grips everyone and is as clearly defined and universal as the concept of death. However, what most people don’t seem to understand is that fear is not the sole trigger of an attack, although it always plays a role. There are disorders out there, mostly of the psychological variety, that can also trigger an attack.
Interestingly, statistics show that acne is a powerful trigger for anxiety, particularly among teenagers and young adults. In fact, it is cited as being among the most common sources of anxiety in the US and certain European countries. The causes for this reaction are readily obvious to the teenagers themselves, but can sometimes be elusive to adults. The teen years are an age where social development and peer acceptance tend to play prominent roles in people’s psychology. Acne and other skin infections can become a hindrance to achieving the above goals, putting them in a precarious position along the social ladder. This is considered to be among the most prevalent problems that cause teen anxiety. aside from situations involving immediate family.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has also been known to trigger anxiety, among other potential side effects. This is particularly true if the object of the obsession involves either harming others or being harmed personally. Being obsessed with avoiding physical harm can often make someone extremely anxious about being placed in any environment that they perceive to be potentially hazardous. It should be painfully clear just how dangerous a person who is obsessed with inflicting pain upon other people would be in any society, even though it usually causes conflicts with the cultural mores that the person has been raised with. In this case, the anxiety often stems from the fact that the desire to inflict pain exists, acting as a subtle difference between these people and actual sadists.
Weight disorders generally stem from unfounded fear and anxiety and are often capable of generating enough of the latter on their own to keep the cycle going. However, in most cases, fear is the root of the disorder, along with peer pressure and poor self-perception, but not necessarily one of the potential psychological complications.
Phobias can also cause someone to feel anxious and overly worried, particularly when around the object of the phobia or threatened with it. According to some studies, some specific phobias are more effective at this than others, particularly if the object of the phobia is a commonplace occurrence, person, or item. Cases, where the phobia stemmed from a traumatic experience during the formative years, are also very powerful at causing a person to develop anxious feelings, even in the long-term. Agoraphobia and claustrophobia are known to have this sort of effect on certain individuals.
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Not everyone can comfortably speak or perform in front of a lot of people. Some may find it quite a frightening experience that they want to avoid at all costs. Performance anxiety, also known as stage fright, is characterized by intense anxiety and paranoia that occurs before, during, and after a performance.
Performance anxiety affects even the most seasoned professional speaker or performer. You can just imagine what goes on inside a person’s head prior and during a job interview, a public speaking engagement, a class or job presentation, a musical performance, or any situation or activity that would put you in front of an audience.
While some people have the ability and presence of mind to remain cool and composed, most of us are geniuses as far as coming up with all the negative thoughts that may happen before and/or during a performance.
This debilitating fear may depend on the context of the performance. A presenter’s level of anxiety may vary with respect to the size and status of the audience, the novelty of the situation, whether it is an individual performance, or as part of the group, the cultural context of the situation, and on the importance of the evaluation. The larger the number of people watching you, the more nervous you may become. A person may be less nervous speaking or performing in front of a group of students than a gathering of important officials. In the same way, during interviews, the interviewee tends to get more nervous with the general manager than the secretary. Speaking in front of a small church congregation you belong may not elicit intense anxiety as in a business conference presentation.
It is important to distinguish at least three major ways in which people can experience performance anxiety since each may actually require different types of “remedies.”
1. Commonly experienced by most people is an intense, but transient anxious, fluttery sensations, that typically precede a performance but disappear shortly after the performance begins. Indicates a readiness to perform, and becomes a source of energy that improves the performance.
2.“Reactive anxiety” occurs as a result of insufficient preparation, lack of performance skills or experience on the part of the presenter. Usually best resolved through practice, preparation, and the repeated exposure to the experience of public speaking/performance.
3. The hallmark of performance anxiety is usually associated with signs of physical and emotional discomfort such as sweating, shaking, voice quivering, rapid heart beating, feelings of fear, and panic. These intense sensations come in waves before and during a performance, subsiding, but reappearing again, being appraised as debilitating to the speaker or performer. A common thread that usually runs through these experiences is a fear of negative evaluation by the speaker. What causes the speaker’s anxiety is the belief that he or she is being negatively evaluated.
To help control the anxiety this belief must be altered. Typically this is done by asking the performer to:
Accept the fear
Focus and relate to the audience
Identify and challenge your fearful thoughts
Remember to breathe
Be passionate about your topic/performance and share it with others
Be clear that your talk/performance matters to you
You may discover that fear still remains, but you notice that you can handle it, as you are beginning to get the sense of enjoyment from your performance and from connecting with others.
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The top reasons for psychological consultations to doctors and medical experts today. Causes or factors contributing to this condition vary according to the nature or type of anxiety disorder. For one to understand the many causes of anxiety, it is important to know that each type of anxiety disorder differs in noted factors or causes and the causes may also vary in a case to case basis.
There are instances when a person who is suffering from an extreme case of anxiety is not aware of his condition. He tends to have sudden agitation and nervousness attacks. When this happens, he will eventually lose concentration in what he is doing, thus, resulting in less productivity and control of life.
Although cases of anxiety disorders differ from one person to another, the root patterns of each patient are somewhat alike, particularly in anxiety-prone families. Studies show that the majority of people with anxiety disorders also have one or two family members who also suffer from anxiety.
Anxiety indeed has numerous causes or roots, and each patient’s condition is notably unique. With this, it is best to know what causes anxiety in order for one to treat it properly. This will ready the sufferers on how to manage anxiety attacks next time they trigger.
Factors and causes of anxiety
Psychological disorders associated with anxiety have a number of factors that are known to contribute to the intensity and degree of these conditions. There is really no single factor that can trigger anxiety. The factors contributing to the development of anxiety cases often impact or complement one another.
The following are the must-know causes or factors of anxiety disorders:
1. Personality traits
Individuals who are diagnosed to have anxiety disorders always alienate themselves to other people as they regard society as a threatening place. Majority of those with serious cases of anxiety have low coping skills and poor self-esteem.
Least known to many, the environment also contributes to the development of anxiety conditions. Certain painful and trying events in a person’s life can definitely trigger chronic anxiety. These events can be a separation from loved ones, money problems, and other personal issues involving family life or work.
3. Brain complexity
Studies claim that certain imbalances and abnormalities in a person’s brain chemistry make a person more susceptible to acquire anxiety disorders. With this, the majority of prescribed medications for anxiety aim to remedy such chemical imbalances in the brain.
4. Traumatic experiences
Anxiety is also known to develop due to a person’s traumatic life experiences. Examples of traumatic life events are marital separation, abuse, and death. Traumatic experiences can be very damaging and depressing for an individual, thus, resulting in the development of anxiety disorders.
Studies claim that anxiety disorders are hereditary. Those who are diagnosed with extreme anxiety conditions oftentimes have history cases of mood disorders, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders. People who are also innately vulnerable to stress are the ones known to have anxiety disorders.
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Most of us, if not all of us have felt nervous at one time or another in our lives. Public speaking is something that makes most of us nervous. All those eyes are staring straight at us. That’s a lot of attention thrust our way. We feel the butterflies take flight, and they usually don’t land until we’re done with our speech. Aren’t we glad we’re done! Nerves and other feelings like feeling scared are natural and very necessary. Ever wonder how you’d react or what would happen to you if you didn’t respond to a dog running at you? How about beginning to crossing the road only to hear the roar of a car’s engine in your left ear. Run! Definitely run!
For some of us, these feelings are all too familiar and often they occur more frequently and triggered by situations that are less fear-provoking than those, and others like it, mentioned above. I’ve felt that rush of adrenaline pumping through my heart as I turned into the street the underground station is on and the view of it made my heart beat a thousand to every second. I’d be gripped by the thought of seeing my desk, or my boss, which I knew was coming sooner than I wanted. They’d find out soon enough: I’m just average. Nothing special here. I’d spend the entire journey on the underground screaming inside myself. Looking at the other passengers, silently screaming ‘Have you all gone crazy!?’. Entirely and utterly unable to understand why anyone would not see it my way. This is my anxiety. What’s yours?
Irrational fear is the right way of describing it. Admittedly, I was in the middle of a breakdown that eventually pressed the Pause button on my life for a few years after. But this a good example of anxiety. Irrational fear that gets in the way of leading a healthy life: that’s anxiety.
I learnt a lot about anxiety in the months that followed. It was all new to me. The education, indeed not the feelings and symptoms. Often, it left me speechless and bewildered. All those symptoms and I didn’t have a clue. But what are those symptoms? Well, thinking that everything will result in the worst possible outcome is the most upsetting symptom (for myself at least). You are mentally consumed with it. It breaks your concentration, erases your short-term memory and strips your patience down to almost nothing. It can stop you from falling asleep. Sleep anxiety was something I didn’t recognise. I simply thought I had developed insomnia on top of all my other problems. The more, the merrier? Not quite. I had become severely depressed and obsessional — two more symptoms associated with anxiety.
All these mental or cognitive symptoms affect our body function. I’d feel like I was losing my breath, no matter how hard I tried to relax or perform deep-breathing exercises. If I thought about it, which of course I did, my heart would start to race, and the adrenaline would flow through me. You can completely lose your appetite, feel the need to urinate, develop headaches more often and for me consistently, the dizziness was unbearable. I thought I had low blood pressure. My doctor thought I might have a problem with my heart. Going for an ECG will scare the life out of you if nothing else. Pins and needles are also symptoms of anxiety. I used to get them in my upper arms which would scream ‘Heart Attack!’ to me, but somehow I would push that thought away.’
We don’t all develop the same symptoms, and it is quite rare that someone would present with all the symptoms as a textbook case. Some of the symptoms I didn’t develop were muscle aches and tremors, excessive thirst and stomach upsets. Women can extend painful periods or even none at all. We can all lose response to sexual stimulation too.
If you think you suffer from anxiety and feel it is getting in the way of you leading a healthy life from day to day, please consult your doctor or another physician. Help is at hand, and good Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can be very useful in relieving the mental stresses that take over our minds when anxiety strikes.