A feeling of generalised irony and apprehension out oj proportion to the objective stresses in someone’s life.
Temporary feelings of nervousness or worry in stressful situations are natural and proper. But when stress becomes an overall reaction to many common scenarios and causes problems in coping with regular life it’s diagnosed as unusual.
Anxiety disorders happen in quite a few distinct types, the most common being generalized, constant background stress that’s hard to restrain.
Almost any stress can escalate to panic, in which there are repeated episodes of extreme stress and dismay physical symptoms. These episodes happen unpredictably and generally don’t have any apparent cause.
In another kind of anxiety disorder called a phobia, intense stress is aroused by an irrational fear of a scenario, creature or thing, for example fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia) and fear of spiders (arachnophobia).
Generalized anxiety disorder affects around 1 in 25 individuals, generally starting in middle age, with girls more commonly affected than men, and generally associated with the menopause and the withdrawal of the female hormone oestrogen. This type of stress can react nicely to oestrogen in the type of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as it’s one of the most powerful natural tranquillizers understood.
Causes of Anxiety
Humanity is distinguished by its capacity for thought. With thought comes imagination, with imagination comes apprehension and with apprehension comes anxiety. It is normal for human beings to try to look ahead and to plan for that which has yet to happen, or to try to work out how to deal with an immediate problem. Until the problem is resolved there will be a feeling of tension mingled with worry – the ‘what if or ‘suppose that’ feeling. This we recognise as anxiety; a mild degree is a part of normal existence and may be helpful as a stimulus to action.
A heightened susceptibility to anxiety disorders may be inherited or may be because of childhood experiences. For instance, poor bond between a parent and kid and sudden parting of a child from a parent have been shown to play a function in some anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety disorder may develop after a stressful life event, like the passing of a close relative. On the other hand, the stress frequendy does not have any specific cause. Likewise, panic attacks frequently grow for no apparent reason.
Abnormal anxiety that dominates thought – happens to ordinary people who find themselves in constantly stressful environments. It may also happen to those who develop depression or who are faced with such an array of stressful events that they see no way out of the situation. Severe anxiety is a debilitating, destructive emotion and is in no way simply an inability to cope. Illnesses which can mimic anxiety arc thyrotoxicosis (see Thyroid problems) and depression.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Mild anxiety leads to preoccupation with the problem at hand; there may be disturbed sleep and an inability to relax but on the whole the individual still copes with life. As anxiety gets more severe, however, it starts to interfere with normal activity. The mind cannot be turned to rational thought and it becomes ever more difficult to cope with day-to-day responsibilities, which become neglected. There may be irritability and a short temper. The person might turn to drink or drugs to relieve the anxiety.
In even more severe cases there is a constant tremor of the hands, crying and a complete inability to think normally.
Individuals with generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks experience both mental and physical symptoms. Yet, in someone with generalized anxiety disorder, mental symptoms have a tendency to last while physical symptoms are irregular. In panic attacks, both mental and physical symptoms come on together abruptly and unpredictably. The emotional symptoms of stress include:
- a sense of nameless foreboding with no apparent reason or cause
- being on edge and unable to relax
- impaired concentration
- persistent distressing ideas
- troubled slumber and occasionally nightmares.
Moreover, you may have symptoms of Melancholy, including early waking or a general Awareness of hopelessness. Physical symptoms of the Illness, which happen intermittently, contain:
- Head ache
- stomach cramps, sometimes with diarrhoea
- And vomiting
- regular urination
- perspiration, flushing and tremor
- A feeling of something being stuck in the throat.
Mental and physical symptoms of panic attacks include the following:
- Shortness of breath
- perspiration, trembling and nausea
- palpitations (awareness of an abnormally fast pulse)
- dizziness and fainting
- fear of choking or of certain departure
- A sense of unreality and anxieties about loss of sanity.
A number of these symptoms can be misinterpreted as signs of a serious physical illness, and this may raise your amount of stress. Over time, anxiety of having a panic attack in public may lead you to prevent circumstances including earing outside in restaurants or being in bunches.
What Might Be Done?
■ You may have the ability to discover your own methods for reducing stress levels, including relaxation exercises (see box, below). In case you are unable to deal with or identify a particular cause for your stress, you should consult your physician.
■ It’s crucial that you see a doctor when possible after the first panic attack.
■ If you’re making do with a particularly nerve-racking Interval in your life or a challenging occasion, your Physician may prescribe a benzodiazepine, but these drugs are generally prescribed for just a brief time period, i.e. 3-4 weeks, because There’s a risk of addiction.
■ You may be prescribed beta blocker drugs to treat symptoms of stress; performers find them useful to conquer stage fright.
■ If you’ve got symptoms of depression, perhaps you are given antidepressant drugs, some of which are also useful in treating panic attacks, especially the newer SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
■ In most instances, the earlier stress is treated, the faster its effects can be restrained. Without treatment, an anxiety disorder may grow into a lifelong state.
There are several measures you’ll be able to make an effort to help restrain a panic attack, like the easy expedient of breathing into a bag. For any anxiety disorder, your physician may suggest advising to enable you to manage pressure. You can also be offered cognitive therapy or behavior treatment to assist you to control stress. A self help group can also be useful.
Treatment of Anxiety
The mild anxieties of life generally resolve with time and thought. Support from outsiders is helpful in guiding the individual lo,a solution of her immediate problems. More severe anxiety, by blocking productive thought, feeds on itself. Here tranquillizers arc helpful if only to allow the individual to start thinking productively about her problems. Useful drugs are the benzodiazepines (diazepam, lorazepam). These give
immediate relief but there is a risk of addiction if taken on a regular basis for more than a few weeks – not in the sense of craving more, but from the withdrawal effects of increased anxiety and tremors, among others.
Beta-blockers, which in much higher dosage are used to treat high blood pressure, are good for reducing tremor and relieving the vague sense of being on edge. These arc not addictive and can be taken as needed. Stronger again, there are major sedatives such as chlorpromazine and antidepressants such as amitriptyline.
Many doctors recommend trying relaxation techniques, learning how to structure your day and avoiding drugs or alcohol for relief. Changes that can be made to your life or work should, of course, be followed up, especially as excessive stress on employees is coming to be seen as something that employers have a legal responsibility to control.
Complementary Treatment of Anxiety
Bach flower remedies – the remedy depends on the cause, for example red chestnut for anxiety about loved ones. Acupuncture – see Stress. Arts therapies help you become aware of the unconscious causes of anxiety by enabling you to express your feelings through dance, art, music or drama. Gaining insight with the therapist’s help can enable you lo feel emotionally stronger. Aromatherapy – sec Depression. Nutritional therapy — try supplementing B vitamins, magnesium and calcium. Hypnotherapy changes unwanted patterns of behaviour produced by anxiety. Other therapies to try: most have something to offer.